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Gas-Saving Products for Your Car: Proceed with Caution

by Josh Kirschner on June 01, 2009

Information for this article comes courtesy of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Even if gas prices weren't up, you'd still be looking to improve your gas mileage. With money tight, it's a good place to start saving, and it helps the environment by improving fuel efficiency.

Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, you should proceed with caution when you consider buying automotive devices or oil and gas additives based on gas-saving claims. The products on the market fall into a number of categories: fuel additives; airflow enhancers; even magnets that attach to your fuel line. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that even though a few of the products have been found to work, the savings to consumers have been small.

According to the FTC, you should be skeptical of the following kinds of advertising claims:

"This gas-saving product improves fuel economy by 20 percent."

Sounds good, huh? These claims usually tout savings ranging from 12 to 25 percent. However, the U.S. 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 such products may damage a car's engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions. Ugh.

Although the EPA has clearly not tested or evaluated every product, it has tried to examine at least one product in each category. Check the EPA Fuel Saving Devices Review [PDF] for category descriptions and product names of devices tested by the EPA.

"After installing your product on my car, I got an extra 4 miles [6.4 kilometers] per gallon [3.8 liters]."

We've all been suckered by advertisements with glowing testimonials from satisfied customers. Yet few consumers have the ability or the equipment to test for precise changes in gas mileage after installing a device or using a product that claims to save gas. Among the many variables that affect fuel consumption are traffic, road and weather conditions, and the car's condition.

Take the example of the consumer who sent a letter to a company praising its purported gas-saving product. At the time the product was installed, the consumer had received a complete engine tune-up—a fact not mentioned in the letter. The entire increase in gas mileage attributed to the product may well have been the result of the tune-up alone. But other consumers wouldn't and couldn't have known that from the ad. And this assumes that those testimonials were real in the first place…

"This gas-saving device is approved by the federal government."

Here's something good to know: 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 manufacturer's own test data. If the seller claims that its product has been evaluated by the EPA, ask for a copy of the EPA report, or check for information. In some instances, false claims of EPA testing or approval have been made.

Product Complaints and Refunds

Most importantly, if you're dissatisfied with a gas-saving product, contact the manufacturer and ask for a refund. Most companies offer money-back guarantees and you should contact the company even if the guarantee period has expired. If you're dissatisfied with the company's response, contact your local or state consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau or the FTC.

How to Really Save Money at the Pump

Check out Good, Better, Best: How to Improve Gas Mileage, our article on ways to save money at the pump. And our advice comes at no charge!


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