the mpg checklist
There’s not a lot you can do to swing the gas prices themselves (rabbit’s foot and lucky penny be darned). But what you can control are the ways you drive and fill up.
1. Go regular
Despite its name, premium gas isn’t always better. If your owner’s manual recommends regular octane, upgrading to premium offers no additional benefits, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Most cars drive just fine on 87 octane. So unless yours calls for a higher grade, paying for premium (usually 15-20 cents more per gallon) should be an easy habit to cut.
2. Cruise along
Since sudden acceleration and heavy braking can decrease your mpg by as much as 33 percent on highways, cruise control should be your best friend on flat, open road. In addition to making your drive a little easier, cruise control keeps you at a constant speed, which could improve fuel efficiency and reduce fuel consumption by as much as 14 percent.
3. Don’t idle
Contrary to popular belief, idling is worse for fuel economy than turning your car off and on. In fact, idling for as little as 2 minutes wastes the same amount of gas it would take to drive one mile.
Worse yet, idling can actually harm your engine. So the next time you’re waiting for someone at the store, turn off the engine. (Several hybrid models do this automatically.)
4. Avoid traffic
Tough (and unbelievably sweet) as it sounds, avoiding traffic is actually possible. Use your smartphone to download apps like Google Maps that will help you bypass road congestion (and gas-wasting idling) with turn-by-turn directions, 3D maps, and live updates on traffic conditions. Just make sure to leave the phone-handling to your co-pilot.
5. Maintain your car
Maintaining your car is a simple and effective way to increase mpg. For example:
- Properly inflated and aligned tires = 3 percent better gas mileage = $0.11 savings per gallon
- A well-tuned engine = 4 percent better gas mileage = $0.15 savings per gallon
- The right oil = 2 percent better gas mileage = $0.04 to $0.08 savings per gallon
Over the span of your driving career, the savings could amount to thousands!
The best way to save on gas is to drive less. Set up a carpool with work buddies or check out sites like Zimride and eRideShare that find options for you whether you’re going to work, across town, or from coast to coast.