With gas prices as high as they are today, many people are looking for ways to save on gas. I drive a 2009 Ford Escape rated at 20MPG city and 28MPG highway. By following a couple common sense tips and slightly changing my driving habits, I have consistently been able to average 28-33MPG in city driving (18-40% better than the window sticker says). There have been a few occasions where I made over 34MPG for a whole tank worth of gas (although I am not usually that dedicated). I also find it harder to manage my MPG's when there is someone else in the car. Here are a couple simple rules to follow along with my techniques:

1. CHECK/INCREASE THE AIR PRESSURE IN TIRES -- It has been estimated that for every 1 pound of tire inflation you lose, your fuel mileage will suffer by about 5%. There is typically a difference in the recommended tire pressure on the sticker on your driver side door and the max tire pressure stated on the tire sidewall. Although not recommended (and possibly unsafe) you will see an increase in fuel mileage by having your tires a little over inflated or at least correctly inflated. Although I don't go all the way up to the max pressure on the tire sidewall, I do feel comfortable increasing my pressure a couple psi over what is on the door sticker, and have not had any issues.

2. LIGHTEN THE LOAD -- Get rid of any unnecessary items from the back of your vehicle, and consider not filling your gas tank all the way (one gallon of gas weighs about 6 pounds)

3. STOP GOING THROUGH DRIVE THRU WINDOWS -- If your car is running and you are not moving, you are wasting gas and dramatically affecting your fuel economy. Your best bet is to park your car and go inside. Or even better, pack a lunch and leave your car in the parking lot at work. The little trips seem to really have the most affect on fuel economy.

4. CUT OUT OR COMBINE TRIPS -- Try to run as many errands as possible in one trip. Hit the grocery store on your way home from work (school, the kids soccer game, etc.) and stock up on the items that you use the most (My wife usually has 2-3 loaves of bread in the freezer - none of our friends do this but saves us an extra stop every once in awhile). Combine shopping trips with a close friend or a neighbor.

5. CHANGE YOUR AIR FILTER REGULARLY -- The easier your car can breathe the better fuel economy you will get.

6. USE YOUR AC WISELY -- At slower speeds it is better to have your windows down (as little as possible), faster speeds make it more economical to use the AC.

7. TURN THE ENGINE OFF -- Starting your car typically uses about as much gas as idling for 30 seconds. If you will be sitting for longer than 30 seconds (train, long stop lights, bank line, etc) and you feel comfortable that you will not have a problem getting your car started when traffic is ready to move...shut it down.

8. THIS STEP IS THE MONEY SAVER -- Retrain yourself how to drive. No more jack rabbit starts (keep your RPM's as low as possible). No more speeding to the next stop light so that you can sit there and wait for it to turn green. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you and keep your feet off of the brakes as much as possible. Use your cruise control. If your vehicle has a tachometer (most do) find that sweet spot that your RPM's drop and lock in your cruise control at that speed. My route to work has a speed of 45 MPH. If I set my cruise at 45 my RPM's are around 2000. But if I go to 49 MPH, my RPM's drop down around 1500, thus going faster and using less fuel. If traffic allows it, I will usually leave it set in that range, but have found that once I have the cruise set at 49 with the lower RPM's, I can use the "SET -" button to decrease my speed to 45 or lower without increasing the RPM's. Once I have the cruise control on, I can manually adjust my speed with the "SET +" and "SET -" buttons without having to hit the brakes and reset the cruise. And if you look far enough ahead, you can adjust your speed appropriately so that at the most you only have to slow down a little at most stop lights.

9. That's pretty much it. I used to be a very aggressive driver. I would do the quick take offs from the lights, speed up, slam on the brakes, get mad because someone was in my way, not let other drivers merge, etc. etc. etc. It's a miracle that I never had a heart attack or stroke from stressing out at other drivers so much. Not any more. It's amazing how much easier it is to drive this way. And the funny thing is that I see the other drivers that drive like I once did and realize that they are not getting anywhere faster than me, and I usally end up being right next to them the whole way.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use your cruise control as much as possible
  • Use your brake as little as possible
  • I do not recommend turning your engine off while moving, as this could result in the loss of control of your vehicle