Free Coffee’s A Gas

How long do you idle?


Up and Up


Gas is around four dollars a gallon in my neighborhood and I expect it to continue rising.  Yesterday, my wife and I went on our early Sunday morning walk.  We like to end the walk by rewarding ourselves with a delicious mocha.  In fact, my wife likes mocha so much she’s nick-named it “My Precious In A Cup” (click to see her post).


It's costing $4 a gallon, now.

This was the cheapest gas in my neighborhood.

Now, as we came up to the coffee stand, we noted it was busy and there were several cars in line ahead of us.  As we strolled up to the last vehicle in line, it suddenly struck me that every driver there was letting their engine idle while they waited.  That got me thinking:  How much fuel do you burn just sitting like that?

Idling The Time Away


I did a quick search on the internet when I got home and found the following information as presented by California Energy Commission (the California Energy Commission’s website):


For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Research indicates that the average person idles their car five to 10 minutes a day.


Some Math


I've got to cut my consumption.

I need a break at the pump

Okay, let’s say you idle for 10 minutes (at the coffee stand or otherwise).  If we use the information above and divide by 2, we learn that’s the same as driving 5 miles down the road.  Now, let’s assume your car gets an average of 20 miles to the gallon.  If we divide 5 miles by 20 miles/gallon we get one-quarter gallon of gas wasted as we sit in line.  In other words, at $4 a gallon, it costs about a buck to idle for 10 minutes.  This means you could shut off your engine instead and probably save enough to pay for that coffee you buy every third or fourth trip to the stand.


It costs a buck at current prices to idle 10 minutes.

All that waiting around adds up.

Zero MPG


Here’s something else to consider: Idling an engine gets you nowhere real fast.  That’s another way to say it get’s you zero miles to the gallon. Do you want to improve your overall mileage?  Then shut off the engine whenever you have to wait.  Believe me, I understand that the weather in some parts of the country may restrict your options, but hopefully you see the point.



Is It Really Worth It?


Worried it takes more gas to restart a car than you’ll save by turning it off?  Don’t.  Once again, according to California Energy Commission:


Ten seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it.

That means, it pays to turn your car off anytime you expect to wait.  A good rule of thumb is turn it off if you expect to wait more than half a minute or so.  However, that won’t apply if your car is hard to start and needs work, in which case you may want to see our post, “Keeping Your Car Safe For Less“.


I’m Dying In Here


Finally, those hard working people at the coffee stand are breathing those extra exhaust fumes you generate as you sit there idling.  Why not give them a brake?


For more ideas on saving gas see our post, “Running On Empty”.


For more energy savings tips see our post:

Great Savings Tip #100 – Go Green


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