Getting Better Gas Mileage Out of Your Car

In today’s economy, saving every dollar you can is critical. Currently, gas prices are through the roof, as we’ve experienced increases that we haven’t seen in a LONG time. 

People everywhere are looking for some kind of relief, especially since gas is an expense most of us have no way of getting around. Fuel prices show no signs of returning to normal any time soon, so don’t expect any relief at the pumps.

However, we can provide you with some tips for getting better gas mileage out of your vehicle. If you’re looking for a way to save a few dollars at the pump, keep reading for the best five gas-saving tips. 

What Does Gas Mileage Mean? 

Your automobile has two types of efficiencies – one pertaining to power output (measured in horsepower) and another regarding fuel consumption (usually measured as miles per gallon). In order to increase either type, you need to change something within or outside the vehicle. 

For example, if you want to use less gas while driving, simply turning down the air conditioning may bring a small amount of relief. But taking turns slower might give you an extra mile per gallon! 

Gas mileage isn’t just limited to how fast you drive, though. Other factors such as weight, tire size, aerodynamics, engine design, etc., all come into play when determining how efficiently your car runs. Each model year gets progressively more efficient since newer models tend to consume less gas than older ones.

For instance, according to Consumer Reports magazine, hybrid vehicles actually got worse gas mileage from 2014-2015 compared to previous years due to changes made to their engines. Another common myth is that lighter means faster, which doesn’t necessarily mean higher MPG. 

It depends entirely on how you balance speed versus energy usage. So, what determines exactly how much gas mileage you get? 

What Determines The Gas Mileage Your Car Gets

There are a significant amount of different factors that influence the gas mileage of your car. We’ve broken them all down in the following section. 

How You Drive

  • Aggressive driving, including speeding, braking, and how fast you accelerate, has a huge impact on your gas mileage. It’s estimated that driving aggressively lowers your gas mileage by up to 30%. 
  • When you idle for prolonged periods, you decrease your fuel efficiency. Remaining parked at lights, especially during rush hour traffic, is one of the biggest killers of your gas mileage. 
  • When you drive at higher speeds than normal, your fuel efficiency drastically decreases. These high speeds increase the wind resistance, producing drag on your car. This drag is like placing extra weight on your vehicle, which makes it work harder. 
  • When you drive in cold weather and make low-mileage trips, you lower your fuel economy. Your engine doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to until it’s warmed up to the proper temperature. Naturally, in colder weather, it takes your vehicle a lot longer to heat up. Additionally, when you make shorter trips, your car likely isn’t operating at an efficient temperature for most of the duration. When you drive during the winter, try and make your trips worthwhile, or allow your car enough time to warm up. 
  • Did you know that having cargo or roof racks on top of your car affects your gas mileage? This also increases the resistance, leading to drag. If you have an easily removable roof rack, you should take it off when you’re not using it. This will save you a significant amount of fuel.
  • Whenever you tow a trailer or any item that has substantial weight, you lower your fuel economy. When your manufacturer rates the vehicle for fuel economy, they only factor in 300 pounds for human passengers or other cargo. Anything beyond 300 pounds begins lowering your gas mileage. 
  • Your air conditioner and other electrical accessories will lower your gas mileage also. Plugging in a cell phone may not affect the vehicle significantly, but your air conditioner combined with several cell phones and items plugged into the power inverter can lower your fuel economy by as much as 25%
  • Driving on steep hills and bump roads will decrease your gas mileage. Unpaved roads are a huge contributor to lost fuel economy. 
  • Whenever your four-wheel drive is engaged on the vehicle, your gas mileage suffers. This makes the engine work much harder and increases the differential losses. 

Your Vehicle Maintenance

The maintenance you perform on your vehicle can also play a role in your fuel economy. 

  • If your engine isn’t tuned properly, this will lead to a higher amount of fuel burn. This decreases your gas mileage. 
  • Rolling resistance will lower your fuel efficiency when your vehicle isn’t aligned properly or if the tires are out of balance and underinflated. 
  • Brake drag on your vehicle will also make the engine work harder and lower your gas mileage. 
  • When your air filter is dirty, your fuel economy will lower significantly. 

Types of Fuel

The types of fuel that you burn in your vehicle play a huge role in your gas mileage. Certain fuels contain lower amounts of energy than others. 

When you use fuels that are oxygenated or reformulated, this can decrease your gas mileage. Currently, most gasoline has ethanol in it. If you can, look for gasoline without ethanol, as this will increase your fuel efficiency by 5%.

Did you know that gasoline companies switch the energy content in fuel based on seasons? Summer gasoline contains more energy than winter gasoline. If it seems like you get better gas mileage in the summer – this is why. 

Engine Break-In

If you have a new vehicle, this can affect your fuel efficiency. It’s estimated that new vehicles don’t experience their optimum fuel efficiency until they surpass 5,000 miles. 

What Types of Vehicles Get the Best Gas Mileage

In general, bigger SUVs and trucks typically get less efficient gas mileage than compact cars. Larger cars usually cost more to insure and seem to have larger carbon footprints. However, newer SUVs and trucks have started to become more fuel-efficient. Why?

Because the bigger the vehicle, the more powerful the engine needs to move lots of mass around. As a result, internal combustion engines become more complex and thus more inefficient. Therefore, manufacturers add more bells and whistles to boost efficiency and cut costs simultaneously.

