Three Fuel-Saving Hacks for Long Roadtrips

I use this Ultragauge engine monitor to track fuel consumption at all times

This summer, Mr. Money Mustache broke his own rules and burned an absolute shitload of gasoline to criscross the continent in a not-very-efficient vehicle. Sure, I can list a few excuses as to why I did it (it was a 7-week family vacation, I needed the big vehicle to carry all my carpentry tools and materials for working as well as the family, I made a profit on the trip overall, and driving prevented the purchase of four one-way plane tickets). But in the end, it still hurts to burn that much gas. 178 gallons over 4553 miles, to be exact.

But I did my best to fight back against the fuel consumption gods. My 14-year-old Honda minivan is a beast, with a 4200lb empty curb weight (plus several hundred pounds of cargo), a 3.5 liter V-6 engine, an automatic transmission that favors fast acceleration over fuel economy, and every power and comfort accessory ever invented as of its production date in late 1998. Driving conditions were tough, with winding forest access roads, Toronto traffic jams, and frequent air-conditioning. Plus, many hours of 80MPH travel on the return journey, strategically used to avoid the need for an extra hotel stay. Even with these handicaps, La Mujer Azul still averaged 25.5MPG over the course of the trip, about 30% better than the EPA estimate for that vehicle.

The basics of fuel-efficient driving were covered in the old classic Hypermiling article. But this summer I found a few new things that helped raise the bar just a bit higher. And here they are:

1: Honey-Badger-Style Air Conditioning

My van uses about 0.25 gallons of extra gas per hour when you flip on the air conditioning. That’s 3 gallons, or $12.00 worth of fuel on a 12-hour driving day. If I tried to drive with the windows down at highway speeds, the fuel toll would be even higher. “Oh Well”, I used to think, “A man’s gotta stay comfortable.”

But then I read a comment from another MMM reader.

Among the readers lurk many people whose Badassity greatly exceeds my own. Some of them were mocking the need for car air-conditioning, saying “BAH! Just carry a spray bottle of water when you drive. When you get too hot, spray down your face, your neck, and even the car dashboard, and you’ll feel great for quite a while. When you dry off and get too hot again, just do it again!”

“Well shit”, I said, “If these people can do it, so can I”. So I embarked on my solo journey East with my largest and finest spray bottle filled with cold water, tucked into the closest cupholder. A daunting challenge lay ahead: crossing the desert of Eastern Colorado, and then the entire Midwestern Corn Belt at the peak of summer, in daylight hours, with no AC.

Windows were left fully closed, car ventilation fan running on medium-speed. (I’ve measured that the blower fan uses only about 2% of the power of the full A/C system: 30 DC watts compared to 2.5 engine horsepower, which roughly equates to 1600 watts).

The verdict: it works very well! I was shocked at how comfortable and cool I was with just the chilling effect of evaporating water on me. Each 10-second spraydown took 5-10 minutes to wear off before I required re-spraying. As a bonus, my body was forced to adapt to the increased humidity of lower altitudes as I drove. So by the time I got to my destination, I was tuned to survive the record heat waves in perfect comfort. I found it pretty interesting to note that I sprayed my way through only 1.5 gallons of water on the entire trip East, even while it saved me about 6 gallons of fuel. That’s quite a profitable tradeoff.

I did this mainly as a challenge to see if I could handle it. On the way back I was carrying the family so we used the air conditioning. But this idea still has practical applications for many of us. You can use a sprayer on those fringe days when A/C is just barely needed. Or if you are carrying a family in a car with no A/C, give a spray bottle to every family member and watch the fun ensue.

2: Always Use a GPS, Even When you Don’t Need One

On the surface, this might sound like Antimustachian advice. Am I really telling you to buy and use a $100 gadget instead of relying on your own brain and navigational skills to get you around? In this case, I sure am. And here’s why.

Minimizing Miles Traveled: Driving is frustrating and expensive enough as it is. Every extra mile you drive burns off your ‘stash and kills off your planet. So it’s an activity that should be done with surgical precision. When I go somewhere, I let the GPS pick the most efficient route based on distance, speed limits, traffic lights, and even current traffic and construction conditions. When my older family members attempt the same thing, they use their intuition and go “the way they’ve always gone” to get various places. They always show up quite a bit later than me. They occasionally make wrong turns and need to backtrack. It’s a huge waste. The GPS wins by a large margin, on average.

Predicting curves and danger: On the GPS, you see the layout of the road for the next mile or so, in 3-D perspective. You can see if a curve is coming up, or a cross-street, train track, bridge, or city center. This lets you plan your speed in advance, rather than having to hit the brakes when you come around the corner and realize the speed limit suddenly drops by 30MPH. This can save gas and prevent accidents.

Knowing when to coast: When following your route, the GPS warns you several miles in advance when a turn is coming up. Instead of squinting at the street signs for each cross street as you whiz down a country road at 60MPH, you confidently watch the road and listen for directions. When the time-to-turn gets down to 0.5 miles, I take my foot off the gas and start coasting down (as long as there is nobody behind me). From 60MPH in my van, this works out to an ideal hypermiling coast-down, allowing me to take a turn with almost no braking and then accelerate back to cruising speed.
Together, these tips save loads of gas, time, and frustration, which will tend to pay off the $100 purchase price of a GPS within its first 1-2 road trips. My current GPS is the TomTom 540TM, in case that helps as a starting point for research.

3: GasBuddy on your Smart Phone

If you travel with internet access in your phone as I do these days, this is a way for the phone to help pay for itself. When the tank runs low, you’re usually in some town you’ve never seen before. You want to find gas at a reasonable price, in a spot that is convenient to your route. So you open the GasBuddy app on your phone, which instantly displays a map of all gas stations in your current vicinity, with the price printed on each. You can even zoom out to see prices in adjacent cities.

The savings can be significant, as I find there can be a 30-cent-per-gallon difference between stations or nearby towns. With my van’s massive 20 gallon tank, this is a $6.00 difference per fill-up, which can be optimized with just a few taps on the screen. Gasbuddy probably saved me $50 on this trip. The app is free (ad-supported).

All in all, the habit of fuel-efficient driving is a pretty interesting one. If you’re going to be trapped in a box for hours at a time, you might as well have a fun game like Hypermiling to keep you occupied. The simultaneous benefits of saving cash and expanding your comfort zones are just icing on the cake.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 20, 2012, 6:24 am

    I don’t think the spray bottle method would work for us since we have little kids- ages 3 and 1. I can just picture them sweating and miserable then screaming in terror as we sprayed water in their faces!!! =)

    However, we did get a Prius earlier this year and its gas milage is awesome. We drove from Indiana to Gulf Shores Alabama, to New Orleans, back to Gulf Shores, then back to Indiana for about $120-$130 in gas. It is a smaller car though so we can’t bring as much stuff but we were still able to bring enough stuff for vacation for 4 people for 10 days!

    • Chris August 20, 2012, 7:46 am


      “It is a smaller car though so we can’t bring as much stuff”

      Consider adding a hitch-mount to the Prius frame. Then go to Harbor Freight or Wal-Mart and buy a cheap cargo-carrier. This will add significant storage space to your Prius when you need it on family trips or when you need to haul or transport random items.


      • Holly@ClubThrifty August 20, 2012, 9:43 am

        That’s a great idea! So far we have done ok with the smaller storage area but I will definitely consider this in the future. So far, we have just been packing light and it has worked out ok. I love my Prius!

      • Ken February 2, 2015, 11:24 pm

        We have a very light 16.6 cu ft motorcycle cargo trailer (Harbor Freight $400 with new bearings and LED lights) that we pull behind our 2006 Prius on camping road trips to double our cargo capacity. With little increased resistance we can still get 46+ mpg.
        We are planning to get a 30 cu ft model when we upgrade to a newer Prius and keep all of the cargo out of the car…
        This is much better than hauling around a bigger vehicle for the few times we need it.

    • Nurse Frugal August 20, 2012, 10:48 am

      Holly, you can also consider getting a Yakima or Tulle cargo box (it doesn’t really even matter what brand) to place on top of your car (you can even go to a garage sale to try to find one). Do you have roof racks?

