How many miles per gallon are you getting in your car?


If you’re like many consumers, you have no idea of your car’s mileage per gallon. You probably took note of the number when you acquired the car, but soon enough dismissed it as a rather meaningless figure that had little bearing on real world driving conditions.

What’s more, you probably give little thought to some of the other details of your daily commute, such as your style for braking when approaching a red light, or accelerating on green. And aside from complaining about the bad traffic, you probably have little idea just how much time you spend actually idling in traffic.

But there’s a school of thought that says you should care about all these things because they can make a real difference in the amount you spend on fuel. The movement is known as hypermiling and the basic theory is that, with a few basic tweaks to your driving style, you can get a lot more mileage out of the fuel in your tank.

Here are some of the basics: When driving around town, stopping suddenly and accelerating quickly consume more gas than cruising slowly toward and away from a stop light. In highway driving conditions, setting your car on cruise control can help you avoid that lead foot on the gas and the brakes, which adds up at the pump. And, because you as the driver have more power over the gas you consume than you probably realize, it’s important to track you car’s mileage per gallon after every trip, so you can track your progress.

This may all sound rather silly: Even here at CEA where we encourage consumers to conserve energy whenever possible, we understand that some extreme energy saving techniques can be penny wise but pound foolish. Sparing the air conditioner can save fuel, until you factor in all the extra drag on the car produced by open windows. Likewise, we wouldn’t recommend slowly cruising all the way to your office, unless it’s only a block away.

On the other hand, some of the research around hypermiling suggests that a few simple changes can produce significant savings. They may also make you realize that you’ve been driving a lot more aggressively than you thought. And who knows, they may translate into a more pleasant, peaceful commute. Consider this video about the way drivers typically approach red lights.

You be the judge. Like extreme couponing, hypermiling is not for everyone. But for the extremely dedicated and disciplined, it could prove well worth the effort. No one ever said conserving energy had to be easy.

David Holt

7 Responses

  1. Mach396 says:

    BBC, 3.73 rear end and no overdrive

  2. Observer says:

    Cruise control in the city? Good way to get shot or if lucky just cursed and tailgated. Drive as fast as the traffic and give and expect no mercy.

    Welcome to the streets of Houston today! Good luck, keep insurance paid up, and pray to whatever God you think will and is capable of intercession effectively on your behalf. For good measure a couple of rabbits’ feet taken from the left hind legs of two different rabbits. Oh and stay paranoid, somebody out there is out to get you! But do have a happy day.

  3. Bill in Houston says:

    Hypermiling is actually DANGEROUS when taken to extremes, which so many do. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get better mileage, these clowns do things like overinflate their tires to 50psi (well beyond the safety rating), rolling through stop signs, slipstreaming behind trucks, turning the engine off and/or shifting into neutral to coast while on freeways, and the incredibly dangerous ridgeriding.

    Yes, I track my mileage. I average somewhere between the EPA City and Highway rating for my 2008 Maxima. That’s fine, considering my 22 mile one-way commute that largely involves sitting in Katy Freeway traffic, tollway traffic, and city traffic.

    I’d probably do a little better if Costco gasoline wasn’t 10% ethanol and I didn’t set the cruise at 80 on the way home. But to be honest, I don’t care. I get what I pay for, and my time is worth more than the three bucks a tank I’d save by slowing down.

    Word of advice to those of you wanting to try hypermiling: DO NOT try it during morning or evening commute times. The traffic density can be overwhelming. In addition, try driving below the speed limit in the left lane and you’ll probably become a victim of road rage.

    Lastly, @ Vince Page: Good job! The Germans know their diesels!

  4. David says:

    I track my car’s mileage with every fill up. Generally, I get low 30’s in the non-AC season and high 20’s in the AC season.

    Occasionally though, I have seen my gas mileage jump to the mid to high 30’s at times, even though I made no changes to my driving habits. I have two theories about this:

    1. The pumps all say “may contain up to 10% ethanol”. I got lucky and got 0% ethanol.

    2. The pump was dispensing more fuel than it claimed. There was one time I was running on fumes, and the pump managed to fill my 11 gallon gas tank with just 9 gallons.

  5. rollinson says:

    I keep my tires on my suburban @ 35#s and I set my cruise to allow me to make most of the red lights on my 10 mile one-way commute and rarely use my brakes unless I actually have to stop for a light.
    On the interstate I set my speed at just under whatever the majority flow seems to be, and I get a relaxed drive again while rarely having to use my brakes.

  6. Vince Page says:

    I get 44 mpg with my 2003 VW Jetta TDI clean diesel when I run the A/C and 48 mpg when the A/C is off. It’s been like that since it was new and it now has over 180,000 miles on it.

  7. lil ol me says:

    Just don’t hypermile in the left lane of the freeway…..