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Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Gas Mileage

Everyone wants the best gas mileage. You may have received tips already. Do they work? Let’s look at some ways that you can improve your gas mileage.

Finding What Works

Fuel mileage

Anytime I hit a new miles per gallon record with my car, a question pops up on the front dashboard screen, asking if I want to update it. I eagerly choose ‘Update’ because, let’s face it, breaking your own records is fun, even if it’s just by a little bit and especially if it means gas mileage. Who doesn’t want to save a little money?

You’ve probably heard a lot of tips to improve gas mileage. Everything from rough roads to open windows can reduce your gas mileage, so there’s always someone with a hot take about it. Some of them are reasonable. Others make you question if you’re even living in the same reality.

Almost every tip here, when it comes down to it, is about maintaining consistent speeds, which improves gas mileage. There’s a lot that goes into maintaining a constant speed though.

Some of the tips may not work for you. Some will probably work better in certain climates or specific geographic regions. Take a look though. Then, take what you can to implement into your routine. It’s hard to say how much you’ll save, but whether you’re driving a Hyundai Kona Electric or first-generation Chevy TrailBlazer you will get better gas mileage if you’re able to follow any of these guidelines.

Slow Down

Speedometer at 50mph
Speedometer at 50mph

The first step in getting better gas mileage is to reduce your speed. If you’re able to go between 45 and 55 mph on a highway, you’ll be saving gas and money. That’s the fuel economy peak for most vehicles. Going over that will hurt your fuel efficiency.

Of course, you don’t want to be the one holding up traffic by driving 10 miles under the speed limit. Realistically, you’re going to have to speed up in a hurry if you’re in areas of fast-paced traffic.

Still, if there’s enough space and enough time when merging onto the interstate, try to accelerate gently. Rapid acceleration after a decrease in speed can increase fuel use by up to 30% on the highway.

If you’re not in a hurry and your situation allows for it, drive slow like it’s a Sunday morning. Take that opportunity to save on some gas.

Avoid Hard Braking

Driver pushing the brake pedal
Driver pushing the brake pedal

Just as you don’t want to put your pedal to the metal, you also don’t want to slam on the brakes. That can also destroy good gas mileage. It can lower fuel economy by 15-30% at highway speeds and 10-40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Preventing hard braking means paying attention to the road ahead of you and anticipating traffic jams, red lights, and pedestrian crossings.

Look at the countdown timer if the stoplight has one so that you can let your foot off the gas and reduce speed naturally.

If you’re going down a hill, let the momentum pull you forward. If you’re coming up on a hill, speed up before you get to the hill so that you don’t use extra gas on the hill.

Similarly, let your momentum take you around some curves instead of riding the brakes all the way through them.

Use That Cruise Control

Cruise control button
Cruise control button

Slowing down and maintaining a constant speed ties right into this bit of advice: use your cruise control. Highway driving always gets the better mileage rating when you look at city vs. highway MPG. The reason is that it’s usually more consistent.

The best way to ensure consistency on an interstate drive is to use cruise control. Interstate driving through a major metropolitan area won’t give you any opportunity to use that cruise control, but if you get further out into the suburbs, you may have that chance. Sometimes city driving is so hectic that you forget all about cruise control by the time you get out of the city.

On the highway, cruise control is a fuel-efficient tool if you’re going on a road trip or have a long commute.

It saves fuel and helps keep your car in working order. Just be careful to follow official road signs and turn off cruise control when there are hazardous driving conditions.

Plan Your Outings

Mapped out route
Mapped out route

Less time spent in your car, of course, equals less gas used. So, when possible, do some planning before you go shopping. Combine your errands and figure out a route that doesn’t involve a lot of backtracking.

Maybe you can get multiple things at one store instead of going to three or four of them. If your schedule is flexible and you’re able to run those errands while avoiding rush hour traffic, even better.

Avoiding rougher roads and lots of stop lights will help you as well.

Use Your Overdrive Gears

Gear shifter
Gear shifter

This is a feature that is often overlooked and underutilized. With overdrive, engine revolutions per minute are reduced, thereby reducing your vehicle’s fuel consumption. It makes your vehicle more efficient at higher speeds. Using overdrive gearing can save money on fuel as well as reducing engine wear.

