I bet this is an experience many of us have had while pulling to the gas pump in a rental car, especially when you’re in a rush to fill the damn tank, so you can drop it off at the airport and make that flight on time. Riiiight? ;-)
“One of the most frustrating experiences of driving a rental car is to pull up at a gas pump as you would when driving your own car, only to discover that the gas tank is located on the side of the car away from the pump. Auto manufacturers could eliminate this difficulty simply by putting fuel filler doors always on the same side of the car. Why don’t they?”
Yeah, you’ve been there. You crane your neck to look into the side-view mirror, or out the window to see if the fuel door is on your side. Well, it turns out there is an easier way. Right there, on your dashboard, is the icon for a fuel pump. The little triangle next to it points to the side that the fuel fill door is on. Voila!
That’s good to know (if you didn’t already), and yeah, you probably won’t pull up the wrong way to a gas pump again. This doesn’t explain why all fuel doors aren’t on the same side as a standard, but this elucidation however does:
“In the United States and other countries in which motorists drive on the right side of the road, it is easier to turn right than to turn left across oncoming traffic. A majority of drivers will thus buy gas at stations they can enter by turning right. Suppose gas tanks were always on the driver’s side of the car. Drivers would then have to park on the right side of an open pump in order to fill their tanks. During crowded hours, all spots on the right sides of pumps would be filled even while most spots on the left sides of pumps remained empty.
Putting fuel filler doors on different sides of different cars thus means that some cars can access pumps from the left. And this makes it less likely that drivers will have to wait in line for gas. That benefit greatly outweighs the cost of occasionally pulling up to the wrong side of the pump in a rental car.”
Have you ever been to a discount gas pump like a Costco where you notice that the distribution of cars on the two sides of the pumps isn’t exactly even? And then you have those gas stations where you can only pull up to the pump in one direction. If your fuel door is on the other side of the pump, you’ll need to come around the pump. Ugh, annoying!
As much as having doors on different sides of different cars makes sense and does appear to help a bit, the better question to ask would be:
Why Don’t Cars Have Fuel Doors On BOTH Sides?
This way you pull up to whichever side of the gas pump is free. Traffic flows because it’s evenly distributed, and when you drive that rental car, you won’t have to wonder, or look for the gas pump icon, which tells you which side of the car the fuel door is on.
Unless there is a real scientific reason (Gas tanks aren’t wide enough isn’t a good reason, because they can be made wider) not to do it, this seems to be a much simpler solution. Wouldn’t you agree?