The Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Gasoline Consumption

Unfortunately, this year it looks like we’re not going to be able to count on a nice drop in gasoline prices during the fall and winter. With crude oil futures sitting at $90 a barrel and demand for both oil and gasoline going nowhere but up, it looks as if gasoline may test the $3 per gallon mark within the coming weeks or months.

Since the $3 mark is usually reserved for the summer’s peak driving season and hasn’t ever happened during the winter months, we could very easily be setting ourselves up for $4 gasoline by the time May comes rolling around.

No matter what you do, increased gasoline prices are going to affect you in some way. While the price increase may hurt some more than others, the fact remains that we’re all going to have to become accustomed to the fact that the days of cheap gas (and energy in general) are in the rear view mirror.

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If you really want to monitor your fuel economy, buy a ScanGauge digital fuel economy gauge.

That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to help minimize the effect of higher gasoline prices and allow you to do your part to help save the environment. Thankfully, most of these things are pretty common sense and can be integrated very easily into your regular “driving routine,” so much so that it shouldn’t take long for these habits to become second nature.

So, without further ado, here are the Top Ten Ways to Reduce Your Gasoline Consumption:

  1. Don’t drive if you don’t have to (see, I told you these were pretty common sense). Think about it, how many small, wasted trips do you take each week where you drive less than a mile or two? If you’re going to the grocery store to do some major shopping it’s certainly understandable to bring your car, but if you’re just going to pick up a couple items, why not walk or ride your bike? Same can be said for trips to friends’ houses, driving the kids to school, etc., etc. Moral of the story: if you don’t drive you don’t use gas.
  2. If you do have to drive, minimize the amount of time you sit in idle. Here’s a pretty easy general rule of thumb to remember: if you’re car’s running and you’re not moving, your gas mileage has dropped to zero mpg. I know for many of this, this is probably easier said than done, especially considering it’s pretty tough to avoid the daily rush hour traffic. However, if you find yourself stuck at a stoplight or know that it’s going to be a minute or two before you get moving again, turn off your car (assuming it’s safe to do so). Essentially, it takes about ten seconds worth of idling to use as much gasoline as it would to restart your car; this means if you’re going to be sitting at a stoplight for a minute or two, it’s best to shut the car off and save gasoline.
  3. When you finally get the car moving, make sure to use a nice, steady and moderate acceleration. A heavy foot means you’re going to get pretty bad gas mileage. Essentially, you’re making the car’s engine work much harder than necessary, and in order to get the required energy to quickly get up to speed, it’s going to need to burn more gasoline. However, you also don’t want to accelerate so slowly that you bog down the engine, as this will reduce your gas mileage as well. Nice and steady wins the race.
  4. Now that you’re up to cruising speed, try to stay at or near the speed limit. While the optimal speed for gas mileage is going to vary by make and model, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that the fast you go, especially at highway speeds, the worse gas mileage you’re going to get. According to FuelEconomy.gov, driving over the speed limit at highway speeds will reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by between seven and 23 percent. When it’s all said and done, that adds up to a lot of wasted gasoline and a lot of wasted money.
  5. When driving, keep your eyes down the road and coast whenever possible. By constantly tapping your brakes or accelerating up to stoplights or stop signs, all you’re doing is needlessly burning fuel. By being on and off the brakes, you’re wasting the energy (i.e. burned fuel) it took to get up to speed and then you’ll need to burn more fuel to get back up to speed. By accelerating up to stoplights and stop signs, again, you’re using energy that you know you really don’t need. If you give yourself plenty of room between the cars in front of you, you should have no problem seeing what the conditions are like ahead of you, which will allow you to do plenty of coasting and help you avoid brake tapping and needless accelerating.
  6. Keep your car as aerodynamic as possible; the more aerodynamic your car is (meaning the less drag that’s put on it) the better your gas mileage is going to be. This means you should drive with the windows up (more on that in a second), the sunroof closed and keep any extemporaneous items (car top carrier, sports team flags, etc.) in the vehicle.
  7. Obviously, there are going to be times when it’s warm in the car, you need some air flow and the vent alone just isn’t going to cut it. Now you’ve got to make the choice between rolling down the windows or turning on the air conditioning. If you’re traveling less than 35 mph, you should probably go ahead and just roll down the windows, as there shouldn’t be too much drag on your car. However, once you start traveling above 35 mpg and approach highway speeds, you should keep the windows up and turn on the AC. Regardless of which one you chose, you’re going to reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage, but by following this rule of thumb you can help minimize the effects.
  8. Before you get out on the road, make sure that your car’s tires are properly inflated. Think of it this way; have you ever tried to ride a bike that had under inflated tires? It took a lot more work to get up to and maintain speed, didn’t it? Same thing goes for your car; under inflated tires will essentially reduce your car’s gas mileage by two to three percent. While that may not seem like much, this might – if every driver in the United States improved their vehicle’s gas mileage by 2%, we would save nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline each year.
  9. Replace your car’s dirty air filter. Driving around with a dirty or clogged air filter can reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by up to ten percent, which at today’s prices, is the equivalent of adding about 28 cents to each gallon of gasoline you buy. It probably takes less than ten minutes to change the filter and will probably set you back less than 20 dollars, so there’s really no excuse to not get this done.
  10. Get all of the useless and needless items out of your car. As a general rule of thumb, for every extra 100 pounds you carry around in your car, you reduce its gas mileage by one to two percent; and if you want to get into the minutiae of it, for every extra pound you carry around in your car, you reduce its gas mileage by 1/100th to 1/50th of a percent. So, now that it’s fall, get the golf clubs out of the trunk of your car and maybe with the money you’ll save on gas, you can splurge and buy the big bucket of balls at the driving range.

