Regardless of the make, model, and age of the car you drive, it is possible to get better gas mileage than you are presently getting with some reasonable tricks. These tips can work on any automobile and ultimately translate to lower fuel costs for you.
Never rely on the MPG the manufacturer states for your car. Why is this? Their MPG is an estimate and your actual MPG will be based on the manner and conditions in which you drive. To figure out how much money you save with these tips, it is important to get a baseline of your personal, average MPG before implementing them.
To determine your own MPG, fill your tank to the point where the pump cuts off. Do this for each of several fill-ups in a row. Be sure to zero your trip mileage counter when you fill up. On the next fill-up divide miles driven on the trip counter by the number of gallons you put in the gas tank to arrive at your MPG for that tank. After four to six fill-ups, add up your individual fill-ups’ MPGs and divide them by the number of fill-ups. Now you have your average MPG. You can also use websites or apps to track your personal average MPG. Now you’re ready to increase it and start saving money.
14 Tips and Tricks for Getting Better Gas Mileage
- Slow down. Driving the speed limit can actually increase fuel efficiency by up to 14 percent, according to Edmunds. Out on the highway, driving 60 miles per hour (mph) and not 70 mph will save up to two to four MPG over the length of a single trip. That’s because once you get over 65 mph the engine uses more power, and thus more fuel, to overcome drag on the car because of the higher speed. Your mileage will rapidly decrease when your speed is higher than 60 mph, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, eventually costing you as much as 23 percent more in your MPG average. More speed is not worth more fuel costs. Just drive steadily at the posted speed limit and when at all possible, avoid driving above 45 mph.
- Avoid “jack rabbit” starts. Instead of flooring your gas pedal, ease into the appropriate speed. More energy (gas) is required for quicker acceleration. You’ll use much less gas and greatly improve your MPG average gently gaining speed.
- Coast whenever you can. Coast in gear and not in neutral. When you approach a stop, coast up to it instead of riding your brakes. Not only will you save wear and tear on the brakes but will save on gas as well. Let up on the gas pedal when you know a turn, a sharp curve or a stop of some kind is coming up. You won’t have to accelerate as much, thereby saving gas.
- Avoid idling. At the least, reduce the amount of idling you do. When your car is sitting still, you’re getting zero mph. Turn off the engine if you’re going to sit still for 10 seconds or more. According to Edmunds, idling can decrease your overall fuel efficiency by up to 19 percent. Try to avoid traffic jams and turn the car off completely at longer red lights. On average, your car uses less gas to start, then it does to idle more than 10 seconds, according to the California Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center. Of course starting your car more often adds to engine and starter wear which may cost more in the long run.
- Use your cruise control on flat terrain as much as possible. Whether you realize it or not, when you drive you’re probably being just a little inconstant with your throttle position. This means you’re probably using more fuel than necessary. The cruise control on your car is much smoother so it works better for fuel economy, up to 14 percent says Edmunds. Beware, though; cruise control isn’t appropriate for hilly terrain as it uses more gas trying to maintain a set speed on the slopes.
- Maintain proper tire pressure and consider getting low rolling resistance tires. Riding with less effort means less load on your car’s engine, and thus better MPG. Keep your tires correctly inflated. Some experts even recommend keeping them overinflated by as much as ten percent. Avoid driving on bumpy roads when possible. Every missing pound of pressure from your tires costs you rolling resistance, making your tires inefficient, thus hurting your MPG.
- Keep up with engine maintenance. Have your oil changed regularly and have your air filter replaced according to the manufacture’s guidelines. Get new spark plugs when needed and be sure to clean fuel injectors as needed. Use only manufacturer’s specified motor oil to keep the engine running as efficiently as possible. Be sure to have your suspension checked regularly as well, as poor suspension will hurt your fuel efficiency as well.
- Gas choices – Use quality gasoline that has a higher quality mix of added detergents that meet “Top Tier” standards. This keeps engines remarkably cleaner according to AAA and prevents issues with sensors or injectors. Also, a way to increase your MPG is to not completely fill the tank when you are around town. A gallon of gas weighs over six pounds, so less gas weight means more MPG.
- Check your gas cap’s seal. Make sure no oxygen is leaking into the tank. Also check the seal around the cap for any cracks and gaps. Be sure to tighten your gas cap until you hear the second click to be sure it is sealed well. A new seal is relatively inexpensive and will save money in the long run if your current seal is leaking oxygen into the tank.
- Leave off the A/C and/or heat whenever you can. If you can handle going without AC or heat on your commute, then you can reduce the strain on your engine and save fuel, increasing your MPG. However, don’t forget that if you opt for opening the windows on a hot day, you are creating more drag and reducing your MPG. According to SAE International, the A/C uses more fuel then leaving the windows down, so the best way to increase your MPG is to sweat it out and leave the A/C off and the windows up.
- Take off your roof rack or cargo carrier when it is not needed. Anything that adds aerodynamic drag to your automobile will reduce your MPG. If a roof rack cannot be removed, at least be sure not to keep unnecessary items on it during your commute. Another feature that causes unnecessary drag that can be removed are mud flaps.
- Reduce the weight your car carries. Take the junk from your trunk, even your spare tire if you have run-flat tires or a reliable can of tire inflation material. Don’t forget to take your golf clubs and other heavy items when they are not necessary for your commute.
- Monitor your auto’s actual gas consumption. Most recent cars have a display setting in their instrument package that shows your actual fuel efficiency in real time. It will register numbers like 78 when coasting down a hill and 1.2 when waiting at a stop sign, showing what you’re getting at that precise moment. You might be surprised at what a lead foot you truly have. Use other apps and modern technology like Automatic to help. Automatic will beep if you drive too fast, accelerate too quickly, or brake too hard. If it’s silent, you’re doing fine. Using technology to monitor your fuel consumption will help you train yourself to become a more efficient driver.
- Change your driving habits. There is no doubt you will see a 10 to 15 percent improvement in your MPG by doing two things well: changing your style of driving and properly maintaining your car. But you can save the most money of all by changing your driving mentally as well. Become aware of how you’re driving and why you drive that way, then changing the habits that need changing will have a long-term effect on improving your average MPG.
There you have it! These reasonable tips and tricks can be done by anyone driving any vehicle to increase your fuel efficiency, thus saving money on fuel. Happy Driving!
Owner, Hillside Imports
Rene Rodriguez has over 25 years of experience working exclusively on VW and late model Audis. As Hillside Imports owner, and service writer, he’s dedicated the past 20 years to educating consumers about safety, reliability and performance.