03/02/12

Fuel Efficiency: Top Tips to Save Gas and Money (Comprehensive Guide)

While we don’t have a silver bullet for beating rising gas prices – which are $3.68/gallon on average nationwide in May 2012 – we can offer many tips for saving you gas and money. Maintaining your car, driving more efficiently, and using vehicle tax credits can reduce your pain at the pump. Follow our “cheat sheet,” watch our videos, and read our detailed suggestions to see how simple strategies to save gas can also improve your driving, increase the longevity of your tires, and even help you beat traffic!

 FUEL EFFICIENCY TIPS

 MPG INCREASE

 ANNUAL SAVINGS

Smart Driving
Avoid Aggressive Driving up to 33%  $981
Drive safe (highway) up to 10%  $218
Lose 100 pounds from trunk up to 2%  $40
 Car Maintenance
 Tune Up Vehicle up to 4%  $82
 Fix Oxygen Sensor up to 40%  $1,308
 Keep tires inflated up to 3%  $61
 Use recommended oil up to 2%    $40
 Fuel Efficient Car Switching from
20 MPG to 30
MPG vehicle
$930 in fuel costs*

The MPG increases and dollar savings are estimated for each tip based on data from 2011 Transportation Energy Data Book and U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) assuming vehicle fuel economy as 21.2MPG, average national gas price as $3.68/gallon, and annual 11,300 miles of travel. Actual results depend on how well you already follow these practices, whether you use more than one tip at a time, and other factors.

* Sources: Alliance to Save Energy research & Department of Energy

Smart Driving Tips

Big tip: Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.

  • Slow down. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour (MPH). DOE says each 5 MPH over 60 is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon for gas.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling can waste a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use. But it only takes a few seconds’ worth of fuel to restart your engine, according to DOE.
  • Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
  • Engage the overdrive gear.  With overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.
  • Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing gas costs, time and stress!
  • Ditch the junk in the trunk. Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds in your trunk could reduce mileage by 2%.
  • Lose that loaded roof rack. Taking of off your bikes, luggage and anything else you’ve been lugging around longer than needed can decrease your fuel economy by 5%.

Vehicle Maintenance Tips

  • Tune up. Fixing a car that’s out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%.
    Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%!
  • Keep tires inflated. Properly inflated tires can improve mileage by up to 3.3%. Conversely, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires, according to DOE. In addition, proper inflation improves tire longevity and your safety while driving. DOE cautions not to go by the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall. Instead, find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle – it should be on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb, in the glove box, and/or in your owner’s manual.                                                                          
  • Use the right oil. Not using manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil may lower your gas mileage by      1-2%. DOE also advises looking for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.

Commuting Tips

  • Got more than one vehicle? Use the more fuel-efficient one.
  • Don’t drive solo.  Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy.
  • Consider using public transit if it is available and convenient for you.  The American Public Transit Transportation Association has information about public transportation in your state.                                                                                                                               

Tips for New or Soon-to-be Car Owners

Electric Vehicle Tax Credit. Battery-powered, plug-in cars may be eligible for a credit of up to $7,500 if you bought it in 2011. Use IRS form 8834 [PDF] for personal vehicles and form 3800 [PDF] for business use, and see our top tax credit resource for more information.

A smaller credit of up to $2,500 for certain “low-speed” neighborhood electric vehicles is available.

A credit also exists for conversion of vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles; it is worth 10% of costs up to $40,000.

Buying a new or used car? Think high gas mileage. Switching from a car with 20 MPG to one with 30 MPG will save you $930 in fuel costs in your first year, and $4,650 in five years! Check out DOE’s fuel economy website or look for a SmartWay© certified vehicle on EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.

More on Fuel Efficiency

Alliance Communications Intern Sumayal Shrestha greatly contributed to this resource.