In running errands or trying to get somewhere across town, the most direct route to your destination may not be the most fuel-efficient. So when pondering the best way to get to the grocery store or get home from the football game, ponder more than just distance and directness. Keep moving and you could improve your gas mileage, even if you're actually driving more miles.
Considering the two options below to get to your local farmers market, which route should you choose for the best gas mileage?
Route A: A pretty straight shot from your house to fresh apples. About 13 miles. Goes through a quaint neighborhood with 20 mph speed limits and several stop signs.
Route B: Less direct, makes you circle around the back way. About 20 miles. Speed limit 40 mph for the most part. Only two stoplights (where you usually can turn right on a red light) between you and fresh free-range eggs.
The answer? Route B.
Anytime you can keep moving, your car will get better fuel economy. Even if it means driving longer, and especially if you can drive more in the sweet spot of about 40 to 60 mph. Frequent stops, and the subsequent acceleration from a dead stop, will hinder your gas mileage.
So seek out routes with less stoplights (or those where you can easily turn right on a red) and less starts and stops for stop signs, crosswalks, traffic jams, etc. Avoid idling and crawl-like speeds.
Also don't hesitate to adjust your route on the fly. Say you encounter a traffic jam or you're running late to work and you're behind the school bus that will make seven stops through your neighborhood — escape with the next turn you can make and go the long way around if you can get back on track without too much extra effort.
Personally speaking, I consider alternate routes as soon as I'm idling more than I can tolerate. Easy right turns can be a gas mileage miser's best friend.
John Rockhold is a green car enthusiast and Contributing Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find him on Google+.