K5 All You Need to Know About How to Save Fuel on the Road

All You Need to Know About How to Save Fuel on the Road

Spread the love

Most driving instruction focuses on three areas: how not to bump into things, how not to get a ticket, and (optionally) how to avoid irking other road users. Fuel economy tends to hardly get mentioned. The difference to your gas bill can be pretty significant, though, as we’ll try to show you in this article: you can save up to 30% at highway speeds and as much as 40% in the city just by following a few simple guidelines. As a side bonus, you’ll also be helping to save the planet. This isn’t your sole responsibility, of course, but every little bit helps Mother Earth. Let’s take a look at how easy this can be:

Plan Ahead, Slow Down

If you regularly have to exceed the speed limit, chances are that you simply need to work on your time management skills. You can avoid a pretty significant amount of stress just by never having to worry about being late – and you’ll save a lot on gas besides. Moreover, thinking ahead often allows you to combine two or three trips into one, not only cutting down on the distance you have to cover but also reducing the amount of time during which your engine is running cold and therefore inefficiently.

Let’s talk about speed for a moment. We all have a kind of intuitive idea of what friction is: when it comes to driving, it’s usually a bad thing (except when we’re talking about braking, at which time it becomes kind of important). The thing to understand here is that air resistance increases (roughly) as the square of speed. Going just a little faster, in other words, means that your car has to push forward a lot harder just to overcome the force of the wind:

slowing down saves fuel

These values were calculated for a typical mid-range sedan. Don’t worry too much about the specific numbers, though: just soak in how much even moderate speeding on the highway increases your fuel costs (and take a moment to appreciate all your windshield does for you).

As a rule of thumb, you can think of every 5 m.p.h. over 50 as making your gasoline cost 20 ¢/gallon more than it should. To put this into perspective, this makes a difference of only a few minutes over a 20-mile trip – hardly enough for a bathroom break. Keeping to the speed limit is also not just about how to save fuel: a traffic ticket becomes much less likely, as does getting into a serious accident.

In Town: Be a Chauffeur, Not a Drag Racer

Basic physics tells us that it takes energy, meaning fuel, to push something and make it go faster. The harder you push, the more energy is expended. Knowing this, which of these drivers do you think knows how to save fuel?

how to save fuel driving city

Unless you’re lucky enough to own a car that features regenerative braking, all that power you expend on going “vroom, vroom” simply goes up in smoke, with no net benefit. When stop signs and traffic lights are involved, a Ferrari and a Volkswagen have exactly the same average speed.

A smoother ride is also a lot better for your car’s suspension and brakes, as well as more comfortable for passengers. The only time you will want to get to the next intersection as quickly as possible is in older cities with plenty of cars and little space between stops. Otherwise, people behind you may not be able to move on to the next block and end up causing a traffic jam.

On the Interstate: Control Your Cruise

In much the same way, it takes more fuel to regain speed you’ve lost on the highway than simply maintaining the same rate of travel. Setting your vehicle on cruise control allows you to watch the road rather than the speedometer – studies show that this alone can save you about 3½% on average highways, rising to between 8% and 16% if you use the economy cruise control setting (which will increase your travel time slightly).

Don’t take this as infallible wisdom, though. Driving on cruise control, or simply nursing the accelerator pedal, regulates the flow of fuel based on how fast the wheels are turning and little else. How can you save fuel while driving on hills if you don’t also take factors like engine torque into account? In hilly areas, you’re better off slowing down by about 10 mph on steep grades and increasing your speed by the same amount when going downhill (assuming that no cops are around to complain about your eco-friendly speeding).

Cars’ onboard computers are getting steadily smarter, so a modern vehicle may be able to compensate for increased loads without you having to do a thing. Most still can’t see the road ahead, though, so you should also not be shy about overriding the cruise control when the situation merits: if you see traffic bunching up ahead, for instance, or you’re coming up on a bend that’s best taken at reduced speed. This kind of thoughtful driving becomes a lot simpler when you maintain a decent following distance: one driving technique that could increase your fuel economy is to simply not tailgate.

Take a Load Off

Cargo and “car, go” aren’t the best of friends. Every extra pound of weight you haul around decreases your fuel economy – Formula One cars even use special lightweight paint in order to go faster while using less fuel. It’s estimated that every 100 lbs of weight adds one percent to your fuel costs. That’s not a lot, perhaps, but may be enough to motivate you to clean out all the odds and ends that have been rolling around in your trunk for the last couple of weeks (keep your roadside emergency kit, though).