      I can’t believe you only spent $130 on gas!!! That is awesome! I need to trade in my car for a Prius, it makes me mad how much I spend on gas.

      My husband and I have been using the gas cubby and we absolutely love it!!! He needs diesel fuel for his car so we can tell where the cheapest and closest place for diesel fuel is available using that app!

      Since we don’t have any children, we will definitely be trying the honey-badger-style AC ;)

      • Holly@ClubThrifty August 20, 2012, 11:30 am

        I don’t think we have those roof rack thingies. We could probably get something that could attach to the top of the car of to pull behind it though! When we were in the market for a car, we initially thought a Prius would be too expensive..but we found that they are about the same price as a regular used car. We paid about 17K-its a 2009 and only had about 20,000 miles.

      • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 12:58 pm

        The car-top box is not the best idea. First, it really hits your aerodynamics, where a small trailer will be in your wake zone, and so will have negligible effect (and can even cause an improvement). Second, it’s easy to drop the trailer for side trips; much harder to remove box and mounting racks.

  • George August 20, 2012, 6:25 am

    The spray bottle sounds like a neat trick, however by far the greatest environmental savings in your article is not how you drive but rather by driving itself rather than flying.

    Anytime you can avoid flying it is a huge gas savings for the planet. Nothing burns fuel faster in large amounts that jet aircraft.

    One thing MMM you should try is taking the train. I have never heard talk about this about this at all. A lot of people cannot take the train because their time off is so limited by their full-time jobs.

    However since you are in a special situation, you have the time to actual enjoy the trip. You can see the country side and enjoy a relax atmosphere with the kids in a train. Also, trains do not seem to be as cramped as a flying, you have more freedom to play games, walk around, or read a book.

    • Gerard August 20, 2012, 7:51 am

      I tried calculating the difference and it turns out for a single passenger, the plane wins by a fair bit — about 1148 kg CO2 for the car, about 670 for the plane. And that’s from the Atmosfair site, which factors in the additional damage caused by higher-altitude emissions. So the plane actually wins by even more in terms of fuel used up. A more fuel-efficient car could have won out, of course, and with multiple passengers the car definitely wins. (And I completely acknowledge that there’s a lot of debate over how to calculate this stuff.)
      But I second your suggestion of the train, especially if little MM has never been on one. Most kids LOVE trains! Maybe start with a shorter trip, though, to see how it works out.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 11:18 am

        Good discussion on the planes. To put it another way: I’ve read that a commercial jet’s fuel consumption is equivalent to between 40-60MPG per person. So it’s usually better to take a plane than to drive alone.

        Driving with 3 people as we did in the 25MPG guzzler works out to 75MPG per person, which is at least getting reasonable.

        I also agree about the trains. Mrs and little MM took Canada’s VIA train the 300 miles from Ottawa to Hamilton to meet me when I arrived – so they could avoid driving and then we could share a vehicle from that point onwards. They loved it. It was fast too, running up to 160 km/hr (100MPH) once out in the countryside.

        • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 1:18 pm

          On plane vs car, one problem is that the plane’s fuel consumption is figured airport to airport, so you’d need to add in the fuel cost of getting to & from the airport at both ends. For those of us who might live or want to visit places some distance from the airports, this can add quite a bit.

          It’s likewise possible to find instances where airline routing adds many miles to a trip. For instance, a friend recently flew from Reno to visit family in Des Moines, on a flight routed (IIRC) through Chicago and Phoenix. That makes 2338 air miles, vs 1584 driving miles, nearly a 50% increase.

          • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 3:05 pm

            Yeah, good point. Plus, the convenience of planes encourages many of us to do travel we wouldn’t even think of doing in a car, thus covering more miles. Many Colorado friends here are NY transplants. They’re always flying back for weekends for this or that wedding or family visit. Without jets, they’d be on the road 6 months a year.. and would thus be forced to travel less!

          • Gerard August 21, 2012, 5:04 am

            Yeah, James, I tend not to think about that because I live near the airport. In fact, sometimes I walk! But otherwise, I take public transit, with limited fuel consumption. And I did calculate MMM’s trip with a transfer in Toronto.
            We could expand your point about convenience — *any* “easy” mode of transportation encourages extra, often poorly planned travel. My brother used to drive 3 miles to get a cup of coffee, instead of plugging in the coffee maker!

            • Jamesqf August 21, 2012, 12:02 pm

              Except that I find it hard to view commercial air travel as convenient. Even before the advent of the TSA it was misery & aggravation.

              But if there’s some sort of usable public transit that gets you where you want to go, great. Was one of the nicer things about living in Switzerland: I could set out on a day-long (or longer) bike trip, and when I got tired, could easily find a homebound train.

      • aspiringyogini August 20, 2012, 11:36 am

        I have also done these more leisurely train trips and think a short one would be great for children or adults. My Mom and I went from Central Florida to Savannah and it took longer than driving, but we both read, talked and snacked and didn’t worry about stopping for bathroom breaks (which is a big concern for my Mom). One other thing that I think is important for adults and children is that on a train you will see areas of extreme poverty (I’m remembering Jesup, Georgia). People living along train tracks are often extremely Mustachian and not necessarily by choice. We who live privileged lives need to remind ourselves of our wealth and good fortune and we could explain this to children who travel with us. I know that visiting and working in areas such as these have inspired change in me with respect to what I do and how I live.

  • Heath August 20, 2012, 6:29 am

    Still don’t own a car. Loved the GPS benefits you listed, as I’d never considered the device with that function in mind. I mostly imagined it helping people get to ‘new’ places. Do you find that your GPS ever gives you impossible or wrong directions? I’ve found Google Maps (on my PC at home) to have this issue, but then I have been living in Brazil for a few years (the maps are less up-to-date and wonkier than in the States). Maybe this is a non-issue for people living in the US, Canada or the UK.

    I can definitely attest to the spray bottle’s effectiveness! My first two cars (used and dirt cheap!) had no AC, and were dark colors… in Phoenix, AZ. Keeping the windows down was the equivalent of living inside of a hair dryer. Keeping them closed closely approximated an oven. A little bit of water goes a LONG way, especially in a dry climate at 120F.

    • Dillon August 20, 2012, 11:22 am

      Yes, google maps has errors to those stateside as well. I’m a bit of a maphead (and most things related to infrastructure) and thoroughly get enjoyment out of reporting map problems on google maps, getting confirmation emails a few days later thanking me, and then seeing the updated and corrected version.

      GPS devices aren’t perfect either. For long trips, it’s best to go to the library and look at paper maps or the web and look at road closings/construction and familiarize yourself with the route in addition to using GPS (like a Gamin or your smartphone) rather than being solely dependent on technology (which is usually good but not always perfect).

      • Heath August 20, 2012, 11:58 am

        Thanks for the info! I’m happy to know that there are diligent individuals, such as yourself, who take the time and effort to correct the mistakes and improve those free services for all of us. Cheers!

        • Dillon August 20, 2012, 12:14 pm

          No problem, I’m grateful as well to those that write free financial blogs. :)

      • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 1:38 pm

        Not only does it have errors, but the algorithm(s) used to create driving directions are sometimes just plain insane. For instance, to get from my place to where I used to work in San Jose, it tells me to drive a half-hour north, take I-80 into the Bay Area (horrible road, horrible traffic) to I-680 south (again, horrible traffic), completely ignoring the ~50 mile shorter, maybe 2 hours quicker, route via California 88.

        Then of course there are the GPS routing horror stories, where someone blindly follows directions onto old logging roads and gets stuck in the mountains. I ran into a couple like that a few weeks ago: foreign tourists in a minivan who were trying to follow their GPS’s suggestion to get from Carson City to Lake Tahoe via Ash Canyon Road through the state park. They amazingly enough had managed to get up to the top – 3000′ climb in about 6 miles, on a road that I’ve seen Jeeps get high-centered on – but were stymied by the gates that allow only authorized vehicles access within the park. But what the heck, the GPS says it’s a road!

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More August 20, 2012, 6:31 am

    I will be taking a 7 hour trip in a couple weeks so this is perfect timing. While I will have to skip the AC advice the GPS and gasbuddy apparently sounds like a keeper. I just recently got my smartphone and had never considered using it to save money on gas during travel. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Oskar August 20, 2012, 6:44 am

    Good stuff, have always wondered over the name “la mujer azul” is that just because it sounds so cooool or do you and/or the mrs have latin roots?

    • aspiringyogini August 20, 2012, 11:49 am

      I also thought it great that you have a Latina car, MMM. I have a 12 year old Honda, named Blanca, who is an absolute gem. She only got this name after several years of dependable service. I hope she will continue to work for me for years to come because I’ve never before had a car that demanded so little and performed so well. I just bought her new seat covers and vacuumed her to celebrate her 12th birthday! She lives in the garage while my husband’s rough farm truck (14 years old), Rojo Grande, is outside.

  • ian ronald bell August 20, 2012, 7:17 am

    I don’t know about in the USA, but in my country I have GPS on my smartphone and some navigation software called Waze (others may be available) that will also route you around traffic. Not as accurate as a dedicated unit but will save you that extra gadget.

  • Chris August 20, 2012, 7:59 am

    One of my favorite apps on my smartphone (Virgin Mobile-No contract), is the navigation feature. When I need to find something in the Sacramento area, I program my nav app on my phone, put in my hands-free earpiece and let the little lady spout directions right into my ear. If I need additional trip info, I just glance at the screen from time to time. Makes for an easy, low cost, safe way to navigate.

    Speaking of phones (random tangent), picked up a cheap tracfone at Walmart this weekend (on a trip where my phone gets no reception) and so far have found it to be a respectable low cost way to communicate. The only negative I’ve found so far is the minutes expire after 90 days. Otherwise, it appears to have great coverage at a great price.

    Breakdown: Phone 10$, 120 minutes-30$ (all minutes double for life of the phone I bought=240 minutes), Nationwide coverage to include, HI, AK and VI’s, no contract.


    • Adam August 20, 2012, 8:34 am

      Tracfone has one year cards available on their website with 400 minutes (800 minutes total for the double minute phones). This is my only cell phone and it costs me about 9 dollars a month, no contract. It works for me because I don’t talk or text much. Your minutes don’t expire but your “service” does and then you need to add more “service” which is included in a new minutes card. Your old minutes roll over to the new service.

      • Chris August 20, 2012, 5:43 pm

        Thanks Adam!

        • Clint August 22, 2012, 10:54 am

          Can anyone say how text or data count in “minute”terms with tracfone? Is data even an option?

  • Jonathan August 20, 2012, 8:01 am

    My A/C broke two years ago and just refuse to get it fixed. My family and friends think I’m nuts, especially considering the summer we just got. Initially, I didn’t want to fix it because I was going to get rid of the car (because I thought it was old, junky and not reflecting what income says I should be driving).

    But then I came across this site and a few others and realized that this car is actually pretty new, is paid off, and gets pretty decent gas mileage. It has one of those built in fuel economy meters that I reset every morning and see if I can beat my top economy (37 mpg city, btw…not bad).

    Shamefully, I get so much satisfaction at the annoyance of others when they ask why I don’t have a nicer car for the income that I have. It’s strange how my “old, POS car” is a source of pride for me.

    • Heath August 20, 2012, 8:54 am

      Ha! I love it. I too would get tons of smug satisfaction from annoying people who thought a high income level should dictate anything in my life. That’s just crazy talk, and people need to be told so. Keep up the good work!

      • Jonathan August 20, 2012, 12:18 pm

        Totally. I once rolled up to a professional colleague I hadn’t seen in a while and there was a look on his face that seemed to say “I thought you were doing well?” I have to check myself sometimes, though, as I tend to feel an air of superiority to others’ habits. I don’t want to be that guy.

        Also, my “stuff-envy” has shifted away from the guy with the BMW X6 to the guy with the 98 5-speed hatchback and bike rack. I suggested to Mr. MM that we institute a MMM salute to identify ourselves to each other. We settled on one finger below the nose and one flexed biceps for maximum badassity!

    • nicus August 20, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Hey Jonathan! – If you have no plan to repair your AC, think about removing it all together. Less drag on the engine and quit a bit of weight removed. Your mileage will improve noticeably.

      The spray bottle trick takes me back to my family’s migration from Texas to California back in 1959. Air conditioning was a lot less common in those days so you saw a lot of creative ways to keep cool while driving across the southern deserts of the USA. Sprayers were common, as were wet towels wrapped around passenger’s heads. My brother and I wore the “towel turbans” for a while. Cool, and we felt like little “Maharajas”.

      • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 1:43 pm

        Just remove the belt from the compressor (assuming it doesn’t drive other things too). Taking it out entirely involves working with refrigerant fluids which need to be disposed of properly, plus a lot of the hardware is buried under the dash.

        • JaneMD August 20, 2012, 2:57 pm

          Hey, I didn’t get my AC fixed either. We try to drive that car to work only in the morning or evening. If I ever have to drive again during the day, I am totally trying the spray bottle. (Note to self, buy spray bottle)

          • Jonathan August 20, 2012, 3:04 pm

            Fortunately, our weather has been absolutely perfect lately, and I really was looking forward to the fall. I am excited to have outlasted the heat and feel like I won that battle.

            But now I’m reading about the drag effect with having your windows down and it breaks my heart! I love having the windows down, and now I’ll be mental about it. Ah the trade offs of frugality!

            I know it depends on speed, etc, but does anyone know what the numbers are for having the windows up?

    • JJ August 21, 2012, 6:12 am

      Drove a “94” black on black car with no heat and no air for 6 years in the humid mid-west. My family thinks I’m nuts too. Just sold it this year and sorta wish I hadn’t.

      I’ve learned to embrace the fact that my family thinks I’m nuts.

      • MMSW August 21, 2012, 12:57 pm

        I drive a 97 Astro..268,000 miles. Runs like new, however the AC did go out last year. I have been driving it in Central Florida for 2 summers to a job that I have to dress up for. It really helps that I leave the house at 6:00am before the heat of the morning. Coming home at 5:00 has gotten better. I was really suprised at how I found how MUCH COOLER I feel when wearing cotton or natural material. Polyester and blends feel like you are wrapped in plastic.

        • Hcat April 6, 2017, 2:43 pm

          Wool is even worse, and it is still the standard for D.C. and New York even summer.

  • Chris August 20, 2012, 8:40 am

    Did you do the urin bombs like the truckers do? If you drink a lot of water you need to pee at some point. That quick stop (not always can you time it with a tank stop, especially if you drive a diesel that runs 1200km or more with one tank) can take up valuable time, brake wear and gas to accelerate back onto the road.
    Wonder if the mustachians are badass enough to pee in a 2 liter pop bottle while driving.

    Oh, and don’t eat in rest stops, do your own sandwich and such, but I take that as a given.


    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 11:10 am

      Haha – I won’t get into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that safe “rest stops” while rolling are indeed feasible. But a 2-liter bottle is obviously not the correct receptacle, due to the non-user-friendly shape. A whole suite of products already exist to serve the trucker market.

      Also, pee bottles should NEVER be dropped on the road. It’s a huge cost to society, as that material is technically categorized as hazardous waste so they actually have to call special people to clean it up. Dump it where it belongs whenever you eventually stop.

      • Dancedancekj August 21, 2012, 10:18 pm

        Gatorade bottles are the ergonomic choice, although I’m pretty sure there is some pretty heavy gender bias here…

  • Iforonwy August 20, 2012, 8:58 am

    Very timely for us too. We are due to fly to the USA in a couple of weeks time and will be on the road for a couple of weeks.
    We are hiring a car – 4-door Dodge Caliber Automatic (or similar Alamo speak) and have no idea what it might do to the gallon. Our car here in the UK is a Peugot 206 Diesel and generally gives us around 55 mpg (UK gallons that is). What ever we are sure we will see a great difference in fuel prices. I think I did a very complicated and head-hurting sum that told me that fuel over here equates to it costing about $7.50 Stateside.

    And how are we managing to afford such a trip. Well we became FI, Financially Independent, about 10 years ago retiring at 61, Him-in-doors-with-the-big mustach and me at 53.

