Gas-Saving Products: Facts or Fuelishness?
Gas prices are up, and so is the volume of advertising for "gas-saving" products. When gasoline prices rise, consumers often look for ways to improve fuel efficiency. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns you to be wary of any gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings have been small.
"Gas-Saving" Advertising Claims
Be skeptical of the following kinds of advertising claims.
- "This gas-saving product improves fuel economy by 20 percent."
Claims usually tout savings ranging from 12 to 25 percent. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evaluated or tested more than 100 alleged gas-saving devices and has not found any product that significantly improves gas mileage. In fact, some "gas-saving" products may damage a car's engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions.
The gas-saving products on the market fall into clearly defined categories. Although the EPA has not tested or evaluated every product, it has tried to examine at least one product in each category. See "Devices Tested by EPA" at the end of this article for category descriptions and product names.
- "After installing your product on my car, I got an extra 4 miles per gallon."
Many ads feature glowing testimonials by satisfied customers. Yet, few consumers have the ability or the equipment to test for precise changes in gas mileage after installing a gas-saving product. Many variables affect fuel consumption, including traffic, road and weather conditions, and the car's condition.
For example, one consumer sent a letter to a company praising its "gas-saving" product. At the time the product was installed, however, the consumer also had received a complete engine tune-up - a fact not mentioned in the letter. The entire increase in gas mileage attributed to the "gas-saving" product may well have been the result of the tune-up alone. But from the ad, other consumers could not have known that.
- "This gas-saving device is approved by the Federal government."
No government agency endorses gas-saving products for cars. The most that can be claimed in advertising is that the EPA has reached certain conclusions about possible gas savings by testing the product or by evaluating the manufacturers own test data. If the seller claims that the EPA has evaluated its product, ask for a copy of the EPA report, or check www.epa.gov for information. In some instances, false claims of EPA testing or approval have been made.
Product Complaints and Refunds:
If you're dissatisfied with a gas-saving product, contact the manufacturer and ask for a refund. Most companies offer money-back guarantees. Contact the company, even if the guarantee period has expired. If you're not satisfied with the company's response, contact your local or state consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau.
Shifting Gears: Real Money-Saving Steps:
There are numerous no or low cost steps you can take to combat rising gas prices. The most important place to start is at the gas pump; buy only the octane level gas you need. All gas pumps must post the octane rating of the gas under the FTC's Fuel Rating Rule. Remember, the higher the octane, the higher the price. Check your owner's manual to determine the right octane level for your car.
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