How To Increase MPG for Cars

Updated December 15, 2016

When money is tight and fuel consumption is eating into your limited budget, finding ways to increase your car's miles per gallon (MPG) can help you keep a few extra dollars in your wallet. Fortunately, there are many small ways to increase your MPG, which over time, can add to significant savings in gas.

Pay attention to maintenance issues. A dirty air filter and spark plugs in poor working condition can impact MPG in older cars (cars with newer engines that use a computer to control the air-to-fuel ratio, dirty air filters no longer impact MPG). Tires that are under- or overinflated can lower your gas mileage.

Lighten your car's load. The more weighted down your car is, the harder the engine has to work, and the more gas it will use up. Clean out your boot and carry only the necessities. You can also help your car overcome air resistance by removing luggage and bike racks, and anything else on the exterior that isn't absolutely needed.

Pay attention to what goes in your gas tank. Use the gasoline with the lowest octane level that your car will tolerate. Your owner's manual will tell you what this is. Be sure to tighten your gas cap after you've pumped gas to prevent any from vaporising.

Alter your driving habits. Stop-and-go driving wastes more gas than accelerating gradually and maintaining a moderate speed for a long period of time. When you need to brake, do so gradually over a long distance as opposed to in one quick, jerky motion. This is the single most effective way to improve your mileage. Using cruise control and anticipating stop signs and lights can help you maintain a constant, moderate speed and come to a stop slowly. You may also consider, when possible, scheduling trips for times when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go driving.

Turn off your engine if you anticipate that you'll be idling for more than 30 seconds. While starting up your car does require a burst of energy, allowing a car to idle for long periods of time wastes even more fuel.

Use your air conditioner only when it's absolutely necessary. While using your air conditioner detracts from your MPG, driving with your windows down may as well. So remember to use your AC or lower your windows only if it's truly needed.

Park so that you can pull away without backing up. Having to back up out of a parking spot can eat up a lot of fuel, so if possible, park in such a way that you can simply pull out by going forward.

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About the Author

Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.