    • Paul Silver August 21, 2012, 7:21 am

      If it helps at all, I ran some basic numbers for converting MMM’s road trip in to UK petrol prices, and I think it would have cost about £912 in the UK. I was looking at Canadian fuel prices (as he mentioned Toronto) and cheap petrol there is about CND$1.21, figuring from there the fuel for his whole trip cost about £523. That’s probably not very accurate as he was doing long distances and was bound to get different petrol prices along the way.

      I visited Canada 5-6 years ago and found the petrol prices so much lower that even a relatively inefficient PT Cruiser with 4 adults and lots of stuff in felt cheaper than driving my car in the UK. Then again, I own an old Beetle so it’s not bad on fuel, but not as efficient as a modern small car.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 August 20, 2012, 9:01 am

    That’s a good point about GPS. We got lost near one of our destination and it was frustrating after a full day of driving. I finally stopped and asked for direction, but a GPS would have helped a lot. I’ve been too cheap/lazy to get one, but I’ll keep an eye out for a sale.
    Our home AC broke a year ago and we haven’t fixed it either. We only need it 2-3 days a year and I don’t think it worth fixing for that amount of usage.

  • Jeff August 20, 2012, 9:17 am

    We bought a GPS after we missed a turn on the highway and went 3 hours in the wrong direction!

  • RichUncle EL August 20, 2012, 9:32 am

    YEs I have been using the gas buddy app since I got my smart phone two years ago, great app. Hypermiling is good and I have noticed when I pay attention to how I drive I can squeeze out more MPG’s with my weekly commute to work. Still trying to find work nearby my home so I can bike to work.

  • TLV August 20, 2012, 9:56 am

    You’ve mentioned previously that you did some light modding (partial grill block) with your scion. Have you done anything like that with the van?

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 11:04 am

      I think it would work well with the van, but I haven’t done it yet. Making some well-sculpted fiberglass covers for the rear wheel wells, side skirts to lower the side ground clearance, and maybe a sheetmetal cover for the roughest parts of the bottom of the vehicle should lower its drag coefficient quite a bit.

      It wouldn’t be worthwhile for the type of service that van normally does (short trips to the lumber and landscaping stores at 30MPH or less). But if I decide to use it yet again for next year’s Canada trip, I’ll do the mods so I will have something fun to report back on.

  • Jonathan August 20, 2012, 10:29 am

    Have you ever thought about writing a blog entry on motorcycles/mopeds? I know it’s not practical for a family but after becoming a mustachian years ago my motorcycle has been my favourite tool in my mustachian toolbox. I bought a cbr125 years ago after owning everything from 1000cc Ducatis to 1000cc Suzukis and haven’t looked back. The cbr125 gets around 100mpg, requires barely any maintenance, and keeps up with freeway traffic even though I’m 6’5″ and 205lbs. My commuting costs have gone from about $300-350 a month (insurance, gas, very basic maintenance) on a car I paid cash for to around $70-100 a month. That lets me keep my higher paying job in the city while living 40 minutes away in a rural area with space for a garden, basement rental suite, etc. I do get some funny looks from co-workers and random commuters but I’m having a good time (even in the rain) and I don’t have a $500 a month leased boat anchor hanging around my neck like most of the people I work with.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 11:00 am

    • TheHeadHunter August 20, 2012, 12:39 pm

      I submit that Motorcycles(and even worse scooters) are anti-mustachian. In fact, I believe that motorcycles are the epitome of penny-wise\Pound-foolish. And for all the haters that will start coming out of the woodwork, I HAVE a motorcycle (2008 Honda Shadow Aero) but I never ride it (less than 1500 miles) In fact, I’m in the process of selling (feel free to make me an offer, lol) Because the only thing more expensive than the cost of $3 gas is breaking your NECK. If you don’t believe me, Run the numbers on Motorcycle fuel efficiency VS DEAD.

      • Jeff August 20, 2012, 1:43 pm

        There’s an important difference between riding a crotch rocket at 80 mph on the highway and falling off vs. riding around town on a scooter that doesn’t go over 35 mph. A scooter is essentially lazy biking and just as safe as biking.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Submission rejected – go back and read Bakari’s comments on motorcycle safety in all previous articles. They’re not really that bad, safety-wise if you adjust for driver type.

        It’s never Antimustachian to do something that uses less fuel, pollutes less and takes more skill. That’s Mustachian. If you do put yourself in more danger, that’s living dangerously, but that runs on a different axis than Antimustachianism.

        • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 7:04 pm

          Besides, if you’re really that worried about safety, you should obviously stay inside with the doors locked and windows closed…

          • TheHeadHunter August 20, 2012, 10:28 pm

            Ha, but if I kept my windows closed, I wouldn’t be able to yell at those darn kids to stay off my lawn!!!

            • Debbie M August 21, 2012, 8:35 am

              You could still gesture at them, give them the evil eye, and even make threatening motions at them with scary-looking devices through the window.

  • Mr.Thrifty August 20, 2012, 11:04 am

    It’s posts like this that make me realize just how un-baddass I am. A spray bottle of water to cool down on a nearly 5000 mile trip? This reminds me of that movie where Rocky had to fight the Russian that killed Apollo Creed and he was working out with tires and splitting wood.

    There were people who drove 5K miles without A/C – we call those people pioneers. ;-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 11:27 am

      GOOD – just as the Mustachians in the forum made me realize how un-badass I am. Which led me to trying the spray bottle myself.

      If somebody else has already done something and succeeded, than OBVIOUSLY we all need to try it ourselves, right?

      Also, I LOVE those old Badass Workout Montage sections of the Rocky movies. They inspire my own workouts to this day, and are part of the reason I make fun of fancy workout gear and all those foo-foo non-barbell exercise classes.

      Note that the A/C-free portion of the trip was only about 2000 miles.

  • Matt August 20, 2012, 11:35 am

    “My van uses about 0.25 gallons of extra gas per hour when you flip on the air conditioning. ”


    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 12:13 pm

      Don’t pull that mythbusters shit on me! :-)

      I’m talking about with all other factors being equal – windows are still rolled up either way. As noted in the article.

      I measured the 0.25 GPH consumption directly from the engine computer, when idling with a fully warm engine (via Ultragauge). I also verified this at speed with plenty of on/off toggles while driving on the level ground and open roads of the prairies with cruise control on.

      The test shown in the video is actually pretty crappy: they could only do 55MPH due to the small test track and the ridiculous Ford Expedition they were driving around. Who drives around at 55MPH (besides the most dedicated hypermiling Mustachians)? Wind resistance is much greater at highway speeds like 70-80, where most people drive on interstates.

      Meanwhile, the Expedition was using gobs of energy just shredding its own spongy tires on that test track. 11.7 miles per gallon!? 0.25GPH wouldn’t even show up in the noise of such an insanely high fuel consumption.

      Fuckin’ Mythbusters. I need to apply for a job there, just because they mess up so many of their own tests with scientifically invalid methods.

      If you tried to cross the country in a 12-MPG vehicle, it wouldn’t matter what your fuel consumption was.. because you’d find Mr. Money Mustache waiting at the gas station for you the first time you pulled over, punching you in the face and then confiscating the vehicle for scrap metal recycling.

      • SkySG September 16, 2019, 1:24 pm

        The Mythbusthers are so unscientific, it is appalling. I remember several episodes they would try to do an experiment that would normally require an expert, professional, skilled, or fit person, and when they would find they couldn’t do that task, they would declare it impossible. Of course never consulting professionals not to mentioned lack of any sort of scientific control groups or anything else. I so badly wanted their show to be better but now you can find good experiments on YouTube.

    • Joy August 20, 2012, 1:05 pm

      I am not sure what these “Mythbusters” are trying to do here?
      Are they trying to encourage people to waste more gas?

      When I was very young a friend and, I were
      sitting in my car. I had let the car idle to keep the A/C going as
      it was very hot outside. In a relatively short time the air flow wasn’t very
      cool. I mentioned to my friend that the air wasn’t nearly as cool.
      To which my friend replied, put your foot on the gas pedal and, give it
      some gas. I did, the air returned to a very nice cool breeze. Hint, the
      A/C needs gas to cool.

