Roof racks costing drivers more on gas - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Roof racks costing drivers more on gas

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)
WESTFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

When it comes to adding up those expenses on your vacation this summer, it's strange to think that your roof rack could make the list.

That rack forces your car work harder and you may not even realize it and it can really cut down on your gas mileage, costing you more in the long run.  

It's that time of the year.  Cars are crowding the highways for vacations, weekend getaways, and day trips.  You may notice plenty of roof racks carrying anything from bikes and kayaks to full on loaders with luggage.

However, believe it or not, that rack - even empty - could be costing your car up to 25 percent more in gas.

"You're breaking up the aerodynamics of the vehicle, so you are creating more drag and that is costing you gas mileage," said Don Podolski of New Horizons Bikes.
 
Podolski has sold and owned roof racks of all types for decades.  He told Western Mass News that anything you add to your roof, even just the rack, is going to create more drag, or pull, on your vehicle, which forces the engine to work harder and your gas tank to empty faster.

"That rack is always a drag on your vehicle," Podolski added.
 
A study by Berkeley Lab in California found that in 2015, roof racks were responsible for about one percent of national fuel consumption.  That's 100 million gallons of gas.

The study, based on nationwide highway video surveys, compared fuel use of cars with or without roof racks and took several factors into account including:

  • Car speed, type, and travel distance
  • Rack amount, type, and usage if the rack was loaded or not. 

They found that fuel consumption increased anywhere from zero to 25 percent on cars with roof racks.  The total miles traveled with empty racks is four to eight times higher than those with loaded ones.

Those hybrid cars were not much better.  Battery powered cars lose 40 percent of their anticipated fuel savings.
 
"That's just mind blowing.  I didn't think such a small thing could make a big difference," said Nathan Zina of Chicopee.
 
The U.S. Energy Administration predicts gas prices to average $2.46 a gallon this summer, up from $2.23 last summer, so there is a lot to consider with that rack sitting on top of your car.

Research scientists at UMass Amherst suggest taking it off after each use if you can.  For others, they may just deal with it.
 
"Every penny counts. If I can save a penny, that would be good," said Evelyn Serrano of Westfield.
 
Serrano told Western Mass News that the rack is coming off after this month's camping trip.
 
"I'm going to see if my nephew can take it off for me," Serrano added.
 
The study also found by 2040, roof rack usage expected to increase by 200 percent in the U.S.

So when it's time to get back on the road post vacation, you may want to take that roof rack off.  It could save you more in the long run then you think.

Podolski suggested an alternate rack for those taking their bikes.  A hitch rack gives you options for all types of bikes, while the popular trunk rack will keep your roof empty and can be stored in your trunk until you need it again. 

You can CLICK HERE to learn more on those different types of racks.

Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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