Forget Cash for Clunkers Increase Your MPG

On June 9th i started tracking my fuel consumption with fuelly. I wanted to test out a few Hypermiling techniques to see if you can really save gas by driving consciously. I drove one tank of gas using my easy for everyone hypermiling techniques and one tank of gas like I usually drive (heavy on the gas). I initially filled up on June 9th, it took through July 24th for me to get through my first tank of gas, the second tank of gas was up on August 14.

Driving conservatively saved me 2.2mpg on a single tank of gas. Assuming my tank is 16.5 gallons I would have gotten an extra 33 miles out of a single tank of gas, saving me just a bit over the cost of a gallon of gas. While that $2.38 may not add up as quickly for me (I work from home most of the time) my wife would be saving over $100 per year. Of course gas is a lot cheaper now than it was not that long ago, if we were still paying $5 a gallon the savings would be a lot more apparent. I think I could have further increased my mileage if I had been more diligent in applying my techniques. What did I do you ask? Well here you go, my 5 easy driving tips to increase your gas mileage:

No Jack Rabbit Starts:  Seriously where are you going anyway, this isn’t “The Fast and the Furious” and you are not Paul Walker or Vin Diesel. When the light turns green stop treating it like a drag strip and slowly and evenly accelerate away from the stop.

Anticipate Stops: This one is a little bit trickier. When you are driving you need to start planning ahead and anticipating your stops. If you know you are going to be stopping, cease all acceleration and allow your car to coast. Best case scenario is the light will turn green before you get there and you can continue on your way. Otherwise try to plan it so your car will almost stop itself with little to no braking. Brakes turn the forward energy created by burning gasoline into heat/friction on your brake rotors. The less braking you do, the less gas you are wasting.

Don’t Idle: This little trick gets me interesting looks at stop lights but can probably provide you with the biggest bang for your buck. Contrary to popular belief you aren’t going to do irreparable damage to your car, and the amount of gas it takes to start your engine wouldn’t even idle your car for 10 seconds.  I tried to be aware of light timing and would turn my engine off at stop lights. Another popular myth is that your car needs to warm up, the most effective way to increase the heat in your car is to drive it.  Don’t let your car sit in the drive for 30 minutes to get warm, just get in it and go.

Slow and Steady: You know those white signs on the side of the interstate with the black numbers on them. What are they called again? Speed Limits.  While most people call these suggestions, slowing down and going the speed limit can actually save you money. Fuel Efficiency in most vehicles starts to take a nose dive past around 60 mph so staying around 60 while driving can actually improve your fuel efficiency. During the conservative portion of my little test I never went over 55mph, EVER.  The people on the interstate hated me, but it gives you a little more time to relax on your way to work.

Car Maintenance: Maintaining your vehicle properly will not only extend the life of your car but will also improve your gas mileage. Make sure you are changing your oil and your air filters when needed. In addition maintaining proper tire pressure is very important. I actually keep my tires 11 psi above the vehicle recommended pressure. I am still below the tires maximum sidewall pressure but above the cars recommendation. This causes a bumpier ride but decreases friction and increases gas mileage.


1 anon August 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm

i agree with most of these tips as they have saved me a fortune in petrol, but i dissagree with over inflating tyres, it may not be at the max psi, but anything over the recomended psi is reducing your handling capabilities, depends on how/where u drive tho i guess.

good tips

2 Kyle August 19, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I stay within the limits of the tire itself, I find my car handles better with the higher PSI. I do not advocate going over the sidewall pressure on the tire though. You risk blowing one out.

3 Phil June 26, 2011 at 7:52 pm

My ’88 Plymouth Horizon handles best when I put 40 PSI in the front tires & 35 in the rears. The slight loss of traction is only noticed while doing 70 in a curve rated at 45, then all four tires will start screeching but hold the lane just fine.

4 Jennifer @ Improve Gas Mileage Guide August 20, 2009 at 8:55 pm

I have to agree with the anonymous poster that over-inflating tires above the recommended PSI is dangerous. You may know what you’re doing, but most people don’t and won’t know that going 11 PSI higher on their car’s tires could cause a blowout.

Other than that, your tips are great! There are so many different things people can do to improve gas mileage in their current vehicles that doesn’t include trading it in or buying fuel economy devices that may or may not work.

