Fuel-Saving Tips to Reduce Pain at the Pump

Fuel-Saving Tips to Reduce Pain at the Pump

Who couldn’t use a little extra money at the end of the month?  Cutting back your gas expenses is a great way to pad your bank account. By stretching each tank of gas a little further, you can reduce the number of times you must fill up per month, which can help you stick to your budget.

Consider implementing some of the following tips, adapted from 



Driving More Efficiently

Drive Sensibly

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes a lot of gas.  It can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic. 


Driver feedback devices

 can help you drive more efficiently.  A recent study suggests that they can help the average driver improve fuel economy by about 3% and that people using them specifically to save fuel can improve gas mileage by about 10%.  To get such a device, you can buy one online or simply download an app to your phone.  Many auto insurance companies also offer them for free, and will provide discounts to safer drivers.

Sensible driving is also safer for everyone on the road, so you might save more than just gas money.

Observe the Speed Limit

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

It may not be feasible to slow down to 50, but every little bit helps.  You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.16 per gallon for gas.  

Or, for more specific information, you can click here to find the mileage penalty for your particular car.

Observing the speed limit is safer for you, your family, and for all the drivers around you.  In addition, you don’t have to worry about speeding tickets, potentially saving you hundreds more dollars beyond just the fuel savings.

Avoid Excessive Idling

Despite popular belief, it is not more efficient to leave your engine running for short stops.  It only takes about 10 seconds’ worth of fuel to restart your vehicle, so turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked.  Idling can waste up to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, and eliminating it will save more fuel than you might think.


Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape

Keep Your Car Properly Tuned

Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%, though results vary based on the kind of repair and how well it is done.  Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.

Use the Recommended Grade of Motor Oil

You can improve your gas mileage by 1%–2% by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1%–2%. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1%–1.5%. Also, look for motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

You can improve your gas mileage by 0.6% on average—up to 3% in some cases—by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver's side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner's manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire's sidewall.

Make Sure the Gas Cap Is on Tight

One reason you may not be getting the mileage you expect is because there isn't as much gas in your tank as you think. 150 million gallons of gas per year are lost due to evaporation. Minimize the effects of evaporation on your fuel by ensuring the gas cap is screwed on tightly every time you fill up.


Planning and Combining Trips

  • Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money.  When you have multiple places to go, try to plan your stops to reduce backtracking.  Reducing the number of miles you drive is the best way to significantly save on fuel.
  • Your fuel economy is worse when your engine is cold than when it is warmed up. So, several short trips taken from a cold start can use up to twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip, even if covering the same distance.  Trip planning can reduce the amount of time you drive with a cold engine, increasing your average miles per gallon.
  • Schedule your trips to avoid peak rush hours.  This will reduce idle time and stop/start traffic.
  • Drive your most fuel-efficient vehicle whenever possible.
  • Consider carpooling to work. You can cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car if you take turns driving with others.
  • Consider telecommuting (working from home) if your employer permits it.


Fuel Economy in Cold Weather

Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly. 

Fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional gasoline car's gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. It can drop as much as 22% for very short trips (3 to 4 miles).  The effect on hybrids is worse. Their fuel economy can drop about 31% to 34% under these conditions.

What can I do to improve my fuel economy in cold weather?

You may not be able to completely mitigate cold weather's effect on your fuel economy, but you can do some simple things to help your gas mileage:

  • Park your car in a warmer place, such as your garage, to increase the initial temperature of your engine and cabin.
  • Combine trips when possible so that you drive less often with a cold engine.
  • Minimize idling your car to warm it up. Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds of warm-up. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions.


Fuel Economy in Hot Weather

Hot weather can actually increase your fuel economy. Your engine warms up to an efficient temperature faster; summer grades of gasoline have slightly more energy per gallon; and warm air causes less aerodynamic drag than cold air.

However, keeping passengers comfortable in hot weather by rolling down the windows or using the air conditioning (AC) can significantly reduce fuel economy.

What can I do to improve my fuel economy in hot weather?

  • Roll the windows down at lower speeds; use the AC at highway speeds.
  • Don't use the AC more than needed or set the temperature lower than needed.
  • Park in the shade or use a sunshade so that the cabin doesn't get as hot.
  • Drive with the windows open for a short time before using the AC. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the AC and help your vehicle cool faster. 
  • Don't idle with the AC running before driving. Turn the AC on after you begin to drive or after airing out the cabin briefly. Most AC systems will cool the vehicle faster while driving.