Thursday, June 23, 2011

What the cost of gas has to do with anything.

So the 1999 Accord's owners manual recommends 87 octane or better for my V6, I decided to experiment with different grades just to see if 87 is truly the best fuel for my car, or if the added cost of premium would do anything at all for the performance or economy of the car.  Over 6500 miles worth of gasoline data, I've averaged approximately 22 miles per gallon.  One experiment I ran throughout the winter/spring was to alternate the type of fuel I filled the car with.  Because modern ECU's can take an entire tank of a higher octane level before adjusting how much fuel is pumped into the cylinders, I put in two tanks of regular unleaded, and then switched to two tanks of premium unleaded.  I continued this pattern from January straight through until about two weeks ago.

Based on the data, I average 33 miles additional per tank when I fill the car with premium unleaded instead of regular unleaded in pure city driving, and 53 miles per tank more on mostly highway driving, or in my 16 gallon fuel tank, my car averages slightly more than 2 mpg better in city driving with  premium unleaded than regular unleaded, and slightly more than 3 mpg better on the highway with premium.  What does that mean?  That means that the old rule of saving money by putting in regular unleaded doesn't really work for my car...however, it's entirely dependent on the cost of gasoline.

Now, here's where the tricky math comes in.  To fill my car with premium unleaded instead of regular unleaded costs approximately $.25 extra per gallon, or about $4.00 per tank.  At what point does it make more sense for me to buy premium over regular.  At $4.00 per gallon, for example, that extra $4.00 actually saves me about $6.28.  The break even point for in town driving is at $2.55 per gallon.  On the highway, the break even point is significantly lower...about $1.66 per gallon.

I wondered after doing the math on this why Honda wouldn't recommend premium to fill this car, so I went to find historic gas price data.  In 1998/1999 when this car was manufactured, the price of gasoline in the US was only $1.29 in today's inflation adjusted dollars.  What that means is it was even less expensive then.  That price is well below the $1.66 per gallon that is my break even point for highway driving.  Granted, gas hit that price point in 2000, but it didn't hit the $2.55 per gallon until 2007, and was below it again by 2009.  Quite frankly, there was no reason to recommend a higher grade as when the car was built, no one was even predicting that gas would go above the break even points.

After watching what happened to the price of gas this summer, it's improbable that I'll ever get to the point again where regular unleaded is less expensive to operate in my vehicle than premium unleaded.  Try it for a few months in your car and see what your results are.  I'd be interested to see if other people in different cars have the same result I did.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The interesting visitors to this Blog...

First of all, I hope google doesn't get upset I took a screen capture from my Analytics account...I apologize in advance Google, please forgive me.  For anyone who has their own website Analytics is a wonderful (FREE) software application available through Google, just visit

Anyway, of the visitors to this site, 484 are from the USA, 22 from Brazil, and 20 from Canada.  The 484 visitors from the USA are primarily from Virginia, and the 20 from Canada are primarily in the Toronto metropolitan region, including Oakville, Hamilton, London, and Toronto proper.

There were some surprises in the data...for example, I have one visitor...who's visited 14 separate times from Saudi Arabia.  I have 18 visitors from Russia, 3 of whom visit the site once a month or more.  My Slovenian visitor has come by three times, and has the highest average page view count of any of the other visitors.  Finally, this site has been visited at least once from every continent except Africa.

So, my question to my readers...where are you from?  Say hello and leave something in the comments section!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Long Delay--But we've been back on the road!

After the death of the Volvo in December, I started taking a heavy course load in school, and started writing about cars for my school newspaper, The Loudoun Lantern.  Between school and my part time job, I've been incredibly busy and haven't had a chance to update on the Honda.

So far I've driven the vehicle a bit over 6500 miles since I purchased it, in almost exactly six months.  In the six months, I've had to put new tires on the car, and fix a fairly major emissions issue, which has cost approximately $2000 all told.  Based on my depreciation estimates, the car will have paid for itself in approximately April 2012 at this point.

One thing is certain, the new tires were the best $1000 I've spent on the car thus far.  While I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having to spend money on anything (I am a poor college student, after all) and was not thrilled that my local shop only had Goodyear tires in stock when I went to get my tires (up until this point I've only ever purchased Michelin tires) I've been satisfied with every aspect of the new ones thus far.  Hopefully they will maintain my enthusiasm, however, they will need to last the same number of miles as the last set of Michelin tires I bought, which still had plenty of tread after putting 60,000 miles on them.

I've uncovered a few downsides with this particular car, several of which I've already fixed.  First, with a CD Player and no tape deck, I wasn't able to hard-wire my iPod into the stereo.  Crutchfield sells an adapter for about $60 which makes it possible.  I bought and installed the adapter in March, which works perfectly.

The biggest downside, which I cannot fix right now is Honda's awful paint quality (pictured right).  Honda makes mechanically wonderful automobiles.  My 1999 Accord is practically perfect in every way mechanically speaking, likewise with the interior cosmetics.  The V6 engine is phenominal, the transmission still shifts smoothly after nearly 150,000 miles, the car still handles well, and drives comfortably even at speeds up to 90 miles per hour.  The paint, however continues to flake off.  Fortunately I can say it's not just mine.  After driving around a bit and looking at other Honda vehicles from the same era, they all have the exact same problem.  I wish I could say the problem only affects the trunk, hood, or roof, but unfortunately it affects all upper surfaces of the car.

Watch for some interesting road trips in August.  I'm working on putting a few together right now, however, I'm still not entirely sure where I'll be off to yet.