Beyond the question of weight, roof-mounted storage also increases your car’s aerodynamic drag significantly, no matter how streamlined the box looks. These are nothing short of fantastic when you need one, but make a point of removing it unless you need the space for luggage. Racks for bicycles, skis and the like may seem like they aren’t large enough to make much of a difference, but you may be surprised at how much they increase your fuel consumption at highway speeds: up to 16% at 75 mph.

rooftop cargo boxes bad for mileage
© BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Idling Engines Do the Devil’s Work

In Japanese cities, it’s pretty uncommon for people to leave the engine running while waiting for the light to change; in fact, most cars sold in that country switch it off and on again without the driver having to turn the key. As a pedestrian, it’s a little eerie to hear all those motors fall silent in the middle of rush hour.

For waits of longer than about 15 seconds, however, this does save fuel, not to mention keeping the air outside a lot fresher. This is a good reason to buy a car with an automatic stop/start: a vehicle with a 3,000-cc engine wastes about one cup of gasoline for every 10 minutes spent idling. Be careful doing this with older cars, though. If your battery isn’t all it used to be, or your starter has seen better days, you may end up stranded and in need of a push.

Measure Up

Have you noticed that almost everybody thinks they’re a better-than-average driver? This is one manifestation of a well-known psychological phenomenon that has important implications for anyone trying to figure out how to save on fuel. To put it a little bluntly: one driving technique that could increase your fuel economy is to acknowledge that you’re not doing as well as you could and adapt accordingly.

How does this work in practice? Firstly, you’ll want to set your in-car display, assuming you have one, to show your current and average fuel consumption by default. This gives you immediate feedback on how much you’ll be paying at the pumps later: is driving to work using surface streets better than using the highway, for instance? Is easing up on the accelerator really a good way to trade a little time for a little money?

As an added incentive to save money on fuel, you may also want to install a driver performance monitoring system in your car. Though a device like this doesn’t have any direct effect on fuel economy, studies show that it can save you an average of 6.6% on gas just by reminding you to practice good driving habits, including those mentioned above. Don’t let yourself be put off by how much some of these cost: your car insurance provider will most likely be happy to give you an equivalent discount on your premiums if you install one. The reason for this is simple: the driving patterns that help you save on fuel happen to be pretty much the same ones that can prevent you from getting into an accident.

Drive Less

We’ve left the most obvious way of paying less for fuel until last here; the reason for that is that we don’t think many people will even seriously consider it. Think about the following for a moment, though: compared to similarly wealthy countries, Americans drive an insane amount.

There are numerous reasons for this, from simple geography to the price of fuel (at the time of writing this, gasoline costs $5.86 per gallon in Great Britain). Let’s not, however, make the mistake of thinking that what we’re used to is necessarily normal.

A healthy person can easily walk a mile in 20 minutes, and doing so makes them that much more likely to stay healthy. Next time you’re about to hop into the car, take a moment to think about how much time driving will really save you. For longer journeys, a train may get you there just as quickly for less and, if you take your business online, you may not have to make the trip at all.

* * *

Many of these tips amount to no more than common sense. Others that are often taken at face value turn out not to have any effect at all: voodoo gadgets and DIY fuel additives, for instance, will do nothing for your gas mileage (if auto manufacturers knew how to save fuel in this way, these devices would already be standard on every new car).

In the end, saving money on fuel often comes down to what the driver is doing. This also means listening to your car: simply tracking your gas mileage will often give early warning of a maintenance issue that’s about to rear its head. If you notice a drop in efficiency, for instance, it may mean that you’re driving with a bad fuel injector that could end up causing serious engine damage if not taken care of promptly. If you’re willing to learn how to drive stick (and perhaps study up a little on what’s going on under the hood), fuel-efficient driving habits will soon become second nature – how can you save fuel while driving on hills with an automatic transmission?

How much have you saved using these and other guidelines? The proof is in the pudding, after all, so let us know how things have gone once you’ve made a conscious effort to save on fuel.




    42 thoughts on “All You Need to Know About How to Save Fuel on the Road

    1. Lenard says:

      I drive the car a lot and the expenses for fuel are very big. I do not think that you can save a lot by driving slower but you should at least drive safe.

