Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gas mileage tips for cheaper road trips

I'm back from my vacation, which was most importantly fun and relaxing-- but being pretty darn affordable is a nice plus!

One thing that kept costs down was getting the best gas mileage we could manage. Considering that we used roughly 75 gallons of gas, it was a worthwhile priority.

Our fuel economy was helped, first and foremost, by my conversion to cruise control. I've never liked cruise control; it always kind of freaks me out to be zooming down the highway at top speeds and basically letting the car drive itself! Plus I worry that I'll get distracted if I have too little to think about while driving. But my boyfriend knows my weak spots; we calculated that it cost us about $1 more for every hour of me driving without cruise control versus him driving with it. So I gritted my teeth and plunged in, and although it took me maybe a half-hour to get through the jitters, it turned out to be not so bad. So, first tip: use cruise control! (At least if you're on mostly flat ground; if the terrain is hilly, you'll actually get worse gas mileage than if you were doing it yourself unless you're pretty bad at it.)

Another money-saving benefit of cruise control is that it cuts out the risk of inadvertently speeding faster than you intend, and ending up with a pricey speeding ticket. Of course, if you actually set your cruising speed that high...

Other ways to improve gas mileage:

  • Keep your speed down. Gas mileage declines dramatically when you get above 60 mph. We stayed at a pretty steady 70 mph, as speed limits varied from 65 to 75 on the highway. This is a hard one, though, when you have a long way to go and are impatient to get there.
  • Use air conditioning instead of opening windows. This surprised me, but apparently the aerodynamic impact of open windows on the highway is worse for gas mileage than using the air conditioner. (Or at least they're about the same; apparently there is some controversy on this point.) In slower or city driving, however, AC is definitely worse than keeping the windows down. And of course it's even better to keep the windows closed and the AC off, and just use the fan or nothing at all, if you can manage it... but on hot days, sometimes it's just not worth it! Driving at night or early in the morning can help, though.
  • Lighten your load. Not much we could do about this one, unfortunately. But at least we didn't use a roof rack, which is even worse.
  • Don't accelerate while going uphill. It's massively inefficient, so don't do it unless you really have to.
  • Keep your car well-maintained. Keeping your engine tuned-up, having a clean air-filter, clean oil, proper tire pressure, and other factors improve your fuel economy. Obviously taking care of your car will pay off financially in other ways, too!
Do you have any other tips or suggestions?


Kay at Don't Mess With Taxes said...

I don't worry too much about mileage as I work from home, but I am getting ready to take a road trip of my own and will certainly take advantage of your experience! For more in-town driving, though, some of these tips might help.

John W said...

You say don't accelerate uphil. Do you mean don't increase your speed at all? So take the hit in speed on the way up and gain it back on the other side?

I know my cruise always accelerates up inclines.

I think you have to accelerate at some point.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I think we all overlook is that your car is much less efficient the less gas you have in the tank. Your gas pump has to work alot harder when there is less gass in it. For example, my truck gets nearly 21 miles/gallon when hauling a full load if I fill up after I drive 150 miles. If I wait until I've gone 270 miles (or when the tank is about a quarter full), I get around 16-17 miles per gallon. Though you lose time in the trip, if you're concerned about oil and emissions keep a full tank.

Craig said...

Great money saving tips to improve your gas mileage. I agree, one of the best is using the cruise control. People also need to learn about saving money on car insurance. It will help with their problem solving.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I love all of the gas saving tips. I would like to share a link to a site with a great little program called GasDandy. GasDandy keeps track of gas mileage, reminds you when it is time for oil changes and even records business mileage and other information. Its free to try and very inexpensive to purchase. Check it out at http://www.gasdandy.com

Gas Mileage Calculator said...

Keeping the tire pressure high enough is one of the first gas saving things you should do. It's easy and if you did have your tires even a little bit underinflated it will make a big difference in mileage.

On our car I inflate the tires to the maximum allowed pressure printed on the tire sidewalls. It's quite a bit above what the vehicle manufacturer recommends but it reduces the rolling resistance making it possible to coast long distances. It also makes the ride a litte bumpy as the tires are harder.