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Do gas-saving devices work?

Gas-saving devices have been around as long as cars, and they become especially popular when prices edge up. But do any of them really work?

By Stacy Johnson May 16, 2011 4:24PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


Just last month some experts were predicting gas was headed toward $5 a gallon. But now some analysts are saying it could drop back to a national average of $3.50 per gallon by mid-June.


That's good news, but $3.50 is still pricey. Just a year ago the average was $2.83, and 20 years ago it was $1.12. (You can look at gas prices going back to 1990 in a spreadsheet from the Department of Energy.) So it's no surprise that people are still looking for ways to save, including questionable "gas-saving devices" advertised on TV and online.


Do they work? A few years ago, professional skeptic James Randi offered a $1 million prize for anyone who could prove their device lived up to their claims. No one entered. Stacy Johnson spoke with Randi about the pseudoscience behind these devices. Check out the video, then read on for some advice that actually might help.

As you heard in the video above, even the Environmental Protection Agency has examined more than 100 of these devices. They've been doing it since the 1970s, and have found few, if any, that produce worthwhile results. In fact, they believe some could even damage your engine.

But that doesn't stop companies from advertising magic gas-saving devices. For instance, the Tornado is a piece of metal with holes in it, and the "precisely engineered slotted fins convert normal air intake flow into a powerful spinning vortex of air that mixes the air and fuel together," supposedly improving mileage and horsepower. When Popular Mechanics tested it, they said it did nothing -- and a similar kind of device actually dropped fuel efficiency by 20%.


What does work?

Is there any technology that can help you save money on gas?


Sure: fuel-efficient cars. That's probably not what you want to hear, but it’s the best way to cut down the money you spend on gas. At the Department of Energy's, you can compare mileage between different models and classes of vehicles and get a sense of what's most efficient.

Of course, buying a new car means spending money -- a lot of money -- to save money.  But there are other, less expensive alternatives. Give these a try:

  • GasBuddy. Both the website and the app take advantage of user-reported gas prices in your local area. You can search by ZIP code or city and it will give you the name, address, and cost of different fuel types at local stations, sortable by price or distance. Free.
  • Billshrink. This Web app helps you cut costs on everything from cellphone and cable service to gas. It finds the cheapest gas prices near two addresses you specify (such as home and work) and will e-mail you their locations on a regular basis. It calculates the best prices based on the distance needed to get to the stations, too. Free.
  • Carticipate. This app is available on Facebook or for iPhones. It helps coordinate carpools among people in your personal network by matching up times and destinations -- which means you have to know that stuff in advance to take advantage of it. Free.
  • Waze. An iPhone exclusive, this app works as a GPS device but also features real-time traffic reports so you can avoid wasting fuel idling in a mile-long backup. (For Android users, try Google Maps Navigation.) Free.
  • Route4me.If your job involves a lot of driving or you run multiple errands at once, this one may be worth trying. You give it the addresses you're going to, and it gives you the shortest route that hits all your destinations. You can optimize for different time intervals, too, when time is a higher priority than distance. This is available online and for iPhone/iPad, but after a 30-day trial it's no longer free.

There are also devices that can affect fuel efficiency by modifying your car's computer system, and they do work -- marginally. For most people, they aren't worth it because they cost hundreds of dollars. But if you're interested, check out "Should you hack your car for better mileage?"


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Apr 11, 2012 12:35AM

If you buy a fuel efficient car, you are not saving any money, either.  Think about it, you now have a car payment that is three to four times the amount you would spend on gas per month.  Secondly, if you buy an electric car, which is very pricey even with the government discount, the trade off from paying for gas is paying for the electricity.  Once again, not saving any money but costing more.  The only reason for buying a fuel-effecient car or electric vehicle is if you are concerned about the environment.  This article was probably written on behalf on one of two entities, the carmaker or environmentalist.  Neither one of which have the consumers interest in mind when it comes to saving money.  If you have a vehicle that is paid for, stick with it.  Unless, you have the money to burn on a new "'fuel-efficient' or 'electric' car without having to make monthly payments on.  These new vehicles do not produce the high mileage numbers the automakers are stating as the were rated by the EPA.  They do not have real world mileage due to many factors, such as stop and go traffic, bad roadways, unable to keep consistent speeds due to traffic congestion.  Therefore, if a person is going to pay for a fuel-efficient vehicle in full, then they are just spending more money ot possibly help the environment and not their pocket.

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