      • George August 20, 2012, 7:28 pm

        I remember watching a different clip from Mythbusters one time that found that drafting behind a large truck resulted in about 15% gas savings. Keep in mind that there is a tradeoff here, the closer you follow the truck the greater the fuel savings however it is very dangerous to draft too close to a truck.

        I have found that on Interstates that you can comfortably hover about 3-4 car lengths behind a large big rig truck and let them break up the air resistance for you and you can drive your car in the air vacuum that is created behind the truck.

        This results in less fuel being burned. Also, another benefit is that you can relax more, following a large truck basically takes out a lot of the thinking of driving for you. In contrast, if you are weaving in and out of traffic like a race driver this is very stressful and a lot work mentally. Draft behind a big truck and you can just let you mind drift to think about the problems of the universe or your life instead of pretending to be a race car driver.

        • Debbie M August 21, 2012, 8:38 am

          You can also drive on the shady side of a big rig, which makes a huge difference with three-digit temperatures. But then you’re blocking traffic and may be in the truck driver’s blind spot. So, I generally only try that at stoplights.

  • Fil August 20, 2012, 12:26 pm

    MMM, when I type “can i use an ultragauge on a prius” this post is on the front page! Google must love you. Anyway, anyone know if an Ultragauge would work on a Prius? I’d like more detail than the Prius provides me.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 12:32 pm

      Yup, it works fine. OBD-II readers like the Scangauge and Ultragauge work on pretty much any roadgoing car or truck made since 1996 and I’ve done some fuel testing specifically on a 2nd-generation Prius.

      I agree that the fuel consumption information provided by the Prius and most other cars is minimal at best. I like the Ultra because you can display any 6 parameters at once, then page through three screens as needed to read up to 18 engine params. On the pic for this article, you can see the 6 that I use most. If someone came out with one that could display 30 things at once, I’d use that one instead – Mr. Money Mustache likes his data :-)

      • Jamesqf August 20, 2012, 1:56 pm

        Mild disagreement here. I use a ScanGauge on the 2000 Insight, and the fuel consumption functions are inaccurate and have far from real-time response. The problem, as I understand it, is that it’s not actually measuring real fuel usage, but computing an estimate from other data that the OBDII system provides. It’s better than nothing, but if your Prius or whatever has a built-in fuel consumption display, it’s probably going to be far more accurate.

        • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 2:58 pm

          Hmm, that’s interesting – and I wonder if it depends on the reader and the car. For me, my Ultragauge works out to within 0.5% accurate over an averaged series of many tanks of gas.. there’s not much accuracy improvement that could be done.

          And the response is really fast – it updates its display at least once a second, and if I hit the gas pedal (or let go of it), I see the change on the very next update.

          You do have to calibrate the thing initially. But once I set it up to match the metering done by gas pumps, it seems to stay in sync with them.

          • Fil August 20, 2012, 3:19 pm

            A question. Why does that photo show your MPH at 76.7 on the Ultragauge but your actual speedometer is over 80 MPH?

            • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 4:14 pm

              Good question! – It turns out that car analog speedometers are usually pretty inaccurate. Usually they report a few MPH too high, but sometimes it is the opposite way. You can use a good GPS to figure out which way your own speedo is off (or two mileposts on the road and a passenger with a stopwatch, in a pinch).

              The ultragauge uses the car’s internal digital speedometer, which is based on wheel rotations per second with the stock wheel/tire size installed. But you can calibrate that setting too with the Ultra, if it doesn’t match the car’s actual road speed.

            • Josh May 28, 2014, 4:35 pm

              UltraGauge also allows calibration, adding or subtracting a user input percentage. I’d prefer if you could input the actual amount of fuel used over a period of time, but they make you do the math yourself.
              My gauge was slightly optimistic at first, and after I modified the numbers to match the gasoline I actually out the car, it’s more reliable. That screen easily paid for itself in teaching me how to drive that car better.

  • FreeUrChains August 20, 2012, 12:58 pm

    Another good point about GPS and Smartphone GPS Apps. They allow you to Explore a New Area without worrying about finding your way home, whether that be in the RV, new appartment, or Mustachian Community Castles.

  • Ornella @ Moneylicious August 20, 2012, 1:10 pm

    I do like the spray bottle idea, although, I’m not sure I would actually do it. If my hair get wet it’s all over…but I guess I could where a hat and tuck it underneath! But then again, I do not do too many road trips.

    GPS is a must for me and GasBuddy.

    Always an a great read from you, MMM

  • bogart August 20, 2012, 2:07 pm

    Interesting post; I suspect your GPS must have better features and/or you have done a better job than have we of communicating with your GPS. Ours (I forget the brand/make) is remarkably determined to keep us on interstates even at the expense of tens of miles of added distance (versus noticeably shorter routes on back roads with no traffic), and certainly gives us no insights into curves or altitude shifts.

    I tried Gasbuddy some years back and was unimpressed; I now use Mapquest’s gas prices site, which I found far more accurate (up-to-date) than Gasbuddy when I switched — but maybe Gasbuddy has improved? I’m helpless either way on a long trip (except for basic info. gathered beforehand on, e.g., state gas tax rates) because I’m not internet connected once I leave home. I’m told there’s now an app that will calculate whether it’s worth driving X miles for Y reduction in gas price, but as I don’t have a smart phone, haven’t explored that.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 3:18 pm

      GPS horror stories, eh? That does sound scary.

      I used a Garmin for the past 5-6 years. Never guided me seriously wrong through dozens of roadtrips to strange places. But the interface was very klunky and eventually the machine died.

      Now I’ve got this new TomTom. It is definitely a bit more annoying in its routing style, and I might actually go back to Garmin just because of that. In all cases, the GPS devices are fussy and hard to use compared to smartphones.. but the fact that it’s always there on your dashboard – no plugs or configuration needed – makes it worthwhile to me.

      • bogart August 20, 2012, 8:51 pm

        I definitely appreciate the convenience of the things and have no particular complaints with ours — and I agree that compared to the typical alternative approach in an unfamiliar area, they’re almost certainly a good bet for fuel economy for the reasons you mention. However, ours doesn’t score high marks in choosing the shortest routes, using as the measuring stick those we are very familiar with (e.g. back and forth to extended family).

        I’d guess what you are describing in terms of the fuel value of GPS-selected routing may have more value out west than it does where I am on the east coast. We’ve got a lot of “blue highways” that are more direct than the interstates that came after them, yet don’t pass through high traffic areas (with numerous delays, stop-required intersections, etc.). My admittedly limited experience of driving out west is that this is often not the case out there.

  • Steve August 20, 2012, 4:54 pm

    Just a couple of the search tools UK gov have put out.
    I am always amazed at the big gas guzzlers Americans have compared to here in Britain and the size of the engines are much bigger in general.
    Mine is a VW Passat 1.9 diesel 100 hp and mainly on trips does 50 mpg but can get 57+ mpg.
    We pay more for fuel and that must make our choice of vehicle biased.
    Everyone in the UK that does a lot of driving has a Diesel car for better MPG.
    I have just calculated how much it would cost here in Britain to do 4553 miles @ £1.39 a ltr would cost £1150.83 @ 25mpg.
    Keep up the good work MMM

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 20, 2012, 5:02 pm

      Actually I think it would be £957, because there are only 3.78 liters in a US gallon. But that’s still a lot: $2,000 US dollars or so, compared to the $676 that I paid at an average of $3.80/USG.

      I only bring this up to remind readers of the difference in MPG ratings due to the 20% difference in the two different gallon sizes.

      When a British(or Canadian) person says “50MPG”, it should be interpreted as “40MPG” by a US resident.. and similarly, my 25MPG van would be considered “30MPG” in the UK and Canada.

