A fuel calculator is a fairly new concept for me so it was a pleasure to accept an invitation to test one out.
I was recently approached to try out a fuel calculator on the Car Hire Market website. On closer inspection I found that this is an online tool to record distance travelled, an estimate of fuel consumption and the cost for a car journey. With this being a car hire website it seemed like a good idea.
I didn’t immediately have any car hire planned so agreed to try out the fuel calculator for my forthcoming drive from Yorkshire to London. It so happened that I had to drive to York the day before so I had a kind of trial run as well.
How To Use The Fuel Calculator
To use the fuel calculator or fuel planner as it is sometimes called you need to find the page on the website. You enter your “From” and “To” locations for your journey. These can be street names rather than specifically mentioning a house number.
You are then required to enter the country for which you’ll be driving. It then becomes a little bit more interesting. I needed to enter my car type (which was a “Saloon/Estate”), the fuel I was using (Petrol) and my currency which is GBP.
It was at this point that I started to think there was no specific details required of my car such as make and model, engine size and so on. I think this would be highly relevant for the level of fuel consumption. I drive a hybrid car, a Toyota Prius so I expect much better fuel economy compared to driving something like a Porsche or Saab.
There was also no request for the price per litre of fuel. We know that the price of petrol has varied significantly in recent years. I also try to hunt down the best price for petrol which can vary by 6-7p per litre in some areas.
Once you press “Calculate” on the screen the calculator works out an estimate on your mileage, litres of fuel used and cost to the pence. I find this to be quite an interesting concept.
The website also uses Google maps to provide you with a printable map of your route and directions.
I printed this information out and was ready to go!
My journey to York
I reset the odometer on my car to zero for the first journey to York. Also out of interest I switched on my Sat Nav so I could compare the two. Immediately I was intrigued by the results.
On the journey to York the fuel calculator route said it would take 41.1 miles whereas the recommended route on my Sat Nav said it would be 35.2 miles. On closer inspection I could see the route from the Sat Nav is the one I naturally would think of selecting without looking at a map. Whereas the route from the fuel calculator was a route I used to drive to York 12 years ago and I know takes around an hour, which it did (well just over). The Sat Nav estimated its journey would take 58 minutes.
Nonetheless I followed the route from the website fuel planner. With the Sat Nav on it was clear that not only was my preferred route suggested but following the written directions I also missed a second turning which would be a quicker route per the Sat Nav.
Either way I followed the directions from the Car Hire Market website and they were accurate to the point of being exact on the distance covered, 41.1 miles.
I found it interesting that the directions for driving in the UK were quoting distances in kilometres (km) only. We use miles as a measure of driving distance in the UK so km was not useful. I did not notice an easy way to switch between km and miles on the website so this was a shame.
My journey to London
With the drive to York firmly in my mind I then put the website to the test with the long drive, the one to London. This is a drive which took me 4 and ¾ hours, mind you I did hit the outskirts of London at the start of rush hour. I was driving from East Yorkshire to Hampton Wick which is west of London and fairly close to Heathrow and Twickenham.
The fuel calculator came up with an obvious route of taking the M1 South to join the M25. Now I must admit that I’ve driven to this location a few times in the past. I’ve taken the M1 however I much prefer the A1 route. I find it an easier drive. The M1 tends to be more crowded, there are often roadworks and speed restrictions. I also seem to come across more idiots who cut you up and lorries who pull out without indicating.
I would have liked the option to select my route via somewhere. In this case I would have liked to select the route via the A1 instead of the M1. It is true that the A1 route is around 20 miles longer in distance than the M1 route so this time the route planner did come up with the most direct option. Irrespective I carried on and took the M1 route.
For this drive I left the Sat Nav in the glove box and solely followed the written directions. To be honest they were consistent with the route I know.
After much heavy traffic, road works and speed restrictions I got to my destination. The estimate of 224.6 miles was also accurate.
Estimated cost v Actual cost
So now for the moment of truth! How much did my journey really cost? Well I began my journey with a full tank of petrol and headed straight to my destination. I took one toilet stop at the services and that was it. So once I’d arrived at my destination at Hampton Wick I then drove on looking for a petrol station. I drove 1.8 miles to Hampton and found a petrol station there.
I was surprised that for a petrol station on the outskirts of London it was very reasonably priced, it was £1.309 per litre of unleaded petrol. This compared to £1.299 per litre at home when I filled up prior to starting my journey.
So the moment of truth was quite surprising. Car Hire Market estimated my fuel cost to be £42.17. However when I filled up my tank this is what it cost…
Like I suspected the type of car you drive, engine size, fuel economy, the fact I was in a hybrid car are all factors. Even the price of petrol can be a big variable.
My cost of petrol was £27.38 vs an estimate of £42.17. That is quite a big difference. However, I think we need to remember that this website is primarily about car hire. Looking at the site too there are lots of opportunities to get a good deal on car hire from some big name companies. When you factor in the extra costs of car hire such as insurance and all the extras then maybe £42.17 is closer to the truth? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
In a recent survey conducted by Car Hire Market http://www.carhiremarket.com/blog/post/Car-Hire-Consumers-Agree-On-One-Thing-Car-Hire-Market-Survey.aspx the results revealed that over 43% of respondents were unhappy at the “hidden costs” of car hire, this includes insurance and fuel. So maybe the estimate above on the true cost of my journey was correct?
Overall, I like the novel idea of a fuel calculator. This can help assess the cost of journeys if for example you are comparing driving to somewhere or getting the train.
I do think the site could be enhanced with the following:-
- more specification on your type of car, such as make, model, engine size
- price per litre of your type of fuel
- directions to have an option to be reported in miles or kilometres as opposed to only kilometres
- an option to select an alternative route. My drive to London is a prime example since I would prefer the A1 route
- consideration as to whether Google Maps (or whichever route planner used) is the best option. I know for my drive to York there were 2 alternative routes which were a shorter distance than that proposed by the site
In principle I like the idea of this website. I just think a little tweaking could enhance the site more.
Have you ever used a fuel calculator? What results did you find?
I would like to thank Car Hire Market for asking me to review their fuel calculator which can be found at http://www.carhiremarket.com/fuel-calculator.aspx
All opinions expressed in this review are my own.