Real world MPG's

-- Last Updated: Oct-05-05 12:44 PM EST --

Mike McCrea suggested in another thread that it would be interesting to compile a list of MPG's with/without boats.

I have recent history available for a 2005 Suby outback, 2.5 liter SportShift automatic, so here goes.

May: WV to Janes Island SP MD, one adult, too much camping gear, one (edit: Oops - Two kayaks!) touring kayak & a cargo box on roof. Overall 23.8 MPG.

June: 1400 mile round trip from WV to CT, with CT traffic during the week. Two adults, two children, one touring kayak and one cargo box. Hot weather, much A/C usage. Interstate 2/3, roaming CT 1/3. Overall, 23.1 MPG.

August: 450 mile roundtrip from WV to Pittsburgh PA. Clean roof, minimal luggage, 90% interstate driving. Hot weather, much A/C usage. Overall, 26.9 MPG.

October: 375 mile roundtrip from home to eastern WV mountains, one adult, two bikes, too much camping gear. 24.1 MPG.

All MPG's are via the trip computer, not in "real world" gallons / mile, so accuracy may be off.

reasonably happy.

play a big role and the effects are compounded by speed. My '04 Nissan Frontier has gotten as low as 19 mpg loaded with 3 yaks (My Millenium and Calabria plus a borrowed Seda Tango) cruising at 70-75 or as high as 23 mpg. with the same boats with the cruise speed dropped about 10 mph. Empty I get 21-22 if I flog it or 29 if I cruise 60-65. These are all actual mileages (I set my trip meter at every fill-up and jot the mileage on my gas receipts at each fill-up)

I Loose About 2mpg
with my racks installed. I have been watching my milage for the past several months as the price of fuel has gone up so much. I have averaged between 46.2 and 48.5 with the racks installed. I have not removed the racks for about six months ao I dont have any recent comparisons without the racks installed. However, I used to get between 48 and 50, once as high as 53 without the racks.

I have a 04 VW TDI Wagon.

BTW, Im reading about a $650 dollar modification which is claimed to increase performance and milage at the same time. The changes involve a reprogrammed computer chip which plays games with several things but primarily changes the exhaust gas pressure. A new waste gate is installed. And a new fifth gear is installed. This is touted as cabable of raising the 46-50 mpg standard to 65 mpg. The hp goes from 100 to 148 and the torque goes from 178 to 250 pound feet. The rpm at 60 are reduced to 1400 from 2000.

happy paddling,


On a long trip without boats or rackes on the car, and the criuse control set at 65 mph, my '04 TDI wagon will do about 52 mpg.

Because I do most of my driving off the highway and with the racks on (And boats on them 2X/week), that’s not sustainable. However, I am still vey happy with the overall mileage I get, which is 43 mpg.

On a trip from CT to Delaware last fall with 2 kayaks on the roof and a tankful of B20 (20% biodiesel/ 80% petrodiesel), I averaged 48 mpg.

For the most part, the EPA estimate that VW gave me was right on the money for combined city/highway mileage, and a little conservative for straight highway.


We carry kayaks on a snowmobile trailer. There has been no discernable mpg difference with or without it. That’s from real-world mileage calculations for 4 different vehicles (Chevy Tahoe V8, Jeep Wrangler I-6, Toyota truck V6, and Nissan Frontier V6).

I do believe that smaller engines will see a larger percentage drop in mpg compared with bigger engines.

If you want the same mpg with or without kayaks, a trailer is your best bet. But it has its own disadvantages, which have been discussed here before.

a few data points
95 Escort wagon

33 mpg bare

29 mpg with rack

21-23 mpg loaded

98 4 cyl Outback (RIP)

27 mpg bare

25 mpg with rack

20 mpg loaded

03 CRV 4cyl, stick

27 mpg bare

25 mpg rack

21 mpg loaded

04 Grand Caravan

25 mpg bare

23 mpg with 58" bar rack

20 mpg with 70" bars

18 mpg loaded

04 F-150 5.4 L

16.5 mpg bare

16 mpg with rack

15 mpg loaded

Lots of TDI’s!

– Last Updated: Oct-05-05 5:33 PM EST –

2003 VW Jetta TDI (Diesel) sedan. I think a lot of us TDI owners like bragging about mileage! How about 700 miles on a full tank of fuel?

Without rack: About 43 in town; close to 50 on the road at Interstate speeds. 53 or so if I keep it closer to 60mph.

With rack, two 17' kayaks, two guys and a week's worth of stuff (and then some!) closer to 40. That was with windows down or a/c on, most of it without cruise control - IOW not driving as efficiently as possible.

Check your tires, a couple pounds low can cost you a couple mpg - and more wear. I overinflate a little (34psi), but that's not always recommended.

A couple more

– Last Updated: Oct-05-05 8:16 PM EST –

My girlfriend's Passat Wagon gets 27 @65 mph with two boats on the roof.

