Road, weather and vehicle conditions can alter consumption figures considerably, even for an apparently similar trip.
Road, weather and vehicle conditions can alter consumption figures considerably, even for an apparently similar trip. Chrissy Harris

Relying on the latest gadgets can leave you unstuck

HOW far can a trip computer take you?

I have a love/hate relationship with car gadgets. As in I love them and my wife hates them.

This has never been truer than when my wife ran out of fuel recently, after ignoring the fuel gauge in favour of the on-board trip computer's advice on when to fill up. 

I have the opposite problem in my car, where the trip computer panics like the robot from Lost in Space whenever I drop below half a tank.

Joe Fitzgerald.
Joe Fitzgerald.

It got me wondering how accurate these things are, and for that matter the fuel consumption labels we see on new cars.

By law, manufacturers are required to provide fuel consumption figures on labels fitted to new cars. They're determined in a lab test designed to exclude variables a vehicle is subjected to in everyday driving.

But unfortunately, they can't be relied upon to reflect what a car might achieve under actual operating conditions. The only realistic test involves on-road driving and calculation based on the distance travelled and the volume of fuel used.

And that's hard to do before you buy it.

Not to mention differences in road, weather and vehicle conditions can alter consumption figures considerably, even for an apparently similar trip.

Driving style also plays a big part, leading me to believe my wife is a lead-foot. Wisely, I declined to mention that after the incident I'm calling "fuelgate",

RACQ's Fact Sheet on fuel consumption is available at www.racq.com/factsheets.


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