How much gas and money is Steve wasting, idling his Corolla? Tom and Ray do the math.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

My job requires me to spend a lot of time in my car every day -- not only driving, but parked, working on my laptop. I estimate that the car is sitting at idle for approximately one hour every day while I work on the laptop. When the weather is cooler, I turn the engine off and roll the windows down, but during the summer, it is just too hot to sit without the AC going. I am reimbursed for mileage but have the feeling that I am getting the short end of the stick. While I am parked with the engine running, the odometer is not moving. Any guess how much gas I am using while sitting at idle? I am sure this varies based on the size of the engine, but for argument's sake, I have a 4-cylinder (Toyota Corolla). With gas prices so high, people might be interested in knowing how much gas is consumed by letting the engine idle. -- Steve

RAY: The only statistic we've ever seen for the amount of fuel used at idle is from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. It says that the average car uses about 0.15 gallons of fuel per hour of idling. That's about 45 cents' worth of gas. If you do that once a day for 250 days a year, that's $112.50 a year at $3 a gallon.

TOM: So what you need, Steve, is a jack. Jack up one of those front wheels while you're stopped and doing your work, put that baby in drive and let the odometer roll. That way, you'll MAKE money on the reimbursement for your idling time.

RAY: No, that's dishonest, Steve. And that doesn't even take into account the excess pollution you're creating by idling for an hour a day. A better solution would be to stop at a Distended Belly Doughnut Shop and do your work in there over a cup of iced coffee.

TOM: Yeah. It's got to be a lot more comfortable than sitting in your car. You won't waste any money burning gas, you won't be creating new pounds of carbon dioxide and you can put the coffee on your expense report. What could be better than that, Steve?

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