Now that you’ve been armed with some pretty easy and simple ways to save gas and maximize your vehicle’s gas mileage, I’d like to suggest that you print out this article and leave a copy in your car as a reminder to try your best to reduce your gasoline consumption. In the end, both your bank account and the environment will thank you for it.

Comments

  1. Great tips, posted to GreenDeals Daily (http://GreenDealsDaily.com)

  2. Christopher says:

    Never turn off your car at a stop light. It takes much more fuel to start it than you would save at a stop light.

  3. The A/C doesn’t reduce mileage significantly. If anything, it reduces mileage by one third of a mile per tank of gas.

  4. Great advice except for #2.

    Staters wear out fast and are costly to replace. I can see turning off your engine if you’re waiting for a train and you know it’s gonna be at least 5 minutes, but turning your car off at a red light is a dumb idea.

  5. you should turn off the engine at a long stop light, because with newer engines, with fuel injection, it doesn’t take much gas to start the engine. Engines with carburators, however, burns more fuel to start. So with a fuel injection engine, DO turn your engine off only at long stop lights, and DON’T turn off with carburator engines.

  6. Regarding killing the engine versus idling: Some simple business formulas can help one decide when to kill the engine. Let’s say the average vehicle idles at 1 gallon to the hour. That’s 5 cents a minute at $3/gal. If you let it run 2 minutes and burn 10 cents away are you wasting compared to restart fuel and starter harm? Can someone post how much gas is consumed on startup? Plus how many start times is a starter’s lifespan. What would a typical replacement charge will be?

  7. In regards to your #2 about sitting in idle, I’ve always tried to put my car in neutral when I’m sitting at a stop light instead of in “drive.” I also sometimes keep it in neutral as I am sitting in traffic as long as I am sitting on a hill and the car’s inertia will keep me going. I’m not sure what kind of stats there are on putting your car in drive vs neutral but I’ve heard of people who eek out that extra few drops of gas right before hitting “empty” by switching into neutral as much as possible. At the very least, your car does not waste gas by coasting.

  8. Thanks for useful information

  9. Actually, on an episode of Mythbusters concerning fuel efficiency, the drag created from an open window did NOT contribute to decreased fuel efficiency, as did running the AC. So don’t worry about windows or air conditioning. Doesn’t matter.

  10. Looks like I need to go clean out my car and fill up my tires.

  11. Eric:

    READ the article. Then talk.

    The Mythbusters is entertainment, not science. I enjoy them and don’t miss an episode. But their methodology is just silly.

    The article states below 35 it makes a difference. Mythbuster’s test was at constant speed on a circular track at 55 mph. Not statistically equvialent.

  12. Marshall:

    READ the article. Then talk.

    “If you’re traveling less than 35 mph, you should probably go ahead and just roll down the windows, as there shouldn’t be too much drag on your car. However, once you start traveling above 35 mpg and approach highway speeds, you should keep the windows up and turn on the AC.”

