Gas Mileage

Don't be fuelish: Here's how to boost your fuel economy and save money at the pump

There are some easy ways to get more miles per gallon.

Photo by Getty Images/boonchai wedmakawand

If you own a car and are among the 99 percent of Americans not driving an electric vehicle, you likely spend a considerable amount of time and money at the fuel pump. And, unless you plan to purchase an electric car, this continued fuel consumption is not going to stop — even Toyota Prius owners need to fill up occasionally.

However, there are some easy things to do, as well as habits to change, that will at least make your trips to the gas station less frequent. So not only will you be using less of the planet's finite gas reserves, you'll be spending less cash, too.

Proper inflation

Midsection Of Woman Inflating Tire

Photo by Getty Images/Siam Pukkato/EyeEm

Make sure your car's tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Don't use the maximum-pressure number on the tire sidewall, look for the sticker or plaque on the driver's side door jamb – these will show you the correct inflation numbers for your vehicle.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI that a tire is below its optimal pressure. In addition to the fuel savings, properly inflated tires are safer and will increase tread life.

Junk in the trunk

Dog by car full of luggage

Photo by Getty Images

If you're hiking with a heavy backpack, you're going to run out of energy a lot sooner than if you're carrying a light daypack. The same reasoning applies to your car. If you're carrying around a 50-pound bag of dog food, the pile of books you keep forgetting to return to the library or your pristine collection of every print edition of the Weekly World News (BatBoy Lives!), your car has to work a lot harder, and therefore uses fuel more rapidly.

According to the DOE, every 100 pounds can drop fuel economy by one percent. So clean out the trunk, removing anything you don't need in there (best to keep the spare tire and jack, though), and you may find that your car actually has better performance as well as improved fuel economy.

​Lead foot or light foot?

Low Section Of Man Wearing Shoes On Pedals In Car

Photo by Getty Images/José Luis Salinas/EyeEm

Are you one of those people who sees every red light as a signal that a race is about to begin? The light turns green and you put your foot to the floor to beat the car next to you off the line. Although pretending you're a racecar driver can be fun, as those revs ramp up your gas gauge is quickly going the other way. Instead, be light and smooth on the accelerator and you will quickly see positive results in fuel mileage. There's also a lot less wear and tear on your car and tires when you take it easy on the throttle.

No speeding

Roadside sign in desert landscape

Photo by Getty Images/Gary Yeowell

A typical speedometer will indicate that the vehicle can go 120 mph —or more — and most modern cars are fully capable of going well beyond most posted speed limits. Not only will that practice get you an expensive speeding ticket or worse (a big repair bill, an extensive hospital stay, or a lavish lawsuit), it will also make your car guzzle gas like it's going out of style.

As your speed increases over 50 mph, your fuel economy rapidly decreases. This is especially true with many of today's smaller, fuel-efficient engines — with less power they have to work much harder as speed increases. Stick to the posted speed and you'll make it a lot farther before you need to stop for a fill-up.

Check your rack

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

Most modern cars go through considerable wind-tunnel testing to make them as aerodynamic as possible, which improves efficiency and performance. When you put a large rack or cargo box on the roof, all of that wind-tunnel work gets blown away. The DOE estimates that a roof-mounted cargo box can decrease fuel economy as much as 25 percent at highway speeds. Skis, boats, bikes or other equipment carried topside have similar results. Granted, there are times when you legitimately need to carry these items, but remove them when they're not needed. Whenever possible use a rear-mounted carrier, or pack your gear inside.

Windows down or air conditioning?

Happy boy look out from auto window

Photo by Getty Images/Solovyova

Everyone wants to be comfortable in their car, and when it gets too hot, the answer is to either roll down the windows (in most cars, of course, "roll down" means push the button) or turn on the air-conditioning. At slower speed when driving around town, lowering the windows makes the most sense.

Air-conditioning puts a load on the engine and will definitely reduce fuel economy. However, at highway speeds lowered windows add considerable drag on your car, which in turn reduces fuel economy. So if you're going to be on the freeway, raise the windows and turn on the AC — there will still be a drop in fuel economy, but this is the lesser of the two options.

