How To Get Better Gas Mileage: 8 Simple Ways

Article Summary:

The best ways to get better gas mileage include keeping your car well maintained, buying an electric vehicle, keeping your air filters clean, and avoiding driving habits that guzzle gas. When in doubt, take your car to the repair shop for a checkup.

If you are like most people, you want to find ways to save money on gas. Sometimes. this includes obvious ways like cutting down on the number of road trips you take. Getting better fuel economy, though, is still a must.

Not all of us can trim down the number of miles we drive. So, for the sake of your wallet (and the planet), it’s smart to improve gas mileage. This guide will help you learn how you can make the most of every drop of gas.

How to get better gas mileage

In total, we have eight tips for you. That’s eight simple ways to get better gas mileage. Here’s a summary:

Summary of how to get better gas mileage

  1. Check your tires
  2. Drive carefully
  3. Avoid idling your car
  4. Keep your engine maintained
  5. Buy a fuel-efficient car
  6. Use cruise control
  7. Avoid loading up your car with stuff
  8. Reduce AC and 12-volt outlet use

Let’s take a closer look at each one. It’s worth noting that some of these tips only work for people who are in the market for a new car. If you aren’t able to buy a new car right now, just file these tips away for future use. You’ll still find some tips you can use without upgrading your automobile.

1. Check your tires

Tires are a remarkably large part of your car’s fuel efficiency, and it makes sense. Tires that are low in pressure, are filled with bumps, or are poorly aligned will drag rather than roll. This leads to your engine exerting more effort to go the same distance.

If you want to maximize your gas mileage, check your tire pressure and keep it filled at the proper gauge for your car. Once a month, check to see if your tire alignment and treads are up to par, too. When you have high-quality tires that are aligned and fresh, you’ll get better mileage.

Pro tip — Low air pressure can occur as a result of weather fluctuations, but it’s still best to keep your tires filled to their proper level. You lose about 3.3% of your fuel economy for every 10 psi your car’s tires are underinflated. Besides, it contributes to premature tire wear.

2. Drive carefully

Don’t have enough cash to get new tires? Getting better gas mileage might be easier than you think. You can lower your driving costs by choosing to drive slowly and carefully. Studies show that driving your car slowly (ideally at the speed limit) will reduce the amount of gas used.

Along with driving more slowly, it’s important to avoid hard braking and rapid acceleration. This can improve fuel economy by reducing the stop-and-go that forces the engine to work harder.

Something to consider. An additional benefit of driving carefully, of course, is that you’ll be less likely to get in an accident. Some auto insurance carriers have programs that allow you to save money by proving you are a safe driver, which can also help you save money.

3. Avoid idling your car

Generally speaking, there are a couple of rules of thumb that can help you improve your gas mileage. First, make sure that your car’s engine doesn’t have to work harder than it needs to. Second, make sure your car isn’t running when it doesn’t have to be.

Avoiding idling your car helps you abide by these rules. When you’re idling, you are not moving. You’re just sitting there, running your car, wasting gas. So, if you can, don’t idle that car.

4. Keep your engine maintained

Every car will have a maintenance schedule that it needs to follow. You should never wait until that glowing “check engine” light tells you it’s time to go to the mechanic. What does this mean? Well…

How to keep your engine maintained

  1. Make sure that you change your car’s motor oil every 3,000 miles. This applies if you have a regular gas car. Motor oil is the lubricant that keeps your engine running smoothly. Without it, your engine will work harder and harder until it can no longer run. This guzzles gas and wrecks your engine.
  2. Check your air filter. A grimy air filter reduces airflow to the engine. Your engine needs oxygen to create the combustion necessary for the engine to move. Although a study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that a clogged air filter has little effect on gas mileage, particularly with newer vehicles, ensuring you replace your air filter regularly can improve your car’s performance while costing you little, and it could offer a modest mileage benefit for certain older vehicles. And, despite the study, anecdotal reports of more significant effects are easy to come by. At their worst, these reports warn that you could have your car’s oxygen sensor fail and have a catalytic converter fail, too. This leads to a very expensive catalytic converter repair bill and reduced fuel economy.
  3. Get new spark plugs. Did you know that spark plugs can help increase fuel economy? It’s true. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) observed years ago that bad spark plugs can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as 30%. No study we’re aware of has since called that figure into question.

5. Buy a fuel-efficient car

Are you in the market for a new car? Well, you might have some luck in increasing your efficiency. The easiest way to make sure that you get better gas mileage is to get an electric car, or at the very least, a hybrid model.

When charged properly, hybrid cars can get as much as 100 miles per gallon or more. As for all-electric vehicles, since these use no gas, they don’t so much improve your gas mileage as eliminate the issue entirely.

If you want to avoid “gas guzzlers” altogether, avoid SUVs, crossovers, and sports cars.

A home science project?Our editor, who sometimes has strange ideas, suggests that you could get a gas mileage figure for an all-electric vehicle. Here’s the procedure for your home experiment:

  1. Figure out a way to charge your EV using a gas-powered generator.
  2. Deplete your EV’s batteries to a level you can remember or record.
  3. Note the amount of gas in your generator before charging your EV.
  4. Make sure your generator is not providing power to anything else. It shouldn’t be doing anything but charging your EV.
  5. Charge your EV.
  6. Record how much gas your generator used up charging the EV.
  7. Drive the EV until its batteries reach the level of depletion you noted earlier.
  8. Record how many miles you were able to drive.
  9. Divide this number of miles by the number of gallons of gas your generator used to complete the charge.
  10. Voilà: you now know the miles per gallon your EV gets.

