Many of us have been there or close to it: The low fuel light is on and your priority is now to find a gas station to fill up. However, this seemingly harmless occurrence may be wasting your money in more ways than one.
It may be human nature for us to procrastinate and not fuel up before our gas tank gets too low, but for Clark.com staff and our readers, it’s not normal to waste money!
In this article, we’re going to show you two very good reasons why you shouldn’t drive around with your low fuel light on.
Why Driving With the Low Fuel Light on Can Empty Your Wallet
When your low fuel light turns on, it’s a warning that you’re dangerously close to running out of gas.
The amount of fuel you have left in the tank and the time you have before you run out depends on several factors:
- Your vehicle’s fuel economy
- Your speed
- Your location (highway vs. city streets)
So, let’s get into reasons why it’s never a good idea to drive with the low fuel light on:
1. Costly Car Repairs
If you run out of gas, your car will break down. That means you could risk serious damage to the engine or another car part.
According to Consumer Reports, the gas in your car “acts like a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor, so when you run very low, this allows the pump to suck in air, which creates heat and can cause the fuel pump to wear prematurely and potentially fail.”
The total bill to fix your vehicle will largely depend on the amount of damage. While you may expect to pay for parts and labor, the cost of keeping your car at a mechanic for longer than one day can mean more money out of your wallet to pay for a rental car or ride-share service.
2. Higher Gas Prices
Driving with the low fuel light on means you can’t comparison shop for the cheapest gas price.
If you’re running low on gas, you’ll likely need to pull into a gas station that has really expensive fuel because — let’s face it — you probably don’t have any other choice.
That means if you have a warehouse club membership or fuel points with another retailer, you’re spending way too much money by filling up somewhere else!
Tips to Avoid Running Out of Gas
You’re not doing your car — or your wallet — any favors if you’re driving around with a low fuel light. Follow these tips to avoid running out of gas:
Keep Your Gas Tank No Less Than ¼ Full
You should always keep your tank at least a quarter full, according to Consumer Reports. This amount of gas gives you some much-needed breathing room before you have to make a desperate decision.
Use Mobile Apps to Find Cheap Gas Stations and Cheap Fuel
If the price at the pump is preventing you from filling up, use online tools or smartphone apps to find the cheapest gas near your house.
Turn the Air Conditioning Off
We all love the cool air from the air conditioner, but when you’re running on empty, you need to increase your fuel economy. One way to do that is to turn off the A/C — at least until you make it to the gas station.
Don’t Drive So Aggressive
Not only is it discourteous, but aggressive driving actually wastes more gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can drop your gas mileage from 15% to 30% at highway speeds. In stop-and-go traffic, fuel economy drops from 10% to 40%.
The bottom line is that driving with a low fuel light is a bad idea for your safety, your vehicle and your wallet. Before you drive to your next destination, check your gas tank. If you’re running low on fuel, take the time to fill up before you run out!
Do you have a tip to save money on gas? Let us know in the comments below!