5 Kyle August 20, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I want to try to make myself more clear here, apparently it was confusing. DO NOT EXCEED THE MAXIMUM SIDEWALL PRESSURE OF YOUR TIRE. With that said, my vehicle, as in my Nissan Altima, states I should inflate my tires to 29 PSI the maximum pressure rating of the tires themselves is 40 PSI. I inflate my tires to approximately 35-39 PSI which keeps them within the maximum limits of my tires. Not to mention the maximum limit on your tires is a cold inflation rating and it is currently in the 80’s where I live. I could get away with even more air. The downside to exceeding the Vehicle manufacturers recommended tire pressure is possible uneven wear on the tires and a considerably rougher ride in the car. You gain gas mileage through reduced friction and you actually gain in handling of your car.

6 Paul Hutchings September 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Great Tips!

However, I would have to caution anyone to be wary of driver conducted road test results.

The thing to understand about these “tests” is that it’s virtually impossible to conduct a scientific test in your own day to day driving. There are so many variables at play such as:

-Energy levels in fuel
-Driving habits, etc.

The EPA recognizes these challenges to road tests and therefore requires that new car manufacturers utilize a very scientific test when rating mileage on new cars.

This is called the carbon mass balance test. It’s based upon the law of conservation of matter which states that “matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms”.

When you put fuel into a system, it has to come out the other end in the form of exhaust gasses, soot, and carbon. By understanding the molecular weight of the carbon exiting the vehicle it’s possible to calculate the efficiency of the engine.

This is the most widely trusted and recognized way to test engine efficiency.

The results from any other “road tests” would be highly suspect.

One tip to note: Don’t rule out fuel additives.

Using the carbon mass balance test, one can positively state that there are fuel treatments out there that do in fact increase engine efficiency.

In fact, there are treatments available that will increase engine efficiency enough so that the money saved on fuel will not only pay for the product but in fact, will put dollars back in the consumers pocket.

Happy Saving!

Paul Hutchings

Resources – How the EPA rates mileage – Why road tests will vary

7 ts September 19, 2009 at 1:01 pm

No “Jack Rabbit Starts”?? Where am I going anyway? Well, I’m probably trying to get to work, and you’re probably holding me up. And those people behind you all want to make it through the light that just turned green, but you obviously think that you’re the only person in the world that matters and you don’t care that you’re causing people extra time getting to places they need to be. I would rather pay the price for the extra gas that I use while being courteous to the other drivers on the road by not F’ing around and getting in people’s way.

In all seriousness, though.. the BEST thing you can do to increase your fuel mileage is to maintain a steady speed. You use alot more gas if you slow down 5mph and then speed back up repeatedly. And when people say you get better mileage when you drive slow.. that’s only true over 55-60. You will always get better mileage at 50mph than you would at 30mph. That’s a fact.

8 Kyle September 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Technically I wouldn’t be holding you up as I would be going the speed limit, it seems you may need to allow more time to get your destination as opposed to blatantly disregarding the speed limit.

In reference to your second point, you are correct gas mileage is better at 50mph than at 30 and starts to degrade around 60.

P.S. there is counseling for road rage.. 🙂

9 shadow September 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

you were on a good roll till you hit the part about idling and cold starting. You need to let your car warm up or its gonna running on cold oil you probably dont notice it as much cuz you probably drive an automatic but it causes rough shifting if you drive around with cold oil

10 MLR September 19, 2009 at 5:59 pm

MPG doesn’t necessarily get worse over 60mph.. it depends on the car.

And were your tests done only on 2 tanks of gas? Was the route EXACTLY the same for the whole tank (ie same ratio of city to highway driving)?

Just wondering, cause I’ve noticed changes over an extended period of time since I’ve been using Fuelly for more than a year now.. but I wouldn’t make any conclusions based on one tank of gas versus another.

I think Paul (above) made note of a few of the major variables at work.

But keep using Fuelly, good stuff!

11 CT September 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

I also gotta disagree with not letting the car warm up. Ya, that’s fine in the summer when its warm out but if you live where it actually reaches 0 degrees its helpful to engine life. If you just get in and go on a cold morning you aren’t allowing all the parts to warm up and expand which can cause excessive engine wear over the course of time. I suppose you could keep the gas savings around for a rebuild though.

12 Micah November 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I’d just like to throw in that the gas consumption starting your car isn’t the only factor involved in starting the car. The electric motor in the starter of your car consumes electricity, and causes additional wear on the engine to start it. The additional gas consumption from the 30 seconds you’d have your car off will not make up for the cost of replacing your starter 2-3 times faster than normal.

13 Kyle December 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Minor amounts of additional wear to the engine and starter MAY occur from more frequents stops and starts, however, the fuel cost savings more than outweigh the additional costs of restarting your vehicle. The California Consumer Energy Center states “Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving.”

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