Estimating Your Mileage Costs When Towing a Trailer

Apr 5, 2013

MPG: it’s the buzzword of the decade.  But what does it mean, and more importantly how does it apply to you? Put simply, miles per gallon is the amount of miles you can go on one gallon of fuel–it’s the industry standard and yard stick for vehicle efficiency. In this post you’ll learn how to estimate your base MPG, and then how to factor in the trailer combination to that base number.

Each vehicle has its own specific coefficient for efficiency, so now is a good time to grab your year, make and model of your tow vehicle. This info isn’t 100 percent necessary, but it will help in getting you the most specific results.


Step 1: Find the MPG estimates for your vehicle
This is where your tow vehicle’s year, make and model will come into play. The US Government offers the most exact numbers (since they are the folks who issue the official numbers) on their website. With the numbers from that site, I will choose an example. The car I drive, is a 2013 Corvette. A guy can dream, right? According to the estimates, a 2013 Corvette gets 17 MPG combined (Highway/City) and the V8 requires premium gasoline. Find the numbers specific to your car and write them down on a piece of paper for now.

Step 2: Think about your load
What will you be towing? Weight is one of the main factors that determine MPG, so if you’re going to be towing a trailer full of feathers, then you’re going to get much better MPG than your buddy who is towing a trailer of the same size full of bricks.  How you load the trailer will also affect the amount of friction on the combination. Remember to distribute the weight evenly from side to side, while being sure to load 60 percent in the front half and 40 percent in the back.

Step 3: Plan your route
Think about how you will be driving. Is your trip all on the highway, or do you expect to be traversing city streets? Stop and go with a trailer combination requires more energy from your engine than driving without a trailer. This extra energy requires more fuel to be used.

Step 4: Estimate costs
With your numbers that you have written down from before, think about how your specific route will go. If I plan on moving from Phoenix to San Diego, I know that I’ll be doing mostly highway driving across a very flat stretch of road. According to the link above, my Corvette gets 21 MPG on the highway, so with an evenly loaded, modest trailer, I can expect about 15-20 miles per one gallon of fuel. The Vet’s got a 18 gallon fuel tank, so using a mid range-estimate of 18 miles per gallon, I can expect to travel 324 miles on one tank of gas. Combine this information with current gas estimates from sites like GasBuddy, and you can get an accurate estimate on just how much it will cost you.

Step 5: Enjoy the drive
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the open road. Take comfort in knowing you are a master at all things MPG, and even make a bet with other people in the car on just how far you think you can make it before running out of gas. With your new knowledge, you’re almost guaranteed to win that bet–or at least an ice cold slushie from your friend.

Do you know any MPG secrets? Are you an expert at getting the best miles per gallon all the time, every time? Let us know in the comments below.


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