How to Get Better Gas Mileage

You don’t have to buy a new car to save money on gasoline. Learn how to get the best mpg in your current car with these 12 fuel-efficient driving techniques.

| GUIDE TO GREEN CARS, Summer 2012

MPG Red Light

An easy fuel-efficient driving technique: When you see a red light ahead, let off the gas and coast to a stop.


If you want to get better gas mileage and save big bucks at the pump, simply changing your driving habits can improve your miles per gallon by 30 percent or more. To illustrate this point, two General Motors fuel economy engineers each drove an identical 2011 Chevy Cruze on a combined city/highway route, each using a different driving style. The 2011 Cruze has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy rating of 26 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The engineer who drove aggressively turned in an average of 20.5 mpg, while the engineer who employed fuel-efficient driving techniques delivered an average of 37.4 mpg on the same course. That’s a positive difference of 16.9 mpg due solely to driving style! 

Many people falsely assume that the vehicle they drive should regularly deliver its official estimated fuel economy rating. The key word here is “estimated.” The city, highway and combined mpg numbers are calculated by running the vehicle through preprogrammed driving cycles on a stationary chassis dynamometer. This test does not completely allow for various human factors, including driving style, as shown by the Cruze example.

This is actually good news: A little bit of human control can go a long way toward meeting or even exceeding a car’s mpg rating. The following 12 fuel-efficient driving techniques are easy to learn and apply. Try these tips for how to get better gas mileage and call upon your competitive spirit to see how much you can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage with each tank.

12 Fuel-Efficient Driving Techniques

1. Light Touch on the Accelerator. Because the accelerator pedal controls how much gasoline or diesel fuel (or electricity, in the case of electric cars) is fed to the engine, it makes sense that a light touch will yield the best mpg. A vehicle is least efficient when it is accelerating, so the trick is to use just enough power to get up to the desired speed quickly enough, without hard acceleration and without prolonging that phase. On the other hand, accelerating too slowly can actually hinder overall gas mileage.

2. Avoid High-Speed Cruising. Wind resistance compounds with speed, meaning high-speed cruising greatly diminishes fuel economy. The threshold for most vehicles at which highway mpg really begins to degrade is at about 60 mph, above which fuel economy drops off at a rapid rate. You can increase mpg by running below the speed limit, but only when it’s feasible and doing so won’t impede traffic or cause other safety issues. Electric cars will see their range drop significantly at higher speeds, so if you feel “range anxiety,” slow down.

Running air conditioning or other engine-powered accessories makes the engine work harder and hurts fuel economy. At slower speeds, roll the windows down to cool off. At higher speeds, however, having the windows down creates aerodynamic problems, so it’s actually better to use air conditioning.

9/14/2015 5:32:14 PM

Same old same old.. if you wer 16 this might have ben a revelation, but at 16 nobody really cares. Do you just pull up the article every few years and re-run it?

6/17/2014 4:53:47 AM

This is helpful. Thanks for sharing.

t brandt
7/8/2012 12:36:35 AM

I agree with your first 3 sentences, but: Save money? Counting the govt subsidies, each Chevy Volt sold costs a qtr million bucks to produce.And periodic battery replacement costs are prohibitive.... Fun to drive? Many prefer open wheeled race cars or motorcyles. It's a matter of taste & not germaine to the argument...Heathy? Show me one non-suicide victim of car exhaust. That traffic dirt is mostly spent tires & asphalt. Ever wonder where your treads went?.. Lead was removed from fuel 40 yrs ago and IQ scores haven't gone up even a single pt....Community? Try a biker bar if you want a taste of real community.

John LeDoux
7/7/2012 3:33:21 PM

Linda, you're a environmental wacho.

6/27/2012 1:08:44 PM

How about switching from gasoline and diesel altogether ...Four Reasons To Drive Electric We believe every small act of ecological stewardship contributes to the overall sustainability of life on earth. As Pam Hollis said, "I try to live by the philosophy that we can't expect to make 100 percent change in any one thing. Rather, it's the 1 percent change in 100 different things that will make the biggest impact." Moto Electric Vehicles is proud to join the 1 percent that is attempting to save our environment, while reducing our dependence on gasoline, directly lowering the cost of transportation. Miss Electric ( recently posted these reasons on their website. We felt that they raised valid points that deserved your consideration, so we are paraphrasing them here - and adding a few considerations of our own! Save Money Hybrid and plug-in cars have lower overall operating costs. Spending less money at the gas station means more money in your pocket. Fun To Drive Electric vehicles are just plain fun to drive! High torque and smooth handling, along with quiet operation make them a "green" driver's dream - not to mention all of the attention you and your vehicle will get! Healthy People/Healthy Environment/Healthy Economy Electric vehicles emit virtually no toxic emissions. Not only will people be healthier, but they will also spend less money on imported oil and help to create jobs building the vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to support them. Be Part Of The Electric Drive Community Current and potential EV drivers love to gather and share their experiences with others! Many hold local events that offer opportunities to network with like-minded people to learn about the latest innovations, legislation, opportunities and applications for Electric Vehicles.

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