12 Tricks to Getting the Best Gas Mileage

Americans may think they know all there is to know about cars—after all, the automobile is deeply ingrained in our culture—but when it comes to conserving fuel, money, and air quality, we could learn a lot from Europeans. In Sweden, for instance, the law requires drivers to learn fuel-saving “eco-driving” before they can obtain a driver’s license. Officials there say eco-driving techniques—including coasting, putting the car into the right gear, and braking slowly—are reducing the country’s total fuel consumption by 10 to 20 percent. Want to know more about these money-saving tricks? Read on to learn more ways that you can improve gas mileage.
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Cruising and Coasting


Remember those iconic 1950s photos of cars slowly cruisin’ the strip? That go-slow approach to driving can help save a lot of gas. Whenever possible, look ahead and anticipate red lights, taking your foot off the gas half a block before a stop. Avoid hard braking, which according to some estimates can increase fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent.

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Easy Does It


Avoid sudden, sharp starts when accelerating from zero at a stop sign or light. According to some automobile industry estimates, up to 50 percent of your car’s energy is used in acceleration. Press on the pedal gradually and smoothly to use less gas.

Related: 14 Secrets of People with Low Energy Bills

Top Gear


Try to run your car in the appropriate gear at all times and get into the top gear as soon as possible. Driving in a low gear wastes fuel; downshift only when approaching a corner or driving on a hill.

Related: 7 Ways You’re Ruining Your Car

Lighten Up the Lead Foot


Avoid driving faster than the speed limit. Compared with driving 65 miles per hour, sticking to 55 miles per hour can improve your gas mileage by about 15 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In fact, their fuel economy website states that every 5 miles per hour you drive over 50 miles per hour is like “paying an additional $0.18 per gallon for gas.”

Related: 10 Things You Never Thought to Keep in Your Car

Use Cruise Control Wisely


Cruise control can assist your quest for better mileage, but only when used properly. DMV.org advises, “Employ cruise control on extended flat stretches of highway, but deactivate on hills. Cruise control loses momentum on the ascent, and chugs gas on the descent.”

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Close That Window


It may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re driving at highway speeds, it is more efficient to use air conditioning than to open the windows because wind drag decreases fuel efficiency. For the same reason, avoid opening the sunroof, which will disrupt airflow and increase wind drag. Feel free, however, to tool around town with the windows down. At low speeds running the air conditioner would use more fuel than would be lost to the small amount of aerodynamic drag. 

Related: 11 Air Conditioning Mistakes That Spike Your Bills

Shut It Down


Parking for a few minutes? Turn off that engine! Idling can use as much as half a gallon of fuel per hour. According to the Department of Energy, idling by personal vehicles wastes about 3 billion gallons of fuel annually. Eliminating unnecessary idling in personal vehicles could result in fuel savings and emissions reductions equivalent to taking 5 million vehicles off the roads.

Related: 13 Hacks Every Car Owner Should Know

Don't Keep Junk in the Trunk


Cleaning out your car will not only make you feel better, it will improve your gas mileage. According to automobile industry estimates, for every 100 pounds of stuff you remove from the trunk, you can expect to improve your gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent.

Related: 15 Genius Tricks for Keeping Your Car Clean

Streamline, Streamline, Streamline


Avoid installing roof racks, cargo carriers, bike racks, antenna flags, decorations, or anything else that could increase wind resistance on your car. According to industry estimates, a roof-mounted cargo box can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 25 percent at highway speed. A rear-mounted cargo box is substantially more efficient but still reduces efficiency by up to 5 percent at highway speeds.

Related: 10 Genius Gadgets to Bring on Your Next Road Trip

Check Those Tires


Under- and overinflated tires can wreak havoc on your gas mileage as well as shorten the life span of the treads. Indeed, underinflated tires can increase your car’s fuel consumption by up to 6 percent. Check your manual to learn the correct pressure for your car’s tires, and test the pressure once a month with a tire gauge. According to the Energy Information Administration, if all drivers maintained proper tire pressure, the U.S. could save approximately 800,000 barrels of oil a day. When the time comes to replace your tires, consider newer models, called “low-rolling resistance” tires, to improve efficiency.

Related: 8 Easy Ways to Winter-Proof Your Car

Maintenance Musts


Make sure your monthly to-do list includes giving your car some TLC. Simple vehicle maintenance could increase your car’s fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent. Regular maintenance includes changing the oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, replacing air filters, using a fuel with the right octane rating to ensure best performance, getting routine tune-ups, and tightening your gas cap until you hear the final “click” so you don’t lose gas to evaporation.

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Leave Your Car at Home


Walk, jog, ride a bike, take public transportation, or carpool with a neighbor to save big bucks on gas. Your car will last longer, and the regular exercise will help get you healthier.

Related: The 10 Best Things You Can Do for Your Garage

Go Green


Improving your gas mileage is just one of many simple ways to conserve energy. Look around your house and consider other adjustments you can make to go green. Little things, such as unplugging your phone charger when it’s not in use, have a positive impact!