When it comes to the price at the pump, we universally agree that cheaper prices are better than higher prices, but at some point, that cheaper price actually costs you more in the long run.

First and foremost, ethanol has been debated for two decades and that's not what this is about. If your vehicle runs fine on it, great. If you don't like it, more power to you. If you refuse to use it unless it's your only option in a time of petrol need, welcome to the club. Beyond the general arguments over the merits and limitations of ethanol, let's just stick to the basic, proven, peer-reviewed science.

Ethanol isn't as energy-dense as gasoline. You can read any scientific paper or journal on the web, and regardless of any left or right political bias, they all agree on this fact. Ethanol only produces about 70% as much energy as an identical amount of gasoline. This is why gas at the pump containing ethanol is cheaper than 100% gasoline.

"What are you saying?"

Since ethanol-mixed fuel contains less energy, most vehicles on the road today experience lower fuel economy because it makes less power. This is especially true in vehicles ten years or older. So while buying the cheaper ethanol fuel to fill up saves at the pump, you'll be filling up sooner than if you just purchased 100% gas in the first place.

This is not true for every vehicle nor is it true for every older vehicle on the road. As I said, it's a case-by-case curiosity that you have to science yourself.

Example: I drive a pickup that is more than ten years old. It's in great condition, has been very well maintained, and there's no reason for me to buy something new just yet. If I fill up my tank with E-10 - AKA - the average ethanol-gasoline blend, my fuel economy roughly lowers by about 16%.

It was an eye-opening experience tracking the data on my last road trip. When I looked at the cost-vs-use, the math doesn't lie. I spent more per gallon on ethanol than I would have on regular 100% gasoline even though it's more expensive.

"That doesn't make sense!"

Think about it. Ethanol is usually about 10% cheaper than 100% gas. Oddly enough, the higher the prices go up, the smaller than differential percentage is. The last time I filled up E-10 was $3.79 and 100% gas was $4.11 per gallon... I get 16% more miles per gallon by spending only 8-ish% more per gallon... ei - paying more for 100% gas, in my specific vehicle is cheaper per gallon than buying the cheaper ethanol blend fuel.

Since inflation is still going crazy and everyone is keeping a sharp eye on their finances, you might do the simple math to see if you're losing money at the pump buying the cheaper fuel.

"Does this mean I should stop buying ethanol fuel?"

I can't answer that for you, you have to science it for yourself. It's easy enough to do... Fill up with one fuel and keep track of your mileage. Most cars these days keep track of that in the dash menu. Then you do the same thing after filling up with the other fuel. Compare the mileage vs the price difference and you'll know which fuel gives you the best bang for the buck.

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