Or, you can go with option three (AC off, windows up), but we really don't recommend that during the dog days of summer.

Plan your itinerary

2016 Audi A7

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

If you have a number of places to go, make a plan to cover them all in one outing. Shorter trips with a number of cold starts will use much more fuel than if the engine only has one cold start and stays warm for the rest of your drive. It's also beneficial to plan your route to reach all your destinations with the shortest driving time. Be sure you choose the right time to go, if you can — avoiding rush hour will reduce your stop-and-go driving, improving both your fuel economy and your mood.

Avoid idling for a long while

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sitting in your car with the engine running is quite inefficient — that's obvious. When you're not moving, you're getting zero miles per gallon. According to the DOE, you can use a quarter to a half gallon of gasoline per hour while idling — possibly more depending on engine size and if your air-conditioner is running. This is why many newer cars shut themselves off automatically when you brake to a stop, restarting automatically when you release the brake. If you're going to be waiting in your car for a while, shut it off. It doesn't take much fuel to restart it, and you'll be saving gas and money, as well as being good to the environment.

Cruise control

2022 Chevrolet Traverse High Country Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Keeping a steady speed on the highway can go a long way to improving fuel economy, and using cruise control is the easiest way to do that. However, this method only works when the road is relatively flat —cruise control will try to keep a vehicle's speed constant even when climbing hills or mountain roads, which makes the engine work harder, thus burning more fuel.

Proper motor oil

motor oil

Photo by Getty Images

Most people don't specify a type of oil when getting their oil changed, but this too can affect your fuel mileage. Look in the owner's manual to see what grade of motor oil your vehicle's manufacturer recommends for your car — using the correct oil can improve fuel economy up to two percent.

Buy a new, more fuel-efficient car

The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid gets 100 MPGe and 37 miles of all-electric range for under $35,000 Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Compay

Clearly this isn't an option for everyone, but cars today are among the most fuel-efficient ever produced, so if you are in the market for something new this is your chance to make a difference. If you can increase your fuel economy from 15 mpg to 30 mpg, based on $3 per gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year, that's a $1,500 savings each year — enough coin for quite a few lattes. Added bonus: odds are the new car will be running much cleaner than your current ride.

Be hybrid and electric vehicle savvy

Rivian R1S

Even if you have already made the jump into a very efficient vehicle, there are still ways to improve your mileage. Avoiding hard braking will make better use of the regenerative braking system, putting more energy back into the batteries — for free. Any vehicle that you can plug in should be plugged in whenever you have the chance — especially true for plug-in hybrids, since the more charge you have, the less often the internal combustion engine will need to run. Most of these vehicles have indicators to tell drivers how to drive more efficiently. Listen to your car — it knows what it's doing.

Public transportation

Young mother father and infant riding city bus

Photo by Getty Images/Tony Anderson

Okay, okay, so we're being Captain Obvious. And Americans love their cars, so this may be the most difficult fuel-saving tip to follow: Leave your car at home. Take a bus, ride your bike, carpool to work (with this option you still get to drive, sometimes) or if the distance is short enough (or you're in really good shape) you can simply walk. It may be a no-brainer, but the less you use your car, the less fuel it will use.

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Vehicle sales numbers

Toyota has sold over 50 million Corollas

Toyota has sold tens of millions of Corollas over the last 55 years.

Toyota

The Toyota Corolla entered its 12th generation in 2019, after more than 50 years on sale. Now, in 2021, the automaker says the car has reached another benchmark, this time with an almost unbelievable number attached to it. In Today, Toyota says that in July 2021, it sold the 50-millionth Corolla. That's almost one Corolla sold for every six Americans alive today, though the sales total includes international vehicles as well.


1969 Toyota Corolla The Corolla's frugal powertrain helped it grow quickly in the United States.Toyota


The Corolla debuted in 1966 but didn't make its way to our shores until spring 1968. Sold as a 1969 model, the car had a starting price of around $1,700 at a time when the median household income was $7,700. The first cars had a short-stroke 1,077-cc four-cylinder engine, 12-inch wheels, and a four-speed manual transmission. That powertrain produced only 60 horsepower, which was good for the car to (eventually) reach 60 mph in about 17 seconds.

