Everyday Driving Tips to Save Fuel

Get an Attitude Adjustment
Cruise control, not cruising. © Kevin Fleming/Corbis

Does it ever seem like you hit every red light, particularly when you're running late? Maybe it's Murphy's Law; maybe you're exceeding the timing of the lights; maybe the problem is your attitude. If so, it's probably costing you gas money.

So take a deep breath, count to 10 and put something soothing on the radio; you need to get into the groove. Coast into stop lights and stop signs (braking kills kinetic energy, wasting fuel). When the light turns green, accelerate easily and smoothly, but not too slowly. Try ramping up from 0-50 mph (0-81 kph) in around 15 seconds [source: Allen].

While sitting still at a light or curb, turn off the engine. Unless it's below freezing outside, modern car engines don't need to warm up. So, depending on your idle rpms and whether your AC is running, your car can gulp down 0.64-1.15 gallons (2.4-4.4 liters) per hour while sitting still. By comparison, starting your engine only costs a few seconds' worth of gas [sources: Allen; Car Talk; Gaines and Levinson; GSA; Reed; Yetiv].

On the highway, kick in the cruise control to ensure you don't squander go-juice. Lock in your car's most efficient speed (typically between 45 and 55 mph, or 72 and 86 kph). If you really want to go for broke, try to make right turns only, even if it takes you out of your way. Package delivery companies have been known to employ this strategy, and it apparently saves enough idling time to make a difference [source: Allen; Car Talk; GSA; Wiesenfelder; Yetiv].

Author's Note: Everyday Driving Tips to Save Fuel

Over the past few years, I've heard a number of "sure bets" for gaining mileage, and I'm always left with the feeling that someone is trying to sell me a bridge, a few acres of swamp land or the latest conspiracy theory. I enjoyed having the chance to finally nail down which of these supposed solutions work and to what extent.

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  • Allen, Mike. "6 Driving Tactics to Save Gas This Summer." Popular Mechanics. May 25, 2011. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/fuel-economy/6-driving-tactics-to-save-gas-this-weekend
  • Car Talk. "Guide to Better Fuel Economy." http://www.cartalk.com/content/guide-better-fuel-economy
  • Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc. "Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements." December 2001. http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/pdfs/OwnerRelatedFuelEconomyImprovements.pdf
  • Gaines and Levinson. "Idling: Cruising the Fuel Inefficiency Expressway." Center for Transportation Research. June 2011. http://www.afdc.energy.gov/pdfs/idling_reduction_primer.pdf
  • Reed, Philip. "Change Your Driving Habits (and Save Gas!)." Edmunds.com. May 5, 2009. http://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/change-your-driving-habits-and-save-gas.html
  • Siler, Steve. "2012 Nissan GT-R." Car and Driver. October 2010. http://www.caranddriver.com/news/nissan-gt-r-news-2012-nissan-gt-r-photos-and-info
  • U.S. Department of Energy. "Driving More Efficiently." http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drivehabits.shtml
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update." July 23, 2013. http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/gasdiesel/
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Fuel Economy." http://www.fueleconomy.gov/
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Model Year 2013 Fuel Economy Guide." http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/pdfs/guides/FEG2013.pdf
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Model Year 2014 Fuel Economy Guide." http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/pdfs/guides/FEG2014.pdf
  • U.S. General Services Agency. "Top 10 Fuel Saving Tips." http://www.gsa.gov/graphics/fas/FuelSavingTips.pdf
  • Wiesenfelder, Joe. "Tips for Saving Fuel." Cars.com. http://www.cars.com/go/advice/Story.jsp?section=fuel&subject=fuelTips&story=mpgSave&referer=advice
  • Yetiv, Steve. "Earth Day: Five Driving Tips That Could Save You Gas Money and Help the Environment." Christian Science Monitor. April 22, 2010. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0422/Earth-Day-Five-driving-tips-that-could-save-you-gas-money-and-help-the-environment


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