    It specifically states ABOVE 35mph. If you think you are more of an expert than Mythbusters then create your own show. Until then, shut up!

  13. Does anyone know proper tire pressure for camry 07? Is there any web-site which list down these tire pressures as per the season ?

  14. Check the owner’s manual.

  15. I agree with Danny about tip #2. Starters cost a lot more money than the big of gas you will save shutting your car off for a minute. Not only that, overall engine wear is the greatest when you start your car. Until the oil pump creates suction and starts pushing oil, everything is pretty much running dry, which in return creates more engine wear. Not only that on certain vehicles like my diesel truck, you also put a good amount of wear on the fuel injector pump. Knowing the replacement cost of over $4000, I would rather burn a minutes worth of fuel than start and stop my vehicle. The other tips look great though!

  16. Dr. Rings says:

    My own studies in my V-8 Lexus show almost no degradation in MPG with the windows down over a controlled drive (

  17. This is some really good information for anyone to use. Keep up the great work with the posts.

  18. For the ‘fast and furious’ types: remove the air foil. it acts like and air brake, robbing you of at least 1 mpg

  19. Bryant: I disagree with your assessment of A/C’s effect on fuel consumption, see http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2007/10/more-on-ac.html for my comments and information.

    For tire pressure, my comments are at http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2007/10/he-last-1.html

    Also located at my site are some thoughts, calculations, and results of some more radical suggestions that I’ve used, specifically, drafting (http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2007/06/blog-post.html and http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2007/06/practicalities-of-drafting.html trucks, turning off the engine to coast down long hills, etc.

    By the way Brian, my sight (strictly a non-commercial site) links back to yours.

  20. Turning off your engine at a stop light is a BAD idea. a) It does take more energy to start your engine than to just leave it idle. (Ironic that it tells you to keep it steady and avoid unnecessary hard acceleration and braking, but tells you to turn off your engine (hard braking) and then starting it back up (hard acceleration). It takes up to 6 TIMES the amount of energy to start your car than it would to keep it at idle.)

    b) It’s also WORSE for the environment (to restart the engine) because of emissions from unburned hydrocarbons, CO2, and NOx emissions on start-stop cycles.

    The only cars that you can truly turn off at a stop light are electric vehicles. Oh yea…that’s right – GM killed their EV program in ’95.

    Point 4 – partially true.

    The sweet spot for most cars is between 45-65 mph. Outside of that, it gets worse. Anything really more than 80 mph is much worse. So, if you can manage to continually cruise (on city/surface streets) at 45 mph, that’d probably be best. The difference between 65 mph and 75 mph is between 7-13% in fuel economy. Just note that for MOST people, they’re more alert when driving faster even though it may hurt their fuel mileage more.

    If there’s a gap and you see that it’s a red light ahead of you – don’t bother rushing to fill the gap. I am always amused at people who rush to stop and then I’d end up passing them anyways because by the time I get to the light, it’s already turned green.

  21. It may be unexpected from most of us but point 3 is also partially wrong.

    A steady acceleration is not as good as a strong acceleration. ATTENTION : I do not mean to OVERSPEED ! I just want to state that in order to reach the speed you want (e.g. 50 km/h in cities), the best way to lower consumption is to accelerate frankly and not to accelerate with a “grandma” style.

    There is a good reason for that and engine specialist often talk about it in science articles : engines have their best yield at maximum acceleration. Technically speaking, the reason is related to the compression rate and this goes back to the second principle of thermodynamics.
    The limit of designing that type of engines is called the “Knock limit” where the engine goes a bit crazy.
    Then, the worst for using an engine is then the city but even on the highway, yield is not so good (because of a somewhat moderate acceleration). Automotive engineers try to find solutions to that (http://www.mce-5.com).

    To give you an idea, you have to realise that you take the most benefit of a given volume of petrol when you climb a tough hill (and the worst when you go down, of course because ideally, you could just cut the engine and use G).
    Also, the best benefit you have on a highway is to go to the max speed your car can reach. Yet, this would be also stupid because even if your engine is at max yield :) you mainly use it to move air :(

    Note : for readers of this comment, do not mix up acceleration and speed please …

  22. I have to agree with you that low gas prices might just be a thing of the past. The tips you gave are really common sense things people should do, yet one would be surprised at the large number of people who don’t do these simple things to save on gas.

