Fuel economy is a major concern for most divers. People want cars these days that sip fuel, even when gas prices have been pretty manageable. If you don’t have a vehicle that’s miserly at the pump (or an electric/hybrid vehicle), you can still take steps to maximize efficiency. These steps aren’t going to drastically change your weekly gasoline expenses, but they can noticeably reduce your consumption. That reduction can impact your finances over time. It also benefits the environment to burn less fuel, so you can feel good about that, too.

Luckily, there are a number of inexpensive (and some free) steps you can take to get your car to use less gas. Ultimately, it comes down to driving and taking care of your car with fuel efficiency in mind. If you’re cognizant about fuel consumption, and you take some steps to reduce the amount of fuel you use, you can save quite a bit of money.

Make Sure Your Car is In Tip-Top Condition

Man pumping air into his car's tires

The first thing you can do is make sure your car runs well and is in good condition. Vehicles with alignment issues, engine problems, and transmission quirks will consume more gasoline. Some of these things aren’t very obvious. There are a number of sensors that feed data to the vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU). If these sensors are old, damaged, or simply dirty in some cases, they can reduce your fuel efficiency.

You can combat these negative effects by having an automotive mechanic service your vehicle regularly. Also, pay close attention to your tire pressure. Wheels that have tires with low air pressure require a lot more force to move. That means you’ll use more gasoline to get down the road. Check your tire pressure weekly. If any of your tires are low, add some air with an air compressor.

Get Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Toyota Prius

Speaking of tires, the type of tire you have on your vehicle can impact your mileage. Low rolling resistance tires are designed to improve fuel economy. Many commuter cars designed for efficiency (like the Toyota Prius above) come with this type of tire straight from the factory. However, not all cars do, so when it comes time to get new tires, consider purchasing ones that will maximize fuel economy. Talk with a tire professional and see what they recommend for your car.

Again, it’s important to note tire air pressure. Your low rolling resistance tires are only going to do what they’re designed to do if they’re properly inflated. Don’t overinflate your tires. Some sources, like Money Talks News, advocate slightly overinflating tires to save on gas. This practice can reduce tire life and make your car less stable in emergency situations. The money you save on gas will likely go right back into new tires. Instead of overinflating, stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations for air pressure and check your tires regularly.

Eliminate the Roof Rack and Reduce Weight

2018 Buick Regal TourX with kayak on roof rack

That handy roof rack and carrier on the top of your car (like the one shown on the Buick Regal TourX above) is great until you realize it’s costing you a bunch more in gasoline. Roof racks mess up your car’s aerodynamics, and they add additional weight to the vehicle with the help of special carriers. While sometimes they’re unavoidable, like in the event of a long trip that requires a lot of gear, you should get rid of the rack and any extra storage containers when they’re not needed.

Also, try not to carry around a bunch of extra and unneeded cargo in your trunk. You should try your best to reduce weight in your car. It’s easy to toss things in your trunk or cargo space and forget about them, but you’ll be better off without a bunch of junk in your trunk.   

Use the HVAC and Electronics Less

Car hvac system controls

Keeping your car at a comfortable temperature is a paramount concern for most people. In many modern cars, the HVAC unit functions automatically. When you start the car, it simply goes to work getting the cabin to a preselected temperature. However, using the HVAC system will cause your car to use more gasoline. The power for that system has to come from somewhere and in the case of most cars that power comes from consuming gasoline.

The same can be said for using a lot of the car’s electronic functions. These systems don’t directly use gasoline for power, but the engine still provides power to the alternator, which in turn produces electrical power for the battery and other vehicle components. This means that using a lot of electronic devices in your car will have an impact on fuel consumption, albeit a rather small one. 

Focus on Your Driving Habits

Person driving their car fast

The number one thing you can do to reduce fuel consumption is changing how you drive. Don’t mash the gas pedal. Ease into it. Don’t accelerate too fast, and try to anticipate light changes to reduce the number of stops you make along the way. Also, just generally drive slower overall. It may not seem to make a difference while you’re doing it, but if you actually track your mileage, you’ll notice that it does.

According to the EPA, each 5 mph over the speed limit you drive, you lower gas mileage by 7 percent or more. This equates to about $0.18 to $0.35 cents per gallon, depending on the cost of gasoline in your area. As you can imagine, that adds up over the course of a gas tank and if you think about how many times you fill up in a month, you can see how driving the speed limit can help keep gas costs down. 

Plan Your Trips

Navigation

Another way to see significant gains in fuel economy is to play your trips ahead of time. Look for routes that will allow you to maximize your fuel. You want routes with few lights, low traffic, and relatively low speed limits. This may necessitate taking a little more time during your drive, but it will pay off at the pump.

Also, plan the number of trips you take. If you need to run two or three errands, don’t do them in two or three different trips if you can help it. Instead, try to go out once and get everything you need to do done and then return home for the day. This will reduce not only the amount of gasoline you consume but also the number of miles driven, which can lengthen the life of your car if done habitually.