Boat Towing: Slow Down to Save
Driving 55 will save you fuel, and it will also add valuable reaction time.
Powerboats use a lot of gas, but so do tow vehicles. Travel some distance to the water with your boat on a trailer, and you end up putting more fuel in the truck than you do in the boat. Which hurts, because it’s no fun to drive the truck.
Recently the boat-owner’s organization BoatU.S. whipped out a media release with some tips on saving fuel when towing.
The tips are common sense stuff, but it never hurts to be reminded. Simply slowing down is the one thing anyone can do to save some fuel when towing. I drive a Honda Ridgeline truck that gets 20 to 22 mpg when it’s not towing, cruising at a steady 65 to 70 mph down the highway. I’ve towed boats, an enclosed snowmobile trailer, and a 16-foot camper with this truck, each weighing less than 3,000 pounds, and the reaction to slowing down is the same with each. If I run at 65 mph on the highway to Minnesota, my mileage dips by 50 percent, to 10 mpg, which is really discouraging. But if I’m willing to take my time and run at 55 mph, I can get the mileage back up to about 14 mpg. That’s 40 percent better than 10 mpg. Slowing down this much adds about 30 minutes to the 250-mile drive to my buddy’s place, but I think that’s a fair trade for the gas money saved. Now, I’m not in an urban area, so driving that slow doesn’t make me a traffic hazard. And I stay to the right, in what I call the “submissive lane.”
I also get an extra margin of safety by slowing down, because it compensates for the increase in stopping distance caused by the weight of trailer. I’ll not only stop in less distance, but I’ll have a little more time to react to a traffic situation or a blown trailer tire. So, my advice is to slow down on the road, and save your gas money for the boat.
- Charles Plueddeman is Boats.com's outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.
Tags: Charles Plueddeman, fuel economy, Safety and Seamanship, towing