  23. killing the engine at a light seems like a bad idea for the simple reason of moving out of the way in an emergency. the guy in the back of the ambulance going to the hospital is not going to care how much fuel you saved by turning it off when you can’t get out of the way fast enough for him to get to the hospital.

  24. A dirty air filter will richen the fuel air mixture on a carborated vehicle and thus reduce milage. Reduced air flow on a fuel injected vehicle with mass flow metered air will reduce maximum engine power but not change the fuel air mixture or effeciency of the engine. The effective engine displacement is reduced but no more fuel is burned for any specific power output.

  25. Wayne,

    Not to debate it, I’m just asking. A carburetor supplies fuel by the low pressure produced in the venturi area of the carburetor throat, as I understand it. The throttle valve is ahead of this and the air filter is ahead of that. So, wouldn’t reduced air flow caused by a dirty air filter cause the driver to open the throttle further to increase power delivery, and consequently maintain the same pressure drop at the venturi and thus finally keep the efficiency the same? This would be the mechanical version of what the ECU does in the computerized injected engine.

  26. Rob,

    The driver technically would have to open the throttle further to obtain the same amount of airflow into the engine, however, on most fuel injected cars, the amount of fuel provided is calculated by the airflow sensor in the intake and the oxygen sensor in the exhaust system, not directly by how far the gas pedal is pressed down. The engine uses the data from these sensors (along with others) to calculate the optimum amount of fuel to inject. So, as Wayne said, it will limit the maximum power but not amount of fuel used.

  27. I try turning my engine off at lights I anticipate to be more than 30 seconds. My mileage on my 350 ci v8 with 240k miles in the city is >16 mpg. My starter went out at 180k miles and I replaced it with a lifetime starter from Autozone and it only took 30mins to change it. If I don’t turn the engine off at lights and drive thrus the milege drops to around 14-15. I have also tried coasting with the engine off down hills and have gotten as high as 18 in the city. No kidding!

  28. shutting your car off at a light will not burn more gas upon restarting it. I don’t know how this myth ever got started but it is just that, a myth. however it may or may not be advisable to do so. I won’t get into that. why do you think hybrids shut themselves off at a light? I can promise you it;s not to burn more fuel upon restart. Think about it.

  29. #11 Keep a log….

    GasDandy is an easy-to-use tool that tracks a vehicle’s mileage and maintenance information, providing data that can be used for both business and personal purposes. By making these figures readily available, the program also gives the consumer the opportunity to save money and to proactively identify problems that can shorten the life of their vehicle(s). Download a free trial version of GasDandy today at http://www.gasdandy.com

  30. Don’t forget to check out the empirical evidence behind why all these tips work. Read Improve MPG The Factors Affecting Fuel Efficiency for fuel usage data logged directly from the engine computer testing such habits as these.

  31. It’s amazing how easy many of these tips are to actually implement. I’ve made an effort to stay at the speed limit (surprisingly, I think many others are doing this as well – I don’t get flipped off as much as I used to!) and use moderate acceleration, and I’ve seen my MPGs increase by 10 to 15 percent.

  32. Really informative. Cost per fuel this day really kill us.

  33. I have been a driving instructor for many years so understand the fact that you have to stick to the required speed limit.

    And you are correct the cost of fuel today is ridiculous but by sticking to the speed limit it does save money.

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  35. This is a superb bit of an information shared by you guys…Good job and will wait if any other blogs are posted here…

  36. These are some terrific tips. It’s so important to put them to use in saving fuel — saving money AND the environment!

  37. These are all great tips, but they do not address ways businesses could reduce excessive gasoline usage by employees. For example, excessive car idling, poor route management and side jobs are all things that can greatly increase annual gasoline costs and the one way to eliminate all of those wasteful factors is through the use of GPS tracking technology.

  38. Seem to be a excellent write-up simply because this is the data im searching for since this morning. Relieved to have arrive in your internet site. Many thanks!

  39. I think you overlooked another possibility! What about fuel additives? I found a website that has a fuel additive that increases your mileage. I get on average about 325 miles to the tank, and after using it two times I’ve managed to go an extra 30 on the first tank, and I’ve gone and extra 44 miles this time. I am now on my third tank and we’ll see how I do. I’ll post back in a week or two and let you know if the results stay the same.

    Here is the website I got the additive from http://www.reducemyfuelcosts.com/ So far I’m pretty happy with it.

Trackbacks

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