My Elantra GT Hatchback gets over 37 mpg @65 with nothing on the roof. It gets ~32 with racks and a boat and ~30 with two boats. I have Saris racks, so I never have to drive it with just the racks installed. That's calculated mileage, not trip computer mileage. I've seen it get as much as 38.8 on one-way trips.

Pontiac Montana
On a summer paddling trip, my Montana, loaded with 4 occupants and gear for 2 weeks, 4 kayaks on top, averaged 22 mpg (according to the onboard data center). Highway speeds of 65-75. We were all duly impressed.

I want in on this modification - so post more info - i’ll do almost anything to increase milage at this point. (VW golf TDI with boats longer than car)

is that a number on a screen
or a number derived from X gallons filled over Y miles?

Small engine = big effects
05 Ranger 4 cylinder, 5 speed manual trans

Missouri to South Mississippi, loaded with generator, gas and tools, mostly interstate driving, I averaged 29.5 mpg. Got 31.5 on lightly loaded return trip.

Ozark Rendevous, Mid Mo to South Mo. Camping gear in truck, 4x8 utility trailer loaded with firewood and a canoe and kayak on a rack, up in the airstream. 20.5 mpg.

I had the pedal to the metal on most of those Ozark hills.

2000 Accord 4 cyl occasionally gets
30+ mpg with Mad River Synergy canoe on the racks, but 27 is commoner. We got the 30+ reading on a drive from Atlanta to Balsom NC, which involves a mixture of interstate, highway, and mountain up-and-downs.

Our 97 Subaru Outback (stick) got about 27 mpg on a trip from Atlanta to the Michigan UP, one kayak on the roof. Mileage was closer to 24 with the Synergy on the racks from Atlanta to Bluff, Utah. The Suby gets about 26 in weekday perimeter commuting in Atlanta.

It’s hard to beat the Accord for gas mileage, purchase cost, room for people and gear, and reliability. The regular gas Accord gets almost as good highway mileage as the new Civic, with a lot more room and power in headwinds.

2005 Outback—28 mpg

– Last Updated: Oct-06-05 12:24 AM EST –

I've had my Suby with the 4-cyl engine since mid Auguust and have gone to the Apostle Islands (600mi round trip) and Isle Royale (700mi RT). Both trips with the kayak on J-cradles on the factory rack I have gotten 27-28 mpg. I was also rarely above 62-63 mph on those trips so that is a factor and used no A/C.

Pretty excited about that cuz those trips would have been expensive with the 2002 Yukon (now gone).


Chevy Aveo & Oldsmoldybile StationWagon
The 2004 Aveo gets 28 MPG at the worst with boats and gear and driving 70 + on highways or in the city. At the best with no roof stuff it gets 35 MPG. It has a 1.8 L with a manual 5 speed.

I usually run the AC

The 1988 MOldsmolbile Custom Cruiser with its carborated 307 V8 engine originally had only 140 horse power. Now I’m certain it has less. It is slow but has plenty of low end torque. With boats on top and towing a 24 foot sailboat it gets 9 mpg with a top speed of 65 MPH. Best mileage with only 4 pasengers and gear is 14 MPG with top speeds from 65 to 75. Mostly It tows a utility trailer with two to four boats and the same number of people and gets 10 to 12 mpg.

1997 Chevrolet 4x4. 16mpg regardless; roofracks, kayaks, dogs(!) or none.

1998 F150 - 15 mpg load or no load.
2004 6cyl Toyota Tacoma D-cab; 15-16 mpg load or no load. In both cases , exactly what the window sticker said. A disappointment in the Tacoma.

Both trucks get a little better mileage on the interstate - loaded or not.


– Last Updated: Oct-06-05 11:00 AM EST –

2003 Chevrolet SUB 5.3L 4x4 around 20 Highway.. around 18 with boats. around 15 towing camper.

2002 Chevrolet S-10 Zr2.. 18 highway, about the same with boats.

2003 DL1000 45-47 MPG... can’t haul boats but CAN haul butt!! 0-60 in 3.7!!
94 XR 650 about 40 MPG. Indestructible! Can’t haul boats

2002 Grand Prix..3.1L? 30 highways, Don’t haul boats on it, but I suppose it could if I had too…

2002 Jeep Liberty, V6 18 MPG, with or with out boats.

I don’t do much CITY driving so I couldn’t tell what the CITY mileage is…

Gas milage?Whats that?!
2004 Toyota fourrunner.

Unloaded 22-23 highway

Loaded 22-23 highway!

And still 245 horsepower to boot and no breakdowns to worry about.Has 52,000 miles on it.

1999 Toyota 4x4 extcab truck.

Don’t know?Only has 2186 actual miles on it!!!

Stays in the garage!Never even rained on!!!

Ken - stick or auto?
I had a 2001 SOB with a 5-speed. I was able to get over 27 MPG with a kayak on the roof. My 2003 SOB had the “old” auto, and mileage dropped to 22-23 in the WV mountains. I like the new Sport Shift, and I believe it contributes to my improved numbers.