16 Driving Tips to Improve Gas Mileage

Fuel costs have been rising steadily for a few years, and even more-so these past few months, and probably won’t be going down any time soon.  Similarly, CO2 emissions have more than doubled in the last twenty years.  We are finally hitting a road block where we need to accept that we have no choice but to change our driving habits to improve gas mileage. It is hard to deny that pollution causes serious problems for our environment and that cars on the road spew out a lot of pollution.  When we bought our 2011 Subaru Outback having it be a PZEV was important to us on the emissions front and the fact it gives us 9.5 km/litre city and 6.9 kn/litre highway meant we’d save gas and that was attractive as well considering how much cargo capacity it has.

We can’t always just drive less – this isn’t practical advice for most of us.  And it isn’t always practical to buy hybrid vehicles. We live busy lives, but we can at least change our driving habits to reduce our fuel expenditures and protect the environment at the same time.

16 Driving Tips to Improve Gas Mileage

Here are sixteen ways you can conserve fuel and improve gas mileage:

  1. Slow down, obey the speed limit.  When you drive faster your engine works harder and consumes more fuel.  You can save about 7%-10% of your fuel every time you reduce your speed by 10 kilometers per hour.
  2. Try car pooling.  Split the gas cost of commuting.  If you can split this expense you will spend much less on fuel.
  3. Consolidate trips.  Try to run multiple errands in a single trip.  Your car won’t need to warm up as often and you will spend less time and fuel traveling back and forth to your destinations.
  4. Get a Tune Up.  Making sure the fluids and moving pieces in your engine and other vehicle systems will ensure that the fuel you burn is maximized.
  5. Reduce drag.  Items such as roof racks, ski racks and roof boxes mean there is more friction trying to cut through the wind you are driving through.  If you can remove these items you reduce drag.
  6. Keep your tires properly inflated.  You can improve your gas mileage consumption by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI drop in pressure. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.
  7. Fill up during the coolest part of the day.  Gas is a liquid and will be densest during the coolest part of the day.  You want to fill up when the gas will be densest as fuel is sold in volume, not weight.
  8. Keep the load light.  Don’t drive with more stuff than you need to, which can be accomplished by cleaning out your trunk.  The same goes for keeping a boat or camping trailer attached to your car when you’re not needing them.  The extra weight decreases gas mileage. Every 250 pounds your car is carrying will reduce fuel economy by 1 mpg.
  9. Check your car’s air filter.  A dirty air filter will reduce performance and will not improve gas mileage.
  10. Use cruise control.  Try to drive as smoothly as possible and use cruise control when possible to maintain your speed.  Constantly accelerating and reducing your speed can cause you to waste a third of your gas.
  11. Don’t try to save those few pennies.  Your car will spend more fuel while idling in line waiting for access to the pump than you will save at the pump itself.
  12. Don’t ride the brakes.  Not only is this bad for your brakes, but it can force you to spend 35% more on fuel.
  13. Check your gas cap.  Gas evaporates and if you don’t tighten the cap you will lose litres/gallons of fuel!
  14. Get an engine tune up.  Make sure that you get regular tune ups.  Doing so will keep your car running properly and help you save on your gas costs.
  15. Avoid Idling. When you are idling you are burning fuel but not getting any miles per gallon.  Turn that engine off if you plan to be stopped for 30 seconds or more.
  16. Use people power. When possible ride a bike, roller blade or walk to where you need to go.  This week in Peterborough there is a program called Shifting Gears where employers compete to see who burns the least carbon in their commute.  Some great prizes for participants too.

As much as most people dislike high gas prices, they probably aren’t going down anytime soon.  Practicing better driving skills will save you money on fuel and make your car last longer at the same time.  The environment and your wallet will thank for your efforts as well.

46 comments to 16 Driving Tips to Improve Gas Mileage

  • I think somewhere between 70 and 90 km/h is optimal for my car, so sometimes speeding is good (if you want to save gas). However, most of the time I drive faster than this because the gas savings comes out to between $1 and $3 per 100 km and I don’t drive that much to begin with. Even at 100 km/h I’ll get between 5.5 and 6.5/100 which is good.

    • What do you drive to get such low highway mileage?
      70-90 is likely optimal for us too but the 401 dictates that driving even the “limit” means you may be in danger as everyone else seems to do 120 km/h min.

  • I do #2 and #16. My hubby drops me off in the morning and I walk home after work. Unfortunately I am having to move offices so I may be forced to have to drive again. I just found out this week and I am really upset.
    I am going to look into bus routes but I am not sure if they are going to work out.

  • I know it seems the most obvious, but I really appreciate you including #16 to the list. People just seem to forget God gave us legs for a reason. Now if only I could speed-walk 60 mph!
    Thanks,
    Timothy

  • Good ideas! A steady speed is equally important on the freeways and highways for good gas mileage. It necessitates watching way ahead to insure you can maintain a steady speed particularly in rush hour traffic. If you start and stop a lot, it is detrimental to high MPG.

