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The 4 best ways to improve gas mileage

When gas prices go up, so do the number of tips we hear on how to save. Some are good, others silly. Here's what you need to know to actually reduce your pain at the pump.

By Stacy Johnson May 18, 2011 12:52PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at Money Talks News.


With average pump prices near $4 a gallon nationwide, the Web is full of ideas to use less. Some tips are certainly worth considering. But there's also a lot of myth and misinformation out there. For example, ever heard that you should only buy gas in the morning because fuel volume decreases as the outside temperature rises?


While most tips sprout from a kernel of truth, many produce so little effect they're not worth considering. (According to Consumer Reports, buying gas in the morning falls into that category.)


Stacy Johnson conducted a little quiz to find out what people think are the best ways to save. See how you do by checking out the video below, then read on to learn the best ways to prime yourself for the pump.

The best way to improve your fuel efficiency is simple: Uuse your gas and brake pedals judiciously. Here are the top fuel savers, in order of maximum benefit:

  • Drive proactively. Rapid acceleration and hard braking can lower your mileage by up to 37%, according to Look at the road ahead, and try to use your brake and gas pedals as little as possible. (Bonus: This may save you on insurance too, if you have a pay-as-you-drive policy.)
  • Slow down. Going the speed limit -- instead of 15 mph over it -- can increase fuel efficiency up to 14%, Edmunds says. The U.S. Department of Energy adds, "Mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph" and suggests that higher speeds can reduce gas mileage by as much as 23%. Consumer Reports found that dropping from 75 mph to 55 mph in an SUV saved 33%. (Bonus: Fewer speeding tickets means more gas money.)
  • Don't idle. When you're sitting still, you get 0 mph. Duh, you say -- and so did Edmunds, until they realized that turning off an engine rather than idling could increase overall fuel efficiency by up to 19%. To get their results, Edmunds drove a 10-mile route, stopping 10 times for two minutes each, then compared turning off the car with letting it idle. Consumer Reports suggests turning off your car if you're going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds. As for taxing your starter? They say it won't hurt it.
  • Cruise control. Edmunds found this saves up to 14% on flat terrain, but warns not to use it in hilly terrain because your car will gulp gas trying to maintain a set speed on a slope.

What about other common advice, like rolling up windows and keeping tires properly inflated? Neither made a significant difference for Edmunds. Consumer Reports said running the air conditioning could cost as much as 1 mpg -- not enough to justify stewing in your car on hot summer days. That junk in the trunk can hurt your fuel efficiency, though estimates you only save up to 2% per 100 pounds.

Here's one more way to hedge against the rising costs of gas you probably won't see anywhere else: In a December story called "28 ways to save on gas," Stacy suggested buying the stock of an oil company (He owns ConocoPhillips stock. See his entire online portfolio here.) His logic? If oil prices climb, oil companies make more money. Since those profits should ultimately be reflected as higher stock prices, the money you're losing at the pump you might make up in the market.


When Stacy offered that advice five months ago, oil was $90 a barrel. Yesterday it closed at about $99, so it's up about 10%. ConocoPhillips closed yesterday about $71.50 a share, so it's up about 12%.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

May 26, 2011 10:31AM
Natural High... you have no idea what you are talking about.  The ten million exclamation points in your post are a good indicator of that.You probably don't even work. 

Yes, if you work close to your home, you can walk or bike to your job, but most of us aren't lucky enough to even live within biking distance of our jobs.  Honestly, the average American commutes.  That's why the expensive gas is such a big deal in the first place. 

I live 30 miles away from my job, actually I have two jobs, so if I had a choice of how to get there I would take a 45 minute drive over a brisk 8 hour walk or a 2.5 hour bicycle ride.  Now, if you can invent some kind of human transportation device that can reach automobile speeds while still being human-powered, you would have something.

May 26, 2011 7:31AM

your president said "he doesn't mind gas prices going higher, he just prefers that they go up gradually" really, like that makes a difference. He doesn't have to shell out his hard earned money to buy gas and fill up his car or truck, oh wait, did I say fill up, who can afford that, can you, if you are rich maybe, which most americans are not!!!!! When gas prices were $3.00 a gallon it was Bush who was the problem, funny and not ha-ha who fault it is now...........

May 26, 2011 2:11PM

This test didn't try the novel idea of pumping the tires up to near their maximum recommended pressure. I live in an all paved road area and consistently get the best gas mileage of anyone else with my model car. If you check the sidewalls of modern highway tires, they usually are rated at 44 psi max. Unless you live on rough country roads, you can probably improve your gas mileage by 15% by maintaining 40 to 42 psi in your tires. Yes, this will give you a little firmer ride but, on most roads that will not be a problem. The reduction in rolling resistance makes the difference. If your owners' manual says 32 psi, forget it and go by what your tires say.


Regarding the use of the air conditioner, after a million miles of doing my own maintenance, I've tested many different cars and vans, I'm a pretty fast driver and I have concluded that compact cars with small engines use 15 to 20% more gas per mile when the A/C is on (with the windows closed). Larger engines don't feel the extra load as much and the effect of using the A/C is almost negligible. For instance, my full size Buick Le Sabre with a big V6 engine got 29 mpg while driving across 2 mountain ranges in CO last spring with the A/C on. As you may know, mountain driving reduces the average mpg considerably compared to driving on flat terrain.


    NOTE No. 1: With an A/C, it is important to keep the freon level up to the recommended level. Freon eventually leaks out through the seals and this can greatly reduce its efficiency. To find out if your freon level is low, hang a small mercury thermometer over one of your dash outlets. While sitting in the shade, idle your engine for 3 or 4 minutes with the A/C on high, the temperature turned to as cool as it will go and the flow directed up to the dash. While watching the thermometer, hold the rpm at a fast idle for 3 - 5 minutes (if you can't find a shade tree, at least keep the thermometer shaded). If the thermometer doesn't drop to at least 30 degrees F.below  the ambient air (shaded outside air temperature), you might be smart to get the freon serviced. A really efficient system may even drop the temperature 40 to 50 degrees below the outside air temperature, except in high humidity areas.


    NOTE No. 2. You might want to try servicing your own A/C on late model vehicles that use the new 134a freon. Caution: don't put 134a in systems made to use the old environmentally unfriendly freon as it can damage the seals. You can buy a charging kit at Walmart for under $17 including a can of freon. Put on your glasses and gloves, set the parking brake and follow the directions on the can. Connect the charging hose to the matching port under the hood while keeping the can upright. Start and run the engine for a few minutes. Keep adding freon while holding the engine at a fast idle until the above mentioned thermometer dips to a minimum and just starts to rise in temperature. Quickly shut down the engine, then shut off the A/C valve and disconnect the charging hose from the system. If you add too much freon, the efficiency will not only go down but it can over work your A/C system in stop and go driving, causing it to shut itself down. The system may also shut itself down (and blow hot air) if your radiator is partially clogged with bugs or has suffered damage from gravel being kicked up by the vehicles ahead of you. Excess freon can be safely vented into the atmosphere, or if some is left in the can, you may want to use it to charge a second vehicle.


May 26, 2011 7:35AM
Most people can not walk or ride a bike to work and buses do not take people anywhere in this part of america, do you live in the real world, I guess not......
May 26, 2011 3:18PM
try mileage maxx at website ocillafuelsaver, it's a gas additive that really does improve gas mileage. and is better for the environment.
May 19, 2011 6:33PM
ride a damn bike or walk or take the bus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!duh people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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