    • Steve August 21, 2012, 1:44 am

      The British marques that you mention James,were hardly for the masses,I suppose the best example of a mass produced British car is the Mini, 50 years it was produced for.
      and mainly 1ltr.
      On a local level I own a 1.4 diesel yaris that does 60+(UK,mpg) and there are lots of 1ltr small cars in my street.
      If you don’t believe me go on google maps and zoom in on American supermarkets and then British supermarkets and you will see the difference.
      In the Uk it is difficult to own a large engine car because of the price of fuel, and road tax is based on pollution/engine size so my Passat 1.9 is £120 per year and my Yaris 1.4 is £30 per year

      • Jamesqf August 21, 2012, 6:56 pm

        I have spent quite a bit of time in Britain, mostly in the ’90s, and had friends who lived there for most of the decade. (All three of their kids were born there.) I did see quite a few larger cars in those days, including quite a number of Jeep Cherokees (which were apparently some sort of status symbol to the British equivalent of soccer moms). I also remember his complaining about the fact that his employer wouldn’t give him the small company car that he wanted, but made him drive a 7-series BMW for “status”.

        Now I’ll grant this is maybe an artifact of the upper professional class, but IIRC the only really small car I remember seeing was the Citroen Deux Chevaux, which was apparently some sort of retro status symbol.

    • Steve August 21, 2012, 2:04 am

      I once knew someone that had a 3ltr BMW because he always wanted one and he only had it a month as it was to expensive to run.Apart from that one person I can not think of anyone else who owned a 3ltr or more petrol car.
      My passat costs just under £80 to fill up if it was a 3ltr I would have to fill it up every week!

    • 205guy August 21, 2012, 6:30 pm

      A sad symptom of this phenomenon is that American drivers rarely have any idea of the engine size in the cars they drive or buy. True that it’s just a number, but it’s the one that most directly affects gas mileage. It’s almost never listed on sales material (new or used ads) and sometimes it’s even hard to find online.

      2+ liter is very common in any large sedan (even imports) and 3+ is common in SUVs. You have to look carefully to find <2 liters (unless you read MMM's article about the top most mustachian cars :-). Another sad trend is that engine size is growing. Honda Civics used to be around 1.5 liters, and now they're all closer to 2.

      5+ litre engines (!!!) are actually fairly common in the US, notably on Ford Mustangs (that's the 5.0 in the badge) and Jeep Wranglers–5.5 or 5.8 even (nothing like the original army jeep). And don't get me started with the trucks that people in the US use as cars. I'm often surprised that they even get 10 MPG (US).

      PS does anybody else find it ludicrous that the US and UK use different gallons? Anyways, SI units should be mandatory everywhere.

  • Brian August 20, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Good tips! I just got back from a road trip myself and didn’t realize how much fuel the AC uses. Not sure my other half would go for the spray bottle, but I might try suggesting it next time!

  • Sundeep August 21, 2012, 1:36 am

    Another awesome post as usual. After who knows how many months, I have finally caught up and read every post and almost every comment. I am both happy and sad. This journey had been a real eye opener and it seems everything I’ve done since discovering this amazing blog must be scrutinized for its level of mustachianism. I’m so stoked on this, I’ve tried to do my own little bit by spreading the good with some interest. Baby steps I guess.

    All I’ll say for now is thank you MMM for taking the time to write this blog and genuinely caring enough to try and make a difference. I highly recommend anyone new to this blog to go back and read some, if not all, of the older posts AND comments, amazing info in every post.

  • Gerard August 21, 2012, 5:13 am

    West Indians often use a cooling spray/lotion that has rubbing alcohol in it:
    It evaporates faster, for a stronger cooling effect. Of course it doesn’t last as long, but when you’re in the noonday Barbadian sun you want relief NOW.

  • JJ August 21, 2012, 6:36 am

    I mean really! This article starts with the presumption that the 7 week, 4500 mile trip was absolutely necessary. It goes on to say that you made this trip partially as your “commute” to work! Here’s an idea… You are retired! How ’bout moving closer to where your family is to eliminate this wasteful trip. You don’t have to work, right? So you’ve substituted a typical consumer’s commute with a 4500 road trip in a giant mini-van with lots of gadgets AND all your tools?

    You lifestyle (based on this article) is totally insane (and totally consumerist).

    You are clearly financially independent. You are also CLEARLY a consumerist. There’s nothing wrong with this, just DON’T publish articles suggesting consumerism is wrong while making a trip like this.

    If you don’t have to work, move closer to your family so you don’t have to make a 4500 mile commute to see them.


    • Paul Silver August 21, 2012, 7:36 am

      As Mr MM has the delightful Mrs MM at his side, who is to say they don’t live near one side of their family, but the other side lives a long way away?

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 21, 2012, 9:03 am

        All right, I’ve got an assignment for you, JJ:

        Find the “Search MMM” box in the right sidebar. Search for the word “decadent”, and maybe “luxurious” too. If you’re in a rush, just read this one article: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/01/raising-a-family-on-under-2000-per-year/

        I’ve never said that I live any sort of mimimalist lifestyle. I insist that it is a huge, luxurious one with far more fancy stuff than anybody could possibly need.

        The only point I make, is that the bill for all this still happens to come in in the mid-$20,000s for a family of three. On average, that’s a quarter of what most people in my former income group spend, and the toll we extract on the Earth for living is similarly reduced.

        Let’s take the driving. 4,500 miles. That’s a lot for just seven weeks. And over the rest of the year, we average an additional 2,500 miles – so my family drives 7,000 per year, shared between the two drivers. It’s huge! It’s wasteful! We could obviously drive far less!

        But wait.. the average US driver covers about 15,000 miles. Per driver. So we’re driving.. let’s see.. about a quarter of the US average. There’s that magic number again.

        Next, let’s think about living closer to family in the hope of saving energy. They mostly live around Ottawa, Canada, where winter temperatures hover around 17F. The average heating bill is around $2500 per year. Here in Colorado, I get away with $400-$500 per year, saving $2000 of gas every year. Whoa, my heating bills are only a quarter of what they would be there!

        Then there’s the fact that almost all transportation here can be done by bike, due to the sunny climate and compact city. This alone saves still more fuel – more than paying for the trip yet again.

        I’m not trying to convert my fellow Americans to instant minimalism. My goal is that this blog serve as a gateway drug to more thoughtful consumption. The target audience is the rich middle class of this world. Once you get hooked on a little bit, there’s a strong reward which tends to drive you further into enjoying efficiency.

        1000 new people pass by here on any given day. They need to see, “hey.. look at this guy – he’s got a life that looks just like mine. There’s a healthy kid, nice house, and family vacations. I can dig that. So how come he’s a retired millionaire? Shit, I’d better read more to find out!!”

        As a final note: I’m wondering if you might have a more polite way to phrase your criticism next time? .. You know, rather than telling me in capital letters what I can and cannot write about on my own blog?

        • JJ August 21, 2012, 10:26 am

          It’s possible I have mistaken the point of your blog. I was under the impression that it was minimized consumption (not less bad consumer -or- financially efficient consumption). I know that one of the things you emphasize is living closer to work and eliminating the commute. That’s why it struck me as odd that you talk about taking all your heavy tools on a 4500 mile commute. I guess the trip was primarily to see your family but also about earning money while there. Still, this post struck me as odd. That’s all.

          The upper case was for emphasis, not yelling. All lower case may be considered yelling. ;o)

          • Mrs. Money Mustache August 21, 2012, 10:55 am

            The purpose of the trip was to see family. We maximize the time and minimize the driving to once a year and spend 6-8 weeks there (as opposed to flying there 3 times a year to spend the same amount of time).

            MMM didn’t earn any money on the trip. He did some work for family because that’s what he loves doing. In exchange, we received a place to stay and free food. All the work he did was very much appreciated and was done free of charge.

            The fact of the matter is, we take trips that have real value to us: to visit family, go camping and hiking, and be in nature. This means that we sometimes drive to do these things. But, as MMM pointed out, we still drive very little and never on an every day basis. The point is that you can easily reduce your consumption to 1/4 of a typical American and still enjoy doing the things that are truly worthwhile to you.

            I don’t understand how this could strike you as odd. The time we spent in Canada was magical.

            • JJ August 21, 2012, 11:31 am

              Well, hey, maybe I’m wrong. What I thought I saw in this post was an attempt to rationalize and justify a decision to live away from family. It’s almost as if you’re saying, hey, it’s ok to travel 4500 miles because we’re trading work for free room and board and we get to see family. Besides, we are still living much more efficiently than other families, so we are ok.

