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Tips to Get Better Gas Mileage

Tips to Get Better Gas Mileage

Even with gas prices falling across most of the country, most of us would still like to get the most miles for our money. There is quite a bit of advice out there on ways to increase the number of miles per gallon (MPG), but let’s take a look at a few that will save you the most money.

One caveat: all cars are different. Someone driving an SUV will still get fewer MPG than a person driving a four-door family sedan. And they will still get fewer MPG than the person driving a two-door coupe, who will, in turn, see less MPG than the person with a hybrid. The type of vehicle you drive is still a major factor, with the size of the engine and the weight of the car playing a role, as well as the age of the vehicle – newer cars were designed to work more efficiently, and so will see greater MPG numbers. Check out our best fuel economy list.

Better Gas Mileage Through Hypermiling

One of the most extreme ways of increasing MPG is through a series of techniques known as hypermiling. These techniques were even explored in an episode of the Discovery Channel show MythBusters, who found that they were effective at increasing the MPG of both new and used vehicles. However, they also found that most of the techniques employed were either frustrating for them or the other cars around them, or could be dangerous if not done correctly. Some of the techniques they tried include:

  • Never drive above 45 miles per hour
  • Turn off the engine at red lights
  • Keep the windows rolled up and the AC turned off
  • Overinflate your tires
  • Drafting a vehicle in front of you

While there were other techniques tested as well, and these did contribute to better MPG, try them at your own risk – and discomfort.

Better MPG for the Average Joe

So what are a few less extreme options for those who want to maximize their MPG without putting themselves or other vehicles at risk, or making themselves so uncomfortable that they don’t want to drive at all?

First of all, make sure your car gets proper, regular maintenance. While it might be tempting to push that oil change a few extra miles or put off replacing a part that is worn but still functioning, doing so will decrease your MPG. Fueleconomy.gov found that keeping an engine tuned properly can improve MPG by as much as 4 percent. They also found that by using the proper grade of motor oil and changing it at the correct intervals, can increase MPG by up to 2 percent. And while changing the air filter on a modern car won’t impact the MPG, in an older used vehicle, it can change the MPG by several percentage points. While all of that might not sound like much, these percentages add up over time, leading to real savings you can feel in your wallet.

Another way to improve MPG that anyone can easily take advantage of? How and when you fuel up. Weight, as I mentioned earlier, is a big factor in MPG numbers, and heavier cars will simply require more fuel to move them the same distance as a lighter vehicle. Gasoline adds weight to the car; as much as 60 pounds depending on the size of your fuel tank. If you keep your tank filled to between half and a quarter full, you will find the right balance of giving you vehicle the fuel it needs to operate at its most efficient, while keeping the weight down to the bare minimum.

Your Fuel's Octane Matters

Another thing to look at while at the pump is the quality of fuel. In this case, the cliché of “you get what you pay for” is true. Cheaper gasoline contains a higher percentage of ethanol, which burns faster. That doesn’t mean you need to pay the premium price, however. Different brands use different fuel mixes – try a few of them, and keep track of which brands give you the best MPG. It might be a bit more work upfront, requiring you to not only track your MPG carefully but also to potentially go out of your way to fill up at different brands but once you have those numbers, you will have a better idea of the best gasoline for your specific car. At the end of the day, most of these are basic techniques that don’t require much work, and that everyone knows they should be doing anyway. But if you are trying to squeeze a few more miles out of your gas tank, they really do make a huge difference over time.