11 Smart Ways to Boost Your Gas Mileage


Summer is just around the corner, and if you're one of the lucky ones, you'll be hittin' the road before you know it. Cut a bit of the cost from your road trip(s) by saving on gas with these fuel-efficient tips and tricks.

1. Switch to a More Fuel-Efficient Vehicle

It seems like an obvious solution, and it's certainly easier said than done to upgrade your vehicle to a more fuel-efficient model like a fully electric car or hybrid. But if it's time for a new whip, or you want to invest in a ride that will you save you dough in the long term, it's the only way to go. If nothing else, it's at least worth a trip to the dealership to see what it has to offer and then crunch the numbers.

2. Lighten Your Load Before Long Hauls

Over-packing your car for a road trip — or, the more likely scenario, hauling around a bunch of junk on a regular basis for no reason at all — weighs down your vehicle, and that requires it work harder for all that get up-and-go, thus consuming more gas.

"Do you go to the garden center, buy several bags of topsoil, then forget to unload your car for a week?" asks auto expert Richard Reina. "Perhaps you have a trunk full of tools, sports equipment, or project supplies which don't need to be there. Think about this: Automotive engineers sweat the details to remove ounces of weight to improve a vehicle's EPA mileage rating. Imagine what happens if you remove several pounds. Make it a habit to only carry what needs to be in the car."

3. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Tires low on air don't roll easily, requiring more engine power (and more fuel) to make them rotate — but tire pressure is one of the easiest checks to perform.

"Buy an inexpensive pressure gauge, keep it in your glove box, and make a habit of checking the tires at fill-ups," Reina says. "Be strict about using the numbers on the vehicle's tire pressure label, usually found in the driver's door jamb. Most vehicles have the same pressure rating for all four tires; but pay attention if your label requires different pressures front and rear."

4. Avoid Stop-and-Go Traffic

You'll save on gas if you keep your car moving at a steady pace opposed to braking often in traffic. If your morning and afternoon commutes are usually sluggish, try another route. Another reason your vehicle will consume more fuel in stop-and-go traffic is because it'll run longer than if you traveled from A to B quicker. If you have the option, test out different departing times — maybe leave home/work a little earlier or later, depending on what your schedule (and boss) allows — to avoid gridlock.

5. Take Your Foot Off the Pedal and Coast for a While

Instead of driving to the absolute last second when you need to stop, take your foot off the pedal well before the light to allow your car to coast to a stop. Make this a habit and you'll start seeing the difference in how often you have to refuel.

6. Turn on Cruise Control to Keep an Even Speed

Personally, I love cruise control. Not so much for the gas-saving factor, but because my feet get tired of always being on the pedal when I'm on long drives — though the former is as good a reason as any to use it when you hop on the highway.

"The best thing you can do to increase your gas mileage is to travel where you can keep an even speed," say savings expert Paul Moyer. "Most vehicles get the best mileage somewhere between 45 and 55 miles per hour. If you can maintain that speed for long periods of time, you will greatly reduce your gas usage."

7. Plan Your Errands About Town Efficiently

I'm notoriously forgetful in the morning. I run back in the house at least twice every day to get something I forgot before heading to work. But, I'm much more put together when I'm running weekend errands. I plan out my stops so I can get to one end of town and back without having to cut across roads, make any unnecessary turns, or do the back-and-forth routine. I head north and hit everything on one side of the road, then south to get the rest on the way back. Granted, your errands may not be mapped out so neatly, but there are probably ways you can make your about-town travels more efficient if you tried.

8. Don't Let Your Car Idle if You're Not in It

Even when your car is sitting idle — like when you're heating it up in the morning when it's cold out — it's still using gas. If this is your daily practice in the winter, wean yourself off of it. As an alternative, bundle up and let the car heat up gradually as you drive. I know, it's not as cozy-comfortable as getting into a toasty-hot car that's had 20 minutes to sit, but at least your wallet won't feel the burn at the pump. Plus, you'll greatly reduce the chances that your car will get stolen from your own driveway. Do you really want to tell your local law enforcement that embarrassing tale?

9. Take Advantage of the Weather to Heat/Cool the Car Naturally

When it's cold out, park your car in the sun. Vice versa, when it's hot as the dickens, park in the shade. By consciously regulating the temperature inside the car naturally, you may be able to cut down on the times you want to crank up the heat or the A/C… although the latter isn't as bad as you think it is.

10. Keep the Windows Up When Driving

As I just mentioned, using the A/C isn't the gas-guzzler you might expect it to be. No need to feel wasteful if you require more climate control than Mother Nature is providing.

"This tip may run counter to what you were taught: 'Avoid using the A/C unless necessary, because it uses gas!' While this was true 25 years ago, modern electronics have overridden this concern," Reina says. "Computer controls run the A/C only when needed while still keeping you cool. Automotive aerodynamics have improved so much that driving with windows down actually creates drag. The net effect is that a vehicle gets better mileage if the windows stay up, and the A/C's effect on fuel economy is nil."

11. Maintain Your Vehicle Regularly to Keep the Engine Running Clean

Of course, the best way to ensure that your car is running clean is to get regular maintenance. Nobody likes to have their car worked on (because what are they going to find wrong with it this time, right?), but if you stay on top of your car's needs, like clean air filters, you'll cut down on costs across the board (not just gas) over the lifetime of the vehicle — and that's just money in the bank.

Bonus Tip

You can also save on gas purchases and earn cash back when you fill up if you pay with a gas rewards credit card

What are some things you do to boost your gas mileage? I'd love to hear your travel tactics in the comments below. 

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Guest's picture

Most of these fuel saving tactics also work well for extending electric car range as well. EVs actually do better in stop & go traffic than on highways though. Also, I wouldn't use cruise control while traversing hilly terrain. It's kind of sad & scary that we need an article like this to remind us of what used to be taught as basic driving knowledge. Well done!

Guest's picture

Just don't use the cruise control when it's raining. Very important; using it while it's raining can cause your car to go out of control if you hydro-plane.

Guest's picture
Joselito Arroyo

All are good except not letting your car heat up in the morning. The reason you allow it to heat up is so the oil gets a chance to heat and become more viscous. That would be part of maintenance as well.