              We are not sacrificing various other trips we can and will make during the year. We are financially independent so none of this matters. We also still spend less and waste less than the average American family so this type of spending definitely doesn’t matter.

              I had just thought the blog was more about hedonic adaptation. Learning to enjoy simple pleasures and do with less. Not finding a way to justify a visit with family by making it more complex with gadgets, transportation of tools, etc.

              Just seems like the sukka would move. The sucka would commute.

              One thing is for sure, as your son makes friends and begins to engage in more activities in Colorado it will become much more difficult to pull him away from them and travel to Ottawa. I don’t blame you for going, per se. It’s just the justification and rationalization that sits the wrong way with me. Seems that with optional employment you could live closer (unless your family is in Colorado and his is there).

              I have similar difficulties w/family not as close as I’d like. I guess that’s why I’ve typed so much about it. Just seems like my grandparents and my parents were able to be more efficient by living (and working) close to home. And yes, I know Colorado is beautiful. No need to rationalize or justify your reason for being there.

        • JJ August 21, 2012, 10:40 am

          I still think I have a point….

          It seems odd to suggest to people that they live close enough to work to bike there, and then tell them about making a 4,500 mile commute with a bunch of heavy tools in a big mini-van.

          I understand all of your rationalization, but from a common sense perspective the two things don’t match up (at least to me they don’t).

          • George August 21, 2012, 8:12 pm

            JJ Thank you for reminding me why I would never want to have a blog.

            I don’t know how MMM has the patience to deal with all these “I am right you are wrong” dialogs.

            In fact, I would probably rather sit at home and punch myself for fun than to run a blog as the go to advise giver who has to constantly justify and defend everything said.

            • Mr. Money Mustache August 21, 2012, 8:56 pm

              Haha.. it’s OK George, I find it kinda fun actually.

              For any comment that is truly clueless and reflects a ridiculous lack of reading comprehension, I just delete it. There’s maybe one of those per day on average, out of 100 or so across the blog.

              For this series, I thought it would be worth replying, just because I do feel that we do still have a pretty high-consumption lifestyle, and I wanted it to be clear to other readers that I’m not pretending to be some sort of godlike minimalist. All of us can improve!

              But, the conversation has gone on long enough at this point. We’ve all made our points.. so my delete finger is getting itchy :-)

            • Plastic Kiwi January 8, 2016, 3:11 am

              Haha George, that’s Exactly what I was thinking! Although I do enjoy the CP posts because I know an awesome reply from MMM is coming! He always gives such considered, clear, non-aggressive replies, that’s talent I don’t have! And then if they push back they get a flick on the forehead to boot. I’m not brave enough to run a blog!

    • Heath August 21, 2012, 8:21 am

      Woah, woah, woah. I think you are interpreting MMM’s suggestions out of context. I really don’t think that he was suggesting that you BUY A MINIVAN OR A SMART PHONE. I didn’t get that in the slightest. He was describing how he saves, given his own situation. I think the strongest consumerist suggestion was to buy a spray bottle (less than $5). The van he’s using to haul equipment (which nobody should assume is going to be the case for everyone), and he already has both a smart phone and data plan, none of which he encourages you to go out and buy. “If you travel with internet access in your phone as I do these days, this is a way for the phone to help pay for itself.” The IF was important, there.

      As far as ‘living closer to family’ being a mustachian improvement, you’re again interpreting the whole trip out of context. MMM does not say that you shouldn’t spend your money on things that you enjoy. He explicitly states that you should do that. He just wants you to be fully aware of the COST of those luxuries, so that… 1. you aren’t fooling yourself, and 2. you don’t unknowingly or unsafely deplete your ‘stache. MMM has, on several occasions, stated that his house is a big luxury. Part of that luxury is it’s distance from his family, which he visits on a yearly basis. Part of the luxury is the location, as well (Colorado is fucking beautiful). He also has written (again, on several occasions), that he’d like to ‘downsize’ his home, and perhaps part of that would involve moving closer to his family (I’m guessing there).

      Anyway, that’s just my interpretation of those points.

      Edit: I forgot to mention the GPS. And that did seem a bit of a strange suggestion to me, as well. I mean, if you take the time beforehand to plan out your trip with your home computer (assuming you have one), you should know pretty well how to get somewhere. Granted, his GPS suggestion also made the assumption that you were travelling huge distances to places that you’re not aware of (not the case, for most people). In that case, it might actually end up being a good investment, as it could save you MASSIVE time and TONS of gas.

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 21, 2012, 9:14 am

        Thanks Heath!

        Regarding the GPS – believe it or not, I AM in favor of almost everyone driving with one – if they regularly go to new places by car. But you can always scoop one used on Craigslist for $40 or so.

        At 50 cents per mile, you only need to prevent 80 miles of driving before the device becomes pure profit. If your time is worth anything (which it IS!), the payoff is even faster. And the true environmental cost of driving is actually FAR more than 50 cents/mile, tilting the balance still further.

        Sure, you can plan your trip on a computer and tape paper instructions to your dashboard. My argument (based on the last 6+ years using a GPS for everything) is that is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Just because missing even a single turn and backtracking is so costly.

        I see it happen SO often to non-GPS drivers that it is comical and frustrating. It happens in almost every single roadtrip where I’m a passenger and the driver is winging it from printed directions.

        So yeah, if you EVER make wrong turns, buy a fuckin’ GPS :-)

        As for the smart phone: yeah, I have a big fancy iPhone 4 that’s only 2 years old. But it’s not for vanity or fitting in with the crowd – it’s because I have this blog. Without mobile internet access, this place would crust over with spiderwebs. Comments would take days to get approved, and new article ideas would be forgotten. ‘Cause I’m not strapping myself to a computer and sitting at home just to make the blog stay alive. The mobile phone makes both a retired lifestyle AND a busy online presence possible.

        • Jamesqf August 21, 2012, 12:14 pm

          The problem there is assuming that depending on the GPS will be more correct more often than not depending on the GPS. From the comments above, that isn’t always the case.

    • Jamesqf August 21, 2012, 12:23 pm

      “If you don’t have to work, move closer to your family so you don’t have to make a 4500 mile commute to see them.”

      Humm… Move to (flat area of) eastern Canada to avoid one yearly 4500 mile trip to visit family, and replace that one trip with how many to visit mountains?

      Also, I suppose people differ in this, but for myself there are darned good reasons why I’ve spent all my adult life on the other side of a continent or ocean from most family, and only visit at intervals of several years. A couple of weeks at a time is all I can take :-)

    • Teresa August 21, 2012, 1:44 pm

      Pffft! I don’t think MMM has ever said he does not buy stuff or that buying stuff is bad. Just don’t buy stupid stuff and waste money. Everyone consumes – it is part of being alive. It is the degree to which one consumes that is in question. I hardly think MMM was insisting anyone go out and buy everything he mentioned in the article otherwise he missed a wonderful opportunity to earn affiliate income as he did not provide any links on where to buy the GPS, spray bottle, or van.

      Point missed.

  • Rob August 21, 2012, 6:36 am

    Just read your article on hypermilling and like holy crap Batman, Tire pressure, always keep it at about 32psi but just checked my Michelin tires can go up to 51psi, had no idea!!!!

    Tomorrow doing Madrid Lisbon and Porto vacation trip so This tips will come in Handy

    Speaking of diesels, it’s simply not true that they cost more, it only seems that way because the only ones available are German and German cars cost a fortune to repair regardless of engine type. Every Japanese car maker has a line up of diesel engines, and they run as good as the gas ones.

    For example I ran a Madza diesel for almost 150,000 miles with nary a problem. Unfortunetly the thermostat went (under 100€ to repair) but in the meantime the engine overheated and started causing problems, being my main vehicle decided to trade it in for year old Peugeot 307 Diesel. Went from 46 mpg to 54 mpg (Note British gallons) city/highway running A/C. That’s why I always buy diesels (that and it’s a bit cheaper)

    this is my first long trip,will see if I can top 55 mpg using cruise control and higher tire pressure.

