Friday Fuel Economy: Avoid Idling Like the Plague

Reader Contribution by Staff

It’s Friday. Time for another fuel economy pop quiz. This one should be easy.

For better gas mileage, what should you do in the following scenarios?

  • You’re in line at the bank drive thru. You’re three cars deep and there seems to only be one teller helping three lines’ worth of cars.
  • You’re stuck in rush hour traffic. There’s an accident ahead and nobody is moving.
  • Your brother-in-law heads into the local pizza joint to pick up your carryout order.
  • You’re at the neighborhood mailbox and run into neighbors you haven’t seen in weeks. They’ve got a brand new golden retriever puppy.

The answer: turn off your car. Doing so will be good for your gas mileage. Honestly.

Like the myth about warming your car during cold mornings, there’s an all too common notion that it takes more gas to start a car than leave it running. The truth is it takes less than 30 seconds of idling to use as much gas as is burned when starting.

So this makes idling bad news for gas mileage — it’s actually negative mpg because you’re burning gas but going nowhere. Cars, SUVs and trucks with larger than average engines have it even worse, wasting even more gas when they idle.

So next time you’re in one of the above scenarios or something like it, turn off your car when you’ll be stopped for a minute or more.

John Rockhold is a green car enthusiast and Contributing Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find him on .