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Calculating savings on the cost of gas

Drivers often compare the cost of gas between stations, choosing the one offering a lower price even when it’s only a slight savings. Who hasn’t seen cars lining up at a gas station where the advertised price is a couple of cents lower than its competitors? Metro Vancouverites, situated as we are so close to the border with the United States, take it to a whole other level. A favourite weekend activity in these parts is a jaunt across the border for cheap dairy and, of course, gas.

But is it really worth it to go out of your way to get cheaper gas? This handy tool from the Globe and Mail can help answer that question.

Calculating gas cost savings

Find out how much you save (or don’t save) when you travel for cheaper gas.

Plunk in the size of your tank, your car’s fuel efficiency, the distance you have to drive, and the price of gas, and voilà! Out churns your expected savings (or cost!). What isn’t included here is how much you value your time. That $4 savings might be worth an extra 20 minutes of driving for one person, but isn’t worth it for you. Try out the calculator and decide for yourself.

Author: Tina Robinson


  • By Andrew, December 15, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

    Well, factor in the minute at customs both ways, but the 98c/L gas prices in Blaine do make the equation rather interesting.

    Of course, as the gas tax continues to go up, that difference will widen, and we will see more Canadians make the hop to the US to get gas. With NEXUS it really isn’t too bad to get across the line.

  • By ;-), December 16, 2011 @ 12:06 am

    Also if your vehicle rarely gets highway mileage…. a long drive is every few weeks is better for the engine. Having affordable fuel along the way makes it sweeter.

  • By Tina Robinson - Buzzer Contributor, December 16, 2011 @ 9:36 am

    I think each person can do their own cost/benefit analysis. I know for me personally, if I make the trek down to Blaine and do an analysis based on today’s prices, it would save me less than $4. And that’s definitely not worth the time! Although I do like the price of cheese down there…

  • By Bus Engineer - CMBC, December 16, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    Disclosure: I’m at engineer employed by CMBC.

    This tool doesn’t compare all the important cost elements to get a real estimate of the cost of driving. You’ll need to include the cost of tires, and using up your vehicle.

    Tires, brakes, oil changes: $0.03/km
    Let’s make a few assumptions. Tires cost $150 each, and will last 60,000km. A brake job costs $500 and will last 60,000km. An oil change with scheduled maintenance costs on average $50 every 5,000km. So for every 60,000km, you’ll face a $1,700 maintenance bill. That’s $0.03/km, a quarter of what you spend on gas for an average sedan. In other words, if a tank of gas costs $60, you’ve also incurred a $15 maintenance bill.

    Depreciation: $0.12/km
    I used to think that since depreciation would happen no matter what, it shouldn’t matter all that much if you drive an extra distance or not, but I’ve learned that that’s not really true—a used car with lots of km is worth considerably less than a used car with low mileage. And what if you’re the type that likes to keep their vehicle until it’s worn out? Let’s assume you buy a mid-size sedan for $27,000. That’s about $30,000 after HST. Let’s assume that it’s good for 250,000km, then it needs to be scrapped. That works out to $0.12/km, probably as expensive as gas!

    Gas: $0.12/km.
    I’m just including this for the sake of completeness. If your car gets 9L/100km, you’re probably spending about $0.12/km, given gas prices these days.

    Total incremental cost of driving one extra km: $0.27. This doesn’t take into account insurance or breakdowns.

    My round-trip commute is 38km each day. At 27 cents per kilometer, it’s worth a little over $10/day.

  • By Andrew, December 16, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

    Indeed, a lot of variable expenses do occur. Mileage based depreciation is definitely a big one.

    With that being said, I worked through my long term repair expenses/real world fuel economy numbers and tires (just had them redone) and my variable cost per kilometer is about 15c. Mind you, it’s a small Civic and not a larger car, so your mileage (no pun intended) may vary.

    With that being said, Translink should move to property tax / assessed values for funding. Let the folks in Vancouver who get amazing transit service pay the lions share, and those in Surrey/Langley who do not have the luxury of frequent transit service pay a little less. Right now those with less service are paying the lions share of the taxes to pay for “Vancouver’s transit”

  • By Bus Engineer - CMBC, December 19, 2011 @ 10:03 am

    I hesitate to wade into the property tax issue, but I’ll note that fair taxation is more complicated than just charging people according to property values.

    1) TransLink maintains something like 2000km of major roads and bridges in the region (the “Major Road Network”), so TransLink taxes go to pay for a lot more than just buses and SkyTrain.

    2) Population: Vancouver’s population is bigger than Surrey. That means there’s a lot more taxpayers to fund TransLink in Vancouver.

    3) Population density: Vancouver is more than 3x the density of Surrey. With that density of people, you’d expect to see buses coming 3x as frequently in Vancouver as they would in Surrey. Higher population density makes transit much more viable—it’s the difference between one bus each hour, and a bus every 20 minutes.

    4) Commuting: a lot of people from the suburbs work in Vancouver. If they’re going to be using major roads and transit in Vancouver, then it’s only fair for them to help to pay for those costs, right?

    Disclosure: I’m employed by CMBC, and formerly TransLink.

  • By Tina Robinson - Buzzer Contributor, December 19, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the discussion here!

    Andrew, I should point out that TransLink is already partly funded by property taxes – approximately 20% of revenues in 2010 came from property taxes from throughout the region.

    Also, we often hear comments about transit service South of the Fraser, so I think it’s worth pointing out that the number of service hours in the sub-region has increased from 710 thousand in 2005 – 18% of the total for the entire Metro Vancouver region – to 960 thousand in 2009, nearly 21% of the regional total. This is an increase of 35% over that time period. It is also worth noting that more than half of the new service hours that are part of the recently-approved Moving Forward Supplemental Plan are slated for South of the Fraser.

  • By Andrew, December 20, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    Yes, South of Fraser does suffer from serious density issues which makes service a lot more difficult. Ultimately most people see road services and transit as two different issues, myself involved.

    It’s always the classic cat and mouse problem, if the frequency isn’t high enough, people will not take transit, but the ridership needs to be high enough to support the increased service. Same thing with car sharing, if Modo had some vehicles a 5 minute walk away from me – I’d likely just use modo for the odd hiking/camping trip and save vehicle expenses. Barring it, I have the fixed costs of a car anyways and given the 3x travel time difference of transit vs driving, might as well use it.

    Of course, it will be nice when Kwantlen can get connecting service to White Rock without 30 minutes of waiting for schedules to mix up. That might change the game, a lot.

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