Though the car's quality and design helped, it was the oil crisis in the early 1970s that really pushed it to the top of buyers' lists. Big American cars powered by V8 engines fell out of favor as fuel rationing and higher prices took hold. The early Corolla's fuel economy of over 35 mpg helped it earn a place in many Americans' driveways as a result.


2021 Toyota Corolla Cross 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation


Toyota notes that it was building Corollas in the United States by the mid-1980s and says that the current generation car is built at its manufacturing facility in Mississippi. The automaker's new joint plant with Mazda, which is located in Huntsville, Alabama, will start building the new Corolla Cross this summer.

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Electric vehicles

Three new EVs we can't wait to see

The F-150 Lightning is just one of several new EVs we'll see soon.

Ford

With all the crazy news coming out of the auto industry this year, it'd be easy to believe that the rollout of new models is slowing to a snail's pace. The pandemic and ongoing microchip shortage have slowed vehicle production, to be sure, but they haven't put the brakes on automakers' push to roll out exciting new electric vehicles. In the next few months alone, we'll see several new electric trucks, cars, and SUVs hit the market, some of which will break new ground and help define their segments. We're on board with this trend 100 percent, and to help you get excited, we've rounded up a few of our favorites.

Here are the three upcoming electric vehicles we're most excited to see.

Ford F-150 Lightning

One of the world's best-selling and most popular vehicles is going electric. The Ford F-150 Lightning is set to arrive in 2022 with a fully electric powertrain, forward-looking technology, and a familiar style that will make any truck lover feel at home. We don't have full details on the truck, but Ford has shared some awe-inspiring performance numbers. The Lightning will offer around 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque, which should push the truck to 60 mph from a standstill in just four seconds. Payload capacity comes in at up to 2,000 pounds, and towing will reach 10,000 pounds for specific configurations.


Ford F-150 Lightning The Lightning will offer impressive capability in a familiar package.Ford


The Lightning's starting price will come in under $40,000, but don't get your hopes up about actually buying one for that amount. Ford says the entry-level Lightning is a commercial truck that will be a stripped-down work-ready vehicle, which likely means features like vinyl seats and far fewer of the desirable tech goodies that you'll want. To get the truck you and your family will want to drive, you'll need to spring for the XLT model, which starts just shy of $53,000. That's quite a bit more, but it is still a somewhat reasonable price to pay for what will surely be a capable electric pickup.

Mercedes-Benz EQS

The S-Class is a unique model in Mercedes-Benz's lineup. The car typically showcases the automaker's latest technologies and design techniques and offers a glimpse of the features that eventually trickle down to the rest of Mercedes' vehicles. Soon, we'll see the EQS, a fully electric flagship sedan that paves the way for the brand's other electrified offerings. The car will have a range of well over 400 miles on a charge, up to 516 horsepower, rear-axle steering, and breathtaking technology.


Mercedes-Benz EQS The EQS will usher in a new electric era at Mercedes.Mercedes-Benz


The EQS is expected to land sometime late in 2021 and will carry a price tag that matches its premium brand name and top-notch feature set. Pricing for the "entry-level" EQS 450+ will come in at around $100,000, while the top EQS 580 4MATIC will land well north of that number. Remember, though, that Mercedes offers a long list of ultra-desirable options for its cars, so you'll likely shell out more than the base price to get the features you want.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

The Hyundai Ioniq name is nothing new, but the way it will be seen in the automaker's lineup will change significantly going forward. Rather than being a model name within the Hyundai catalog, Ioniq will split off and become its own sub-brand, covering a line of electric vehicles of all types. The Ioniq 5 is the first such vehicle and will be offered in single- or dual-motor configurations that generate 225 or 320 horsepower. The car's futuristic design is attractive and features a pixelated look for the front-end, lighting features, and rear. Inside, the vehicle is clean but comforting and offers the features buyers expect in a family crossover.


Hyundai Ioniq 5 The Ioniq 5 is the first in what will be an entire line of new EVs from Hyundai.Hyundai


The Ioniq 5 should go on sale in late 2021 and is expected to cost between $40,000 and $50,000.

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