How Accurate Are Distance-to-Empty Calculators in Modern Cars?

Most of us have pushed our luck when it comes to stretching out a tank of gas to the point where the dreaded low-fuel light pops on, calculating in our heads how many miles to the next gas station vs. how many miles left on the car’s fuel range. But just how accurate are those distance-to-empty calculators in your vehicle? 

“In-vehicle computers are generally very accurate,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports tire-program leader. “The computers are calculating different variables in real time and can detect fuel mixture errors, whether you’re driving aggressively, and how many miles until your tank is empty.” Pszczolkowski adds, “I’ll often calculate mpg and the distance-to-empty, and it’s usually very close to the car’s reading.”

In most cars, the low-fuel light generally comes on when you have less than 50 miles of fuel range left. 

What you need to remember is that even though technology keeps improving, it’s still always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to how much fuel you keep in your tank. You never know when you have to run an unexpected errand or, when traveling, whether a gas station will be available right when you need one.

Your best bet is to always keep your gas tank no less than ¼ full. During storm season in your area, it would be wise to keep it closer to a half a tank, especially if traveling in a remote location. 

And occasionally calculate your miles per gallon to cross-reference against your car’s reading. 

To calculate your miles per gallon fill up the car, drive a number of miles, refill the car, and divide the number of miles you drove on your trip computer by the number of gallons of fuel it took to fill the tank. This basic math will give your miles per gallon.

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