Avoid Excessive Idling

Idle traffic
Idle traffic

Some cars automatically turn off if you’re stopped at a light or if you’re in standstill traffic. People have mixed opinions on that idea. I’m not talking about turning your car off in traffic here though.

Excessive idling can also include waiting for your significant other to do a return in the store, waiting in the school pick up line or leaving your car running while going into the gas station.

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It may cause some inconvenience, depending on the situation, but turn the car off if you can.

Just like with the air conditioning, if it’s nice enough weather, turn off your vehicle and roll the windows down instead or try to park in the shade if you have to wait for someone.

Avoid A/C When Possible

Driving with the window down
Driving with the window down

Try telling this to someone in a humid climate in the summer months of the year! When possible, however, roll the window down. Even if it seems like you only get a cool breeze about three times a year, there’s always a chance to give the A/C a rest.

Let mother nature cool you down instead of your air conditioning, especially if you’re in a slow-moving traffic environment. Try to save the A/C for the interstate.

You’ll want to keep your windows closed at high speeds though. An open window at high speeds can reduce your mileage because it makes your vehicle less aerodynamic. Your wind flow ends up getting interrupted at greater speeds with an open window. The same goes for a sunroof.

Using air conditioning (or heating or entertainment systems) can lower your fuel economy more in electric vehicles and hybrids than for conventional vehicles.

Even if you use your A/C, let the environment help you out when it can by parking in the shade instead of in direct sunlight. That way, your car won’t have to work as hard to cool you off when you do turn your air conditioning on. Using sun shades can do the trick, too.

Get Rid of Extra Weight

Cargo rack
Cargo rack

Don’t kick your passenger out of the car to save some money, but if you can reduce the weight in your car, you can improve your MPG. Getting rid of an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle can improve your MPG by about 2%.

The cargo weight you’re taking with you affects the fuel mileage of smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

Nobody is recommending getting rid of that spare tire in the back, but take out the suitcase, toolbox, bag of fertilizer or whatever it is that you’ve been meaning to get to that has, instead, been sitting in your car for the last week. Every little bit helps.

Another option to consider is getting rid of your cargo rack and carrier. That can help your aerodynamics as well. That Chevrolet Tahoe or Subaru Outback may be great for hauling things on a road trip without taking away from the cabin space, but it’ll also make your vehicle less aerodynamic.

Buy Quality Fuel

Fueling up a car
Fueling up a car

There are mixed opinions on this, but government agencies say that higher octane fuel can improve fuel economy by a small percentage during situations that involve towing a trailer or carrying heavy loads, especially if you are driving in hot weather. Under normal conditions, you probably won’t see much of a benefit though. Premium costs more, so you’ll have to do a little cost analysis and weigh the savings-spending that comes with purchasing premium. Regardless of your preference, you should purchase the octane level that is recommended so that your engine runs as well as possible.

Take Care of Your Car

Check engine light
Check engine light

When it comes to maintenance, you don’t want to be a Penny. Anyone who watched more than a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory will remember Sheldon consistently giving Penny the advice to take her car into the shop. Her check engine light was usually lit up on her dashboard, but she rarely took that advice and ended up having to pay more money in the end or rely on other people for rides. It makes sense to want to save a few pennies, but you don’t want to be a Penny in this instance.

Fuel efficiency can be increased by a lot of preventative and regular car maintenance, like replacing spark plugs, replacing the oxygen sensor, or keeping your tires at the right pressure (even more important in colder weather). Many people drive around in underinflated tires, reducing their gas mileage with every rotation of the wheel.

When it comes to older vehicles with carbureted engines, replacing a clogged air filter can improve your gas mileage, too.

Don’t forget the oil changes. When it’s time to change your oil, use the recommended type. Don’t be fueled by advertising techniques. Take a look at your owner’s manual to find out what type of oil is needed for your particular vehicle.

It Comes Down to You

Woman driving her car
Woman driving her car

There isn’t an exact science to saving money and getting better gas mileage but a lot of it boils down to habits. It really depends on your own situation. Are you in position to make some changes? If so, then you’ll be better situated for better gas mileage. Achieving a better MPG number doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing a new vehicle. You just have to remember what the best practices are and to use them when you can.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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