Remember when gas was just $.99 a gallon? Wouldn't it be nice to go back to those good old days?
Not going to happen.
So we took three gadgets that claim to give you better mileage and put them to the test, installing them on our Smart Shopper Mazda 5.
We enlisted the help of Howard Fleishmann, owner of Community Tire, to help us test the products.
Fleishmann joined us as we filled up at the same pump each time and then hit the race track -- the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler.
We tested each device going up to 55 miles per hour, accelerating and decelerating.
We also tested each device in real world morning traffic, traveling the same 40-mile route each time, from Phoenix to Mesa.
The first device we tested was the Vortec Cyclone , which costs $39.95.
It fits directly into your air intake hose of the engine, and installation was easy; all we needed was a screwdriver and we were ready to go in minutes.
The product claims customers saved up to four miles per gallon.
In the real-world road test, our miles per gallon actually decreased using the Cyclone, going from 22.5 to 22.1.
Definitely not worth our $40.
On the track, the Cyclone saved us about one and a half miles per gallon.
Still, not close to the testimonials claiming a savings of three to four miles per gallon.
In lane two, the Econoaid.
It took about 15 minutes to have the Econoaid installed and we paid $29.99 plus shipping.
If it works it should save us one to three miles per gallon.
And sure enough, we saw an improvement of about one mile per gallon during our road test.
But don't get excited yet... Let's put things into perspective.
"You'll get a full return on your money for the investment and freight in the next 7,500 miles,” Fleischmann explained.
That's right, you'll have to drive more than 7,000 miles just to break even, and that's only if you installed it yourself.
On the race track the Econoaid did better, saving us about four miles per gallon.
But Fleischmann said don't let the numbers fool you, even though we had a blast speeding around the track it wasn't very practical.
In fact the best way to save on gas is what Fleischmann calls "gentle driving".
"If you are a fast driver, if you accelerate real fast and go all the way up to a red light real fast, that's going to cost you in fuel,” he said.
In fact we lost seven miles per gallon driving aggressively on the track versus driving in traffic.
The last device in our competition is the Neo Socket , which we bought online for $39.99.
The unique device plugs into your lighter socket and the company claims you'll save up to 30 percent on gas.
In the streets we actually did worse after using the Neo Socket -- a loss of nearly one mile per gallon compared to using nothing at all.
On the track we found no change at all.
WORTH THE MONEY?
Based on our tests, none of the devices were worth our cash.
In fact, Fleischmann said the gadgets could do more harm than good.
“What all of these things are trying to do is confuse your computer… By confusing it, it could cause other problems. Don't take the chance,” Fleischmann warned.
The Federal Trade Commission also warns, even for the few gas-saving products that do work, the savings are small.
RESPONSES TO OUR TEST
We contacted the companies of all the devices we tested.
The makers of the Econoaid did not respond.
A response from the makers of the Vortec Cyclone stated:
The results you found are about what we would have predicted. We tell our customers that they can expect, on average, 1-2 MPG and that the unit tends to perform slightly better at highway speeds.
We understand that people are skeptical about gas saving devices and that one can always find negative information on the Internet. That is why we back our product with an unconditional 120 day satisfaction guarantee.
While we cannot say that we have never had a customer who did not get results, our return rate is only about 3% on sales in the tens of thousands of units.
The makers of the Neo Socket sent us the following statement:
I hope the unit you used was a proper working unit, maybe it was slightly defective if it didn't show much improvement. But that's why we offer a 30 day money back guarantee for customers to try it for themselves.
There are many factors that can affect the results such as outside temperature, weather conditions, in town versus highway driving, driver style, and more.
What type of test did you do to get these results? Was it a 1 day driving test or 2 weeks using the same car and driver, driving the same roads, conditions, and speeds? Its hard to get a controlled measurement due to so many different variables that can exist.
With gas prices being so high, we figure it's worth trying about anything that's reasonably priced to save money at the pump, and again it will work great for some while others may not notice much difference, in which case we are happy they tried it and will refund their money if
they're not satisfied.