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Sammy Hagar couldn’t drive 55, but he would’ve saved a few bucks if he did.
The slogan for the national speed limit may have been “55 save lives,” but it was originally enacted in 1974 to save fuel during the oil embargo.
Tickets given out in Montana, which had unrestricted roads at the time and opposed the law, cost just $5 and were technically for an “unnecessary waste of a natural resource,” rather than considered a safety violation.
Widespread resistance to the limit saw it modified to 65 mph in the late 1980s and repealed altogether in 1995. Today, posted limits of 70-80 mph are common and you can even drive between San Antonio and Austin on SH 130 at 85 mph without having to worry about getting pulled over.
The laws of physics haven’t changed, however, and cars still use more gas the faster they go. No one knows this better than NASCAR drivers, whose Cup Series cars get about 4 mpg as they circle oval tracks at 200 mph.
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As for how speed affects your car, the EPA says that drivers, on average, spend equivalent of 30 cents more per gallon for every 5 mph they go over 50 mph. It also provides a calculator where you can check specific vehicles by make, model and year, for the estimated cost of saving time on the road.
Here’s what it says about three of the most popular vehicles on sale today:
The F-150 may be going electric, but it’s still available with several gasoline engine options. The most popular is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 that has a highway fuel economy rating 24 mpg highway in two-wheel-drive trucks. According to the calculator, drivers will spend $16.80 per 100 miles driven at 70 mph, $15.63 at 65 mph and $14.61 at 60 mph. That means that over the 6,750 miles of highway driving the agency uses to calculate annual fuel costs, the average driver would spend $1,055 at 70 mph for the year and save $78.98 by sticking to 65 mph and $147.83 at 60 mph. Opt for the high performance F-150 Raptor and its 16 mpg rating, however, and slowing from 70 to 60 will save $195.
The Toyota Rav4 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. that’s not a pickup and gets up to 35 mpg in non-hybrid models. Its cost to drive 100 miles at 70 mph is $11.30 or $762.75 for the year. Slowing down to 65 mph saves $60 annually, while driving at 60 mph saves $111.38.
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Toyota also makes the best-selling car, and the sleeker Camry’s 39 mpg highway fuel economy is even better than the Rav4’s, which means the potential savings are slimmer. At a rate of $9.96 per 100 miles at 70 mph, drivers will spend $672.30 annually and save just $55.35 and $102.60 at 65 mph and 60 mph.
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