The Cost of Running On An Empty Gas Tank

The Cost of Running On An Empty Gas Tank

Driving around with the low fuel light on is one of those things that happens from time to time. We all know we shouldn’t do it and rightfully so— running on an empty gas tank could cost you more than you think.  Running on empty increases your likelihood of breaking down— and stranded in a less than ideal situation. This usually means one of two things- a long walk or a tow truck. And, in many cars, the airbags don’t deploy if the car is turned off, which puts you and your passengers in an even more dangerous position.

1) The gauge isn’t always accurate.

The accuracy of your car’s gauge depends on a variety of factors such as your driving style and your vehicle’s fuel economy. Experts say you should consider it more as an estimate — rather than an exact measurement — of how far you’ll make it before running out of gas. While most cars have a reserve, tapping into it could leave you stranded.

2) Most drivers don’t actually know how far they’ll make it after the warning light turns on.

Do you know how many miles you can drive after the warning flicks on? How many miles you can drive on a full tank? A 2015 survey by an insurance firm found that 25% of drivers believe they can make it another 40 miles once the light turns on. If you don’t know how many miles you can drive on a full tank, simply set the trip odometer the next time you fill up and monitor the mileage as your gas gauge drops. Don’t rely on your car to tell you how many miles are left, as those range numbers can be deceiving and run down quickly, depending on how you drive.  

3) You can damage expensive parts.

Getting stranded is inconvenient and dangerous. But there’s even more at stake when you let your gas tank run on low. According to, ‘if you do run out of gas, you can do damage to your catalytic converter, which may then need to be repaired or replaced. In addition, gasoline acts as a coolant for the electric fuel-pump motor. When gasoline is low the pump can pull in air, creating heat, causing premature wear, and, potentially, leading to part failure. That repair alone could cost several hundred dollars- a hefty sum compared to the tens of dollars it costs to fill up your tank.

At V&F

At V&F, our number one priority is keeping you safe on the road. Since 1988, our family-owned and operated service center has been providing top-quality auto repair services to Agawam, Feeding Hills, Southwick, West Springfield, and the surrounding Massachusetts communities. If your car needs maintenance or repair, call us at (413)314-2280 or schedule an appointment online. Schedule Service
Read More: This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

Written by Nicole Palange