    So well usually driving an older car longer is more frugal but in this case 8 mpg $8 a gallon over 10 years means a lot of money

  • Rod August 21, 2012, 8:06 am

    Great points on travelling. Many great comments also. All traveling by car progress happens while the wheels are turning, rest and fuel stops kill time gains and mileage. I used to be a semi driver. OK, at 6 MPG, 20 ounce pop bottles, properly used can make for time and money saved… but I am not into littering our world and never did the unthinkable act of littering. Not viable for most reasons. Bladder sizes do vary. With that said ,it’s gross. I had a Honda CRX 1988 hf model. It was a peppy small car that got hi 40’s and even low 50’s per gallon without air and stopping. Got 618 miles to one tank. That’s when I ran out… Luckily I had a spare gallon on ass-saving goodness handy. I am also into the acetone mileage booster theory. Maybe it’s a wash, But it is a great engine cleaner all the same. I use 2 ounces per 10 gallons. On all gas burning engines here It keeps spark plugs clean, and I haven’t had a engine failure at all. Many engines with lots of wear, I wonder if anyone can chime in on any personal experience. I have seen gains, but not big ones .I have been into acetone and scantools for 3-4 years with no problems. I don’t commute, and loathe driving for the most part. Been behind a windshield plenty, still like to “hypermile” when I travel in my shameful gas mileage pickup. I use it for my side work, so I *think* I need it. I like to think that 128 ounce gallon of gas pumped has to go somewhere. I would rather hear my knee pop on the bicycle than the gas filling the tank. Thanks MMM for the low down on your journeys, and of course the insight you give us all. seems your always in motion, RK

    • Rod August 21, 2012, 8:38 am

      I also wish to state in regards to your trip, seems like you accomplished a lot, made distant family happy by saving $ and labor on a project or two and providing a summer of squishy muddy toe natureness to yourself and immediate family. Memories that will not be forgotten. Good for you to cut loose a bit, I am sure you were mindful of wasting as well. Bust a move when you can cause I am sure you think up good shit also for us when doing so. Many people burn more fuel EVERY week or two. I see wastefulness more when I am away from home, but on vacation, I wander from my thrift more than normal. If I didn’t do some of that myself, it wouldn’t be a vacation from myself, work and home.

  • Joy August 21, 2012, 8:11 am


    MMM buys things that bring greater satisfaction to his life.
    Too, he buys things that in the long run will save money.

    Both of these products will do just that for folks that travel often.
    If you don’t travel or, go outside of a thirty mile radius on a regular
    basis, then you know these products will not save you money.

    MMM is assuming the reader is intelligent enough to know if these
    products will be an asset to themselves. I too, think his readers are quite
    intelligent and, capable of making this decision.

    MMM is retired. That gives him the pleasure of deciding where he
    would like to live. There are trade offs to every decision. Retired
    folks generally travel for the fun of it. Why not make that a trip

    Do you think folks shouldn’t travel?

    MMM is not asking any of us to never consume. Have you read all
    his posts? He is against consuming, simply to be consuming.

    As you know our culture consumes just to beat boredom or, to
    impress others. They spend simply because they have been
    conditioned to spend. MMM is against this type of consuming.

    MMM has improved the lives of so many here. I am one of the many.

    You sound a bit jealous of MMM and, what he has accomplished.

  • Joy August 21, 2012, 8:25 am


    My granddaughter (5YO) was having a hard time losing when
    playing musical chairs. She kept crying and, yelling “But, I have to

    My daughter was told of the incident and, felt she needed to help
    her deal with disappointment. My daughter has watched the
    honey badger video that was placed in comments awhile back.
    My daughter explained to her little girl that she shouldn’t cry
    when losing because she was a honey badger. She went on
    to tell her that honey badgers are tough animals and they don’t
    get upset because “Honey badgers don’t care.”

    So the next day her Dad was taking her to school. On his way out
    the door he remembered the incident from a day earlier and said
    to her, “Now if you don’t win today, don’t cry about it.”
    She looked her Dad in the eye and said, “I’m not!” “Because I am a honey
    badger and, honey badgers don’t care!” :)

    Thought you might get a smile out that story.

  • Heidi August 21, 2012, 6:18 pm

    I used the spray bottle trick when I moved to Albuquerque w/ no AC. I found it was best to use distilled water – regular tap water dry with enough particulates that it would destroy the spray bottle within a couple weeks, and leave white marks all over the windshield. Of course, ABQ has some ridiculously hard water. This doesn’t work where it is humid. I also did this a lot in my last house.

    • 205guy August 21, 2012, 6:53 pm

      I just realized the spray bottle (and wet bandana around neck) trick is the equivalent of a swamp cooler in the desert SW. A swamp cooler is a big box on your roof that looks like an air conditioner, but it just blows air through a big wet sponge to cool it down (obviously only works in dry climates).

      So I’m wondering if there’s some equivalent for cars. Turns out there is:


      But those were external and affected gas mileage. Seems like you could have a system in the air ducts to do the same thing. Any inventors out there?

  • Jeff August 23, 2012, 4:15 pm

    V6 engine & auto transmission. You don’t need that, especially considering the low US driving speeds.
    Get a 2-litre with a manual transmission, or better still a diesel, if these things are catching on in the US yet.

  • Bakari August 23, 2012, 11:18 pm

    Other ways to stay cool in a car:

    Beaded seat covers!! They let air circulate under and behind you, so you don’t get that sweaty shirt stuck to the seat back thing. Makes it much more comfortable. Surprisingly so.

    A real fan. The car’s built in vent fan doesn’t do much. You can get a little 12v fan that plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet and clamps to the dash board or sun visor for $10 or so. Some of them even oscillate. I have one in my bedroom (I live in an RV, so I have 12v outlets at home) which I got at a truck stop over a decade ago.

    Tinted windows. You can get tinted window film at any auto or hardware store. Get the heat reflecting kind. Apply it yourself, its easy. You can even get it in a removable version that uses static window cling, so you can take it off in winter.

    Most people probably won’t like this one, but I painted the roof of my truck reflective silver, and the roof of my house white.

    I don’t have AC in my truck at all (I removed all best driven accessories to improve MPG) and its still there in my house, but I haven’t used it in 2 years (sealed it up to improve insulation) and you know, I haven’t actually missed it!
    Turns out all you have to do it properly insulate and ventilate (combined with not being a pathetic whiny whiny who always needs to be comfortable) and its pretty easy to get by without artificially manipulating the climate.

    • Heath August 24, 2012, 6:03 am

      Woohoo! Bakari is back! I missed your font of knowledge sparkling in tandem with MMM’s. As ususal, these seem like fantastic ideas. Especially that fan. Combined with the water spray bottle, the fan would be even more ridiculously effective. Are those giant wooden bead seat covers actually comfortable to sit on? Seems like it might be somewhat uncomfortable if you’re a skinny dude like me (wood-on-bone isn’t so comfy). And this isn’t me being a complainy-pants, just curious :-P

  • She Sam August 4, 2014, 11:08 pm

    On the farm we used to soak a handkerchief in ice cold water and tie it around our necks in the summer, and it really helped! This would be a good idea for a road trip, probably. Or a frozen bottle of water between the legs :-) that works too

  • Maria September 6, 2014, 9:53 am

    Late to the party – I’m a couple weeks into my journey of all articles since the beginning of time … But I have to mention something else awesome about GasBuddy!

    They have a feature on the website (not sure about the app) for “Trip Cost Calculator”. Basically you type in your start and end point, enter info about your car to get estimated MPG (or enter your own numbers from your UltraGuage) and can play with sliders like “less stops or cheaper gas”. Then it computes the best places to stop. I’ve used it many times on trips from IL – CA or IL – CT. I like that it helps me figure out when/where to stop, and I don’t always go with the exact station it suggests. But it gives you a wonderful starting point (e.g. the cheapest station near Des Moines, IA is 3.30/gal, but I’m hungry/have to pee now and this station is also 3.30/gal, so I’ll stop now).
    For those concerned about your footprint – it also gives you an estimation in the form of a sad/angry looking grey cloud.

    • Michael December 30, 2015, 7:19 am

      Interesting. I have been doing the same thing manually (have taken 5,000 mile camping road trips with my sons the past 3 summers) and would plan out in advance where I should stop. Saved me quite a bit.


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