If you’re not ready to buy a more fuel-efficient car, you can still save money in a number of ways in whatever vehicle you drive. Cars.com provides the tips and dispels the myths.
Get the Lead Out - Weight is fuel economy’s natural enemy, so removing unnecessary items — or people — from your car can translate to real fuel savings.
Get the Lead(foot) Out - You can save fuel immediately in whatever you drive by going easy on the accelerator. Jackrabbit starts and full-throttle acceleration boost fuel consumption dramatically. It’s all a matter of degree: Light acceleration saves more than moderate acceleration.
An Ounce of Prevention - Keeping your tires inflated properly and your engine running right is critical to efficient motoring. Under-inflated tires can lower your fuel economy by several miles per gallon. (Get the proper inflation pressure from the sticker on your car’s doorjamb or the owner’s manual, and not the tire’s sidewall.)
Open Windows or Air Conditioning? - This is an age-old conundrum. (Unlike a car’s heater, which uses free engine heat to warm the cabin, the air conditioner robs engine power and lowers fuel economy.) So which approach is better? Sorry, but it’s not as simple as one or the other.
If your car has been sitting in the sun and is hotter than the outside air, drive for a few minutes with the windows open to cool it off. Then, if you’re hitting the highway, close ‘em up and turn on the A/C. Aerodynamics are more important at high speeds, so if you’re not exceeding 35 or 40 mph, open windows won’t make as much difference.
Keep It Sleek - Speaking of aerodynamics, roof-top carriers and bike and ski racks don’t do you any favors — even when they’re empty. If you keep all your cargo inside the car, you’ll slip through the wind better. Also, strip off any aftermarket add-ons such as bug deflectors and window and sunroof wind deflectors. By design, these items work by wrecking your aerodynamics. Sure, bug entrails on your windshield are gross, but they aren’t known to cost you any fuel.
Premium or Regular? - Lower octane costs less, but should you use it? Most modern cars that call for premium fuel can run on regular gasoline without knocking or any long-term penalty. Technically, this makes the car less efficient, but not to a degree that negates the cost savings from the cheaper fuel grade. NOTE: This is true of cars for which premium is recommended, not required. If in doubt, look for terms such as “for best performance” and “recommended” as opposed to “only” or “required.” If your car has a turbocharger or supercharger, you probably should stick with premium fuel. Of course, if your car calls for regular gasoline, there’s no reason to run it on anything higher in octane.
– Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com
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