    • We’re very happy we don’t have to commute to work – well, unless you count our 1.2 km (4/5 of a mile) walk / bike. Proximity to the downtown was one of the factors in buying our home.

  • Nice list of tips! I always do the speed limit – not only just to conserve fuel but because I don’t want a ticket!! I fill up in the mornings just because it’s so hot to pump gas in the afternoon – didn’t know I was also saving money :)

  • Awesome post! It looks like gas has stoped increasing in price but it is still way to high. This is a great list of tips to help canadian consumers. I remember reading the engine is most optimal in saving gas at 100km/hr.

    • Did you see our Weekend Reading last week? Or the week before? I don’t recall but I linked to a really good article by Len Penzo who shows gas is still super cheap compared to a lot of other liquids (like Starbucks or Red Bull!).

  • My Own Advisor

    Nice tips!

    Another one? Avoid “gunning it” from the stoplights. Quick acceleration really opens up the fuel lines; unnecessarily!

    BTW – huge kudos to you guys for being nominated by the Globe and Mail today, as one of Canada’s best personal finance blogs. An amazing feat!!! Well done, keep up the great work and of course, good luck with the voting process!

    Stay in touch!
    Mark

  • Untemplater

    Wow those are great tips. I didn’t know about filling up at the coolest time of day made a difference. I try to take public transit as much as possible to save money and also bc parking in SF is terrible. I’ll definitely follow your tips on my next road trip!

  • I know some folks, especially the younger ones, who drive for the sake of driving with no intention of going anywhere. Waste that cannot be recovered.

  • Neha

    Another imp aspect to improve on your fuel is to learn how to shift your gears at the appropriate speed, there by which not only increases your fuel capacity but also does not wear off your car’s engine. In short learn to listen to your engine while driving, she may not speaking verbally, but she surly speaks audibly. Good luck Drivers!!

  • Amanda

    Good tips! Except #7 is wrong. Gas is sold by ADJUSTED volume (there is usually a sticker on the pump that tells you volumes are adjusted to 15 C), so it doesn’t matter what the external temperature actually is.

    Do you find that your actual gas mileage in the Outback is close to the spec value? Our smaller Impreza (granted, a 2006 model, so less efficient) is typically 8 L hwy, 10 L city — disappointing.

    • I’ve read both sides of the argument to #7. I honestly can’t figure out who is right/wrong.
      I’m not entirely sure what we get in the OB city vs highway. We never have a tank of gas that gets used solely in one setting. Since we imported our Subaru (and saved almost $10k) i’m getting used to MPG and the reading the car gives us. After the first 2000 miles I re-set the counter as I know new cars need a bit of breaking in. Since that time we’ve averaged 27 mpg and the OB is rated 21 mpg city and 29mpg highway. We do a LOT of highway driving however (we walk to work). But overall we’re enjoying the changes made to the 2010 OB – the 2009 and newer OBs didn’t get very good gas consumption.

  • Slowing down is my biggest issue. Being as curious as I am, I have tested how gas is consumed by my car with varying speeds, and I have seen the results, but I just cant drive in the slow lane. I am very impatient.

  • Josh

    There are also GPS units such as the Garmin 1350LMT that offer a feature called ecoRoute. This feature will adjust your route to give you the best fuel mileage possible. On shorter trips I have not noticed any real increase but on longer trips I have noticed almost a 10% increase in fuel mileage.

  • Great tips SPF! Another on to add might be to buy yourself a GPS unit and subscribe to a traffic service. It can save quit a bit in gas and time commuting to and from work.

  • Geoff K

    My favorite post was “16 Driving Tips to Improve Gas Mileage” – I learned a lot of great tips for improving the longevity and sustainability of my car, especially as I’ve had a number of long road tips while moving and interviewing for jobs recently. Thanks!

    And what I like most about your site is that you provide useful and practical info is a very accessible and easy-to-implement way, which I as a reader really appreciate!

  • cocktail dress

    Saving money is huge for me. Gas mileage has become one of those issues that I just couldn’t fit into my budgeting plan. I had a V8 prior to the electric car I now have. These are great tips though.

  • Urdu Shayari

    Great tips SPF! Another on to add might be to buy yourself a GPS unit and subscribe to a traffic service. It can save quit a bit in gas and time commuting to and from work.

    • Totally agree Urdu. A lot of GPS can tell you an “eco” route. I do wonder about those however. Whenever you have to slow down and then increase speed again on highway conditions you use a lot of fuel.

  • Urdu Shayari

    I know it seems the most obvious, but I really appreciate you including #16 to the list. People just seem to forget God gave us legs for a reason. Now if only I could speed-walk 60 mph!
    Thanks

  • Urdu Shayari

    Saving money is huge for me. Gas mileage has become one of those issues that I just couldn’t fit into my budgeting plan. I had a V8 prior to the electric car I now have. These are great tips though.

  • Exam-Results

    Slowing down is my biggest issue. Being as curious as I am, I have tested how gas is consumed by my car with varying speeds, and I have seen the results, but I just cant drive in the slow lane. I am very impatient.

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