Let’s examine some of the best SUVs and trucks that get great gas mileage.

  • Toyota 4Runner/Land Cruiser Prado
  • Chevy Avalanche/GMC Sierra 1500 
  • Ford Ranger Pickup
  • Honda Ridgeline/Acura MDX
  • Nissan Titan Truck
  • Hyundai Tucson/Santa Fe Sport Utility Vehicle
  • Lexus RX 400h
  • BMW X6 3rd generation
  • Volkswagen Tiguan SUV
  • Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Edition
  • Mercedes GLE Class 8 Van

Obviously, a smaller class of vehicles is going to give you better gas mileage. Certain manufacturers are also geared towards more fuel-efficient cars because of their parts. Typically, the most fuel-efficient brands are: 

  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Hyundai
  • Honda

Vehicles that take diesel fuel are also more fuel-efficient. Diesel contains more energy than regular gas, which allows diesel owners to get 25 to 35% more distance per gallon of fuel than regular car owners. 

If you want a vehicle that performs the best when it comes to fuel economy, a hybrid is probably your best bet. 

What Is a Hybrid? 

The term hybrid car refers to any vehicle equipped with an electric motor powered by batteries or hydrogen cells. Several variations include parallel hybrids, series hybrids, plug-in hybrids, mild hybrids, full hybrids, and sports hybrids.

Parallel hybrids consist of an electric motor connected to the crankshaft via a belt or chain. These systems operate similarly to conventional manual transmissions. 

Series hybrids are built differently. Their main components are an electrical generator, battery pack, and electric motors located near the front and rear axles. Electric torque generated by the vehicle’s alternator is stored in onboard batteries. An inverter converts DC voltage to 120 VAC required by the electric motor mounted on the axle. 

Full hybrids utilize gas power combined with electric assistance, and mild hybrids combine gas propulsion with electric assistance. Lastly, plug-in hybrids are designed to charge the battery pack overnight while parked.

As previously mentioned, hybrid cars get better gas mileage than non-hybrid alternatives thanks to improved technology. More importantly, their high MPGs translate to reduced emissions and cleaner air quality. 

According to recent stats, hybrid cars produce 75% fewer greenhouse gases than traditional gas guzzlers. These vehicles release a much lower number of harmful emissions while stuck in traffic jams as well, which is critical in huge cities. 

Top Five Tips for Getting Better Gas Mileage

The following tips can give you the most bang for your buck at the fuel pumps. Try implementing these strategies next time you drive to give your wallet some much-needed relief. 

Watch Your Speed

One way to get better gas mileage is to maintain a steady speed without going too slow. Try keeping the RPMs low at around 2200-2500, depending on your vehicle. Going any lower risks damage to other parts of your engine. When you are driving at higher speeds (interstate driving), try to avoid driving with your windows down all the way. If your windows are completely down, your car almost acts as a parachute. Your car is already experiencing drag from the wind resistance. When additional air flows into your car, it hits the back window with nowhere to escape. This puts a significant amount of drag on your car and can seriously lower your gas mileage. 

Avoid Idling

Idling consumes huge amounts of electricity and gas, significantly reducing your overall gas mileage. Some studies estimate that switching off your engine at lights saves enough fuel to fill up a 20-gallon tank once every 10 days. If you’re parked in front of a friend’s house (or your house), turn the vehicle off. Some people argue that turning the car off and turning it back on wastes more fuel than simply leaving it running. However, most experts state that if you plan on having the car running for more than 30 seconds while you’re parked, you should probably just turn it off. 

Don’t Accelerate Too Hard

Don’t accelerate hard. When accelerating, try to ease onto the pedal gently instead of slamming yourself down to highway speeds right away. This also prevents unnecessary stress on your transmission system and helps preserve your brakes. Accelerating quickly causes a lot of heat buildup and increases drag forces that reduce gas mileage. When you suddenly accelerate, you’re also pushing the RPMs to the limit. This can have a negative impact on your transmission. 

Use Your Cruise Control

Use cruise control. Cruise controls conserve gas by maintaining a constant speed. They work best when used in conjunction with the good driving techniques mentioned above. Maintaining the constant speed eliminates the pushing and releasing of the gas pedal, which constantly injects more gas into the engine. This also keeps your RPMs low, which saves your fuel economy. If you’re tired or distracted, turn these features off. Additionally, the cruise control should be turned off immediately when you run into wet road conditions. 

Keep Your Tires Rotated and In Good Shape

Your tires can have a significant impact on your gas mileage. When you drive with tires that are worn down, out of alignment, or unbalanced, your fuel efficiency is lowered quite a bit. Always check the treads on your tires and purchase new ones once the tread is low. Additionally, by keeping them balanced and aligned, you’ll increase the life of your tires as well.

If you follow these steps, you should begin to notice a decent improvement when it comes to your gas mileage. Additionally, most of the tips listed are also designed to increase the life of your vehicle. 

While everyone wants to experience maximum gas mileage, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. Fortunately, there are simple solutions for achieving better gas mileage regardless of what kind of vehicle you own.

Slow down. Go ahead and kill the radio. In the end, these things will become a habit, and you’ll start saving money on autopilot! 


Written by Strut Daddy's

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