The Half-Tank Rule Explained

Most people know that fuel is a key limiting factor during disasters or emergencies. Gas crises alone can cause cars to line up around the block. Add other disaster situations into the mix and you have a mess. This is exactly why the half-tank rule is important.

Keeping your car or truck above the halfway point is one of the easiest ways to stay prepared. Oddly enough, many people choose to risk running out of fuel by driving all the way until the light comes on before looking to refuel. This reactionary refilling can cause big problems if there is any sudden delay or shortage of fuel.

What is the Half Tank Rule?

Always keep the tank in your vehicle at least half-full.

It is that simple. We will go further into the benefits and the drawbacks below, but this one rule can help you out tremendously in almost any emergency, disaster, or SHTF situation.

The Benefits of Keeping Half a Tank of Gas

Have you ever run out of gas? Most people have at some point. Hopefully, it was an easy remedy: have someone meet you with a jug of gas or hoof it down to the closest gas station. It ended up as an inconvenience that cost you some time.

Realistically, this is the best outcome. Running out of gas during a gas crisis would be worse. Running out of gas during a regional disaster while trying to evacuate can be dangerous. Running out of gas during SHTF can be life-threatening. All of these are risks of varying degrees, and they are all related to your gas tank. Keeping the tank at least half full helps mitigate these risks and can make disasters and emergencies have a lesser impact on you.

Another practical benefit of the half-tank rule is that you will never run out of gas again. Playing the game of chicken with the gas light in your vehicle means that just a few small problems can leave you stranded. With a reserve of half a tank rather than a gallon, you have a lot more cushion to absorb any problems with getting gas in everyday situations- not just emergencies. This can make you more reliable and timely, with fewer road incidents.

The Drawback of the Half Tank Rule

Sure, there are some drawbacks to keeping half a tank of gas in your vehicle. For starters, you need to fill up twice as often. This eats up extra time often and can be inconvenient.

It is best to see this drawback as more of an investment. You are investing extra time now to be perpetually better prepared, and possibly save time in an emergency. In this light, the inconvenience does not seem so steep.

Sticking to the Rule

The half-tank rule is just that- a rule and not a law. Feel free to break the rule if you really must. I would prefer you keep driving rather than stop to top off with half a tank left in the bad part of town at 2 am.

Common sense and situational awareness should always prevail over any arbitrary rule you read about online. The rule is there to help guide your general preparedness and is not a sticking point to follow in every situation.

Bending the Rule

If your gas tank is small or if you are on the road a lot, you may have some issues sticking to the rule regardless of what you do. One of the best ways to improve your gas preparedness on the road is with a simple gas can.

By keeping a filled gas can with you, you can always have gas reserves and expand your resources. You will have to be cognizant of gas degradation, heat, and fumes- so you’ll want a quality gas can and some fuel stabilizer.

We’d recommend a Jerry can- but feel free to check out our entire gas can review roundup.

Wavian USA Jerry Can

The Final Word

Fuel is a resource that will be scarce in almost every scenario we look at in our TrueRisk analysis. If you are properly prepared for emergencies, you know that your vehicle is a huge asset, and keeping it prepared is a priority.

Knowledge and following a few self-imposed rules can be just as important as your emergency car kit. The simple half-tank rule can keep you on the road and ready to tackle the next obstacle.

Here are some more guides our subscribers have found helpful:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

You’ve Been Missing Out

Join the 2+ million preppers that rely on our prepping advice by subscribing to TruePrepper.
  • Practical guides and tips
  • Useful survival giveaways
  • Free, forever
  • < 0.4% of people unsubscribe
Thanks for subscribing, reading, and welcome to the club.


The Half Tank Rule

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *