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This is what I do to save gas (hypermiling and navigation)


I learned all this stuff back in 2008, and I'm doing it again.

Being the price of regular gas is sky high as I write this in March 2022, it seemed appropriate to put this together.

I have a lot of this in a book I wrote plus more, by the way.

Back in '08 when the last gas price spike happened, I was driving a pickup that, while midsize, really struggled to even get over 20 MPG even though it was considered "fuel efficient" for a truck. I learned a whole bunch of hypermiling driving techniques because I had to. After that, I switched over to small cars and never looked back. I had a feeling there would come a point when another price spike would happen, and here it is.

However, even though I drive a car that now literally gets more than double the MPG compared to the truck, I'm using the same driving techniques I did in 2008.

This is what I learned back in the day, and it's still true now:

When you're stopped, you're getting 0 MPG

When trying to increase fuel economy, the worst thing is not moving because the car is literally sitting there with engine running, burning fuel, and you're literally going nowhere. The only way to get around this is to turn the engine off whenever at a stop light. Newer cars have the auto start/stop for this. Mine doesn't because it's an older car.

The most fuel is burned when taking off from a stop

Even for a car with auto start/stop, that doesn't change the fact a lot of fuel is burned on initial takeoff because the car has to work its hardest just to do that.

Avoid U-turns

I use a Garmin GPS and one of the navigation options in it is to avoid U-turns. These turns destroy MPG because you have to slow down to almost a stop, perform the U-turn and then speed up again. It's always better to avoid U-turns whenever possible where increasing fuel efficiency is concerned.

Having the windows closed really does improve fuel economy

An open window while driving creates drag, requiring the engine to work harder to move the car along and therefore needlessly wasting fuel.

Know your car's average MPG

The old school way to get the average fuel economy of a car is that on the next fill-up, set the trip odometer to 0. Drive as you normally would. On the fill-up after that, read the number on the trip odometer, and divide that by how many gallons were put into the car. For example, if the trip odometer reads 350 miles and you put in 18 gallons of fuel, 350 divided by 18 is a 19.4 MPG average. Use your phone's calculator app to do the math.

Use a fuel cost calculator this one. There are probably phone apps for this too.

An easy way to get better MPG is from simple trip planning where you move the most and stop the least. I even go so far as to look up streets in Google Maps to seek out ways to get places that avoid the most stop signs and traffic lights. This combined with knowing roughly the cost-per-trip is good info to know.

Coast (if you have a manual transmission)

For modern cars with automatic transmissions, the car's computer is already programmed to maximize fuel efficiency while in gear; this means you don't get any MPG advantage by shifting it into neutral compared to leaving it in drive. If your car has an "Eco" drive mode, use it.

I have a car with a manual transmission, and oh yeah, I shift into neutral and coast whenever I can. I'll even do it when entering a parking lot. The moment I enter the lot, I shift to neutral and do my best to use the car's inertia to get all the way to a parking spot, then immediately shut off the engine. Most of the time I'm successful.

How good is my MPG?

My small car is EPA rated at 29 city/36 highway. When I hypermile, it goes up to 35 city/45 highway. And bear in mind my car runs on regular gas and isn't a hybrid.

If I were driving something known to have poor fuel economy, like a 2022 Ford Mustang with V8 which is EPA rated at 15 city/24 highway (auto or manual), I could probably eke out 20 city/32 highway with a really light foot and hypermiling techniques.

It's totally possible to increase MPG by 30% or more just from driving technique alone, and doing one other thing. Driving slower.

Slow and steady absolutely wins the race where getting better MPG is concerned.

Published 2022 Mar 10

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