6. Use cruise control

As it turns out, some of those “fancy features” aren’t just for an easier drive. Cruise control can actually help you save gas. Studies show that cruise control usage can boost fuel efficiency by as much as 14%. For long-haul drives, that can make a huge difference and even help you stretch your gas to the next gas station.

7. Avoid loading up your car with stuff

You may love keeping some extra boxes in your car, or even keeping a large bugout bag in your trunk. However, this can actually reduce fuel economy pretty significantly. The more weight your car has to haul, the more gas it will need to use to get where you need it to go.

8. Reduce AC and 12-volt outlet use

Believe it or not, an easy way to get better gas mileage is to lower your AC use and drive with the windows rolled up. According to the EPA, you can increase fuel economy by 25% by not using your air-conditioning. Obviously, this is not always feasible because a car can heat up pretty quickly. Don’t die to save gas!

On a similar note, your 12-volt power outlet (occasionally known as a “cigarette lighter”) can also contribute to gas mileage loss. That’s because it’s sucking away energy that could be used to get your car moving.

Put a bit more technically: Using your 12-volt power outlet to recharge or run devices, such as a cooler, increases the electrical load on your alternator. This, in turn, causes your alternator to pull more power from your engine.

Best car mileage on the market today

If you want to get good mileage for years to come, it’s going to cost more than replacing a dirty air filter. You are going to need to buy a car that is designed to save gas. That, of course, will require financing.

As you consider financing options, here below are the vehicles rated as the most fuel-efficient on the market right now (end of June 2022).

Make & ModelOverall MPG/MPGeCity MPGHighway MPG
Toyota Prius Prime133/50382622
Tesla Model 3 Long Range130136123
Hyundai Kona Electric Limited120132108
Chevrolet Bolt 2LT120120109
Chevrolet Bolt EUV Premier115124105
Kia Niro Electric EX Premium112123102
Nissan Leaf SL Plus10411494
Honda Insight EX544462
Pro tip — While mileage is important, remember that there is more to buying a car than fuel efficiency. Reliability matters, too. So, read up on the most unreliable and expensive to fix cars on the market.

FAQ

What trick gets the best gas mileage?

The best way to get better gas mileage is to avoid stop-and-go traffic whenever possible, and to drive carefully.

What causes poor gas mileage?

In most cases, poor gas mileage is caused by a poorly maintained car. Everything from bad oxygen sensors to a wheel bearing problem can lead to increased drag and pressure on the engine. Car owners who want to “wait repairs out” will inevitably pay extra in wear, tear, and gas.

Does a cold air intake increase mpg?

Yes, having a cold air intake will increase your gas mileage, but only by 3 to 5 mpg at most. If the engine already has fairly cold air, it will not actually help you save more gas.

Does going faster use more gas?

Yes, going faster uses more gas. The real measure of gas mileage is often the RPMs of your car. The more rotations per minute your car makes, the harder the engine works, which means the more gas you have to worry about.

Key takeaways

  • If you want to get better gas mileage while you’re on the road, drive the speed limit and avoid rush hour traffic.
  • Keep an eye on your tire pressure, tire alignment, and oil if you want to keep your mileage efficient. Take your air filter into account for potential performance improvements and, possibly, modest gas mileage effects with some older vehicles.
  • The most gas-efficient cars are going to be electric vehicles (electric-only autos use no gas), followed by hybrids.
  • If you buy a gas-powered car, stick to four-cylinder engines, since they require less gas.
  • Reducing the use of your AC can help save gas.
  • For additional benefit, avoid plugging high-power-consumption devices into your car’s 12-volt power outlet (“cigarette lighter”).

Financial training for hard times

When the prices of essentials rise rapidly, as they were doing when this article was written, times can be hard. But hard financial times are a part of most people’s lives at one point or another, rapidly rising prices or not.

Sound financial training can help you avoid hard times or make them shorter or less unpleasant when they come. SuperMoney’s many personal finance articles are designed to help you raise your financial IQ during times when you need it the most. Best of all, these articles are free!

While you might be struggling now, knowledge is still close at hand. Check out our articles about car hacks and ways you might be wasting money to start.

View Article Sources
  1. Cars, SUVs, and Trucks With the Best Fuel Economy — Consumer Reports
  2. Do Cold Air Intakes Increase MPG? — Automotive Answers
  3. Discussions of car power consumption, electrical devices, and the alternator — Stack Exchange and Clean MPG
  4. Driving More Efficiently — U.S. Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency
  5. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Vehicle Fuel Economy — Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  6. Gasoline prices top $5 a gallon nationally for the first time and are likely headed higher — CNBC
  7. Helpful background articles — AAA and The Drive
  8. Fuel economy in hot weather — U.S. Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency
  9. Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape — U.S. Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency
  10. It’s Easy Being “Green” — National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
    This is the most recent successful archive of the article found on the Internet Archive.
  11. How To Find Auto Insurance That Covers Any Driver — SuperMoney
  12. How To Make Clever Money Decisions by Improving Your Financial IQ — SuperMoney
  13. Ultimate Guide to Auto Repair Finance — SuperMoney