The current average price for gas is close to $3.00 per gallon here in the United States. Arguments aside about whether this is really that bad compared to the global market, it's still more than I want to pay. Along that line, I've written some tips to help you increase the miles per gallon of your car. These actually work—I increased my average gas mileage from 19 miles per gallon to 25 miles per gallon just by following the tips below.
I should note that these aren't just random guesses at what might help. I have a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country mini-van that has a digital display showing you in real-time your miles per gallon. As I'm driving, I can see second by second how my miles per gallon are changing. It keeps a running log of these numbers and has a second display to show you your average
miles per gallon. I have tested each of these tips independently to see if they help or not. (Yes, I'm a big nerd and actually do this kind of statistical analysis for fun. Then again, I'm now getting 25 miles per gallon in a six-year-old mini-van
. Who's laughing now?)
Okay, here you go...
- Don't accelerate quickly. - I used to be a relatively aggressive driver. I would speed up quickly from stops, accelerate into the fast line quickly on the freeway, and so forth. If you accelerate gradually, though, it can really help your miles per gallon. Your car won't be working as hard. You'll be a safer driver to boot.
- Let your car brake itself. - I wasn't so bad with this one, but I used to often wait until I was somewhat near a stop before braking down to a halt. Anticipate stops ahead of you and just let off the accelerator, letting the car slow itself down.
- Drive at the speed limit on highways and freeways. - This was the hardest one for me to do. I would consistently drive 5, maybe 10, miles per hour over the speed limit. Last year I wouldn't have cared about this one. Now, my choice is between driving 5 miles per hour slower on highways and freeways, or paying for gas more often. At $3.00 a gallon, I'm now more willing to drive 5 miles per hour slower. And you know what? I find that I don't really get where I'm going any later than I did before. Funny, that.
- Use cruise control. - This really helps your miles per gallon a lot on long stretches of road. Where I live there is a drive I often have to take that's about a half-hour drive. I tested this out on that drive and was surprised at the difference cruise control made. I tried driving the exact same speed with and without cruise control and using cruise control consistently gave me a 4-5 miles per gallon advantage. If I worked the accelerator myself, even being very consistent and alert to how I was driving, I would get about 24-25 miles per gallon on this highway stretch. (This is using the real-time miles per gallon display, mind you.) With cruise control on, it would increase to 29, and then vary between 27 and 30 depending on the road conditions. Not bad.
- Don't use the air conditioner. - This can be a hard one in the summer, but with fall settling in, it's not that tough anymore. Every time I turned the air conditioner off, I saw an immediate increase in my miles per gallon.
- Accelerate before hills. - (If you live in the Midwest, ignore this. What you call a "hill" is what we in Oregon call a "speed bump".) Accelerate before you get to a hill, and then let off the accelerator once you hit the hill. Let your momentum carry you up the foot of the hill. Accelerating before the hill is easier on your car than accelerating on the hill. If it's a big enough hill, you'll still need to accelerate while you're on it, but then you won't have to use the accelerator on the entire hill.
And now here are some things I haven't tested, but are supposed to help.
- Clean out your car. - A lighter car will get more miles per gallon.
- Check your tire pressure. - Low tire pressure makes your car work harder. Don't over-inflate your tires.
- Change your air filter. - A dirty filter will decrease your miles per gallon.
- Get a hybrid car. - Well, duh. However, hybrids aren't for everyone. If you have long stretches of highway or freeway driving, a hybrid won't give you much of an advantage. They are also less powerful when it comes to hills.
- Do more in one trip. - Less trips equals less gas.
I'm interested to hear any other practices people have found to increase gas mileage. Every bit helps.
Just to add some visuals, here is a picture I took tonight of my car's average miles per gallon display
. I'd say 25.9 MPG isn't bad. :)