    2. Britney says:

      Speeding burns a lot of gas and also you can get a speed ticket.

    3. Simon says:

      I think that the speed should be accordingly limited everywhere.

    4. Berry says:

      I don’t think that turning on your engine on every traffic light will decrease the gas. And you are right, older vehicles will have problem with this.

    5. Bella says:

      If the car is maintained well and if it is new, the expense for gas will be smaller.

    6. Colin says:

      I like to drive and I do not pay attention to the gas expense, it is like every expense in the house something that you must pay

    7. Reno says:

      Every expense is a huge expense in this crisis. So we have to save on lot of things

    8. Boryan says:

      Do not speed and do not be in hurry never when driving. Not only because of you but for the others too.

    9. Afrodita says:

      Sometimes fuel economy is not that important, more important is to drive safe and not cause accidents on the road.

    10. Nela says:

      Exceeding the speed limit will only cause to get a speed ticket or to cause an accident

    11. Sabina says:

      The gas bill is the smallest expense of all, the maintenance of the car is bigger issue

    12. Larry says:

      Thank you for the tips Promoney

    13. Bilal says:

      In this situation I am working from home so at least I save on commuting and on the gas.

    14. Meredith says:

      I always tend to plan few trips in one, it saves me money and time.

    15. Soraya says:

      I drive every day, I go to work, so the gas bill takes a lot of my budget.

    16. Helen says:

      I like small and efficient cars that you can drive in the city, so when I buy a car I think how much it spend per mile.

    17. Lawrence says:

      Faster and bigger cars increase the expense for gas, so you should think how you drive.

    18. Letizia says:

      I had to sell my car because I was out of work in this pandemic. And I realized how much money I was spending on maintenance, gas and regular check-ups for the vehicle.

    19. Mirna says:

      If you are overloading your car you can save on fuel. But this is sometimes necessary

    20. Lily says:

      I enjoyed reading the article. You always provide some tips for saving

    21. Srdjan says:

      I am single and I don’t need a car. But I guess when having a family you need it. And it is an expense.

    22. Mirko says:

      My opinion is that if you have a car you should be ready to pay some expenses for it. The car is just like additional member to a family. You should take care of it.

    23. Darko says:

      Hopefully these tips work. I have to find some way to cut on fuel and maintenance of the car

    24. Vlada says:

      If your car takes a lot of fuel you should check with the mechanic. Probably it is something wrong with it

    25. Zvonko says:

      Spending a lot on fuel, it usually means that you do not use your car rationally or you drive very fast.

    26. Dragan says:

      Driving fast usually increases the gas bill.

    27. Vanja says:

      In my opinion everyone should follow the road speed limit.

    28. Darja says:

      Sometimes bad tires mean increase of the gas bill. You should pay attention to the maintenance of the car.

    29. Jagy says:

      Luckily I drive my car only for personal use. Once or twice a week. So I can cope with all the expenses.

    30. Jagoda says:

      With the pandemic and lot of people losing their jobs every expense is huge. The bills, the food and everything else. The car is only an additional expense that burden the home budget.

    31. Milos says:

      We are having two cars and believe it is an enormous expense. I would like to find a way to spend less. Thank you for all your tips.

    32. Momcilo says:

      It looks like we will have to change all our spending habits. This is the only way to save some money.

    33. Aki says:

      I never think about how much gas I use. I just go to the gas station and pay the bill.

    34. Anita says:

      Your articles are great. And we all want to follow some tips to spend less.

    35. Goran says:

      I like to drive. But I also like to cut on some of the expenses. I never drive too fast because it is not safe. Not because of the gas bill.

    36. Mladen says:

      Adjusting the speed to the road will definitely decrease your gas bill.

    37. Nemanja says:

      My opinion on the matter is that you should do as you feel comfortable as long as you drive safe. I don’t think that whatever you do will decrease the use of the fuel. Maybe a bit less but not by much.

    38. Voislav says:

      Sometimes driving safe is more important than everything else.

    39. Ann Margita says:

      In my house we all try to cut on the expenses because this is a very difficult period for all of us. We drive the car only when we need it.

    40. Marta says:

      In big cities the car is not a luxury. You will save on time by driving yourself.

    41. Pearl says:

      I do carpool with my colleagues. It reduces the gas bill for all of us.

    42. Minel says:

      I like to drive fast, but I always think how to drive save. The furl economy is not that important.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *