How to Improve Your Fuel Economy: 8 Changes to Make in 2024 (Guide)

Improving your car’s fuel economy is a great way to accomplish two important tasks.

You save gas money and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Who wouldn’t take that deal? 

Just pick up a few new practices and you’re on your way!

Here are eight changes you can make to improve your fuel economy and become a more eco-friendly driver:

Eco-friendly Driving: 8 Ways to Improve Your Fuel Economy

1. Be an Efficient Driver

Your driving behavior is the main thing that affects your car’s fuel economy. With gas prices remaining at high rates nationwide, you can’t afford to be irresponsible. Wasteful habits like speeding and idling can significantly increase your car’s gas consumption and carbon footprint.

Here are some efficient practices you should use instead:

  • Always drive within the speed limit
  • Avoid idling the engine and start driving as soon as you turn on the car
  • Don’t slam on the brakes or gas pedal
  • Use cruise control on highways and open roads
  • Shift the gears early instead of late in a manual transmission

You must also pay attention to the flow of traffic as you drive. Being a thoughtful driver will help you recognize obstacles and control your car’s speed more effectively.

Start by turning off electronic distractions like your phone and the radio. Driving with complete attention on the road will improve fuel economy and performance, and reduce your emissions in the process!

How to Improve Your Fuel Economy - Stock Image from Canva of a drivers hands on the wheel, with a country landscape visible through the windscreen

2. Choose Your Routes Wisely

You can start making bigger changes once you develop good fuel-efficient driving habits. Choosing the most practical route will help your car’s short- and long-term gas mileage.

It’s best to avoid roads with lots of streetlights and stop signs since sudden stopping and starting increases fuel consumption.

Contrary to popular belief, the fastest route isn’t always the most efficient. Taking the highway might be a few minutes faster, but you also burn more fuel at higher speeds.

Driving down a street with a 35-50 mph speed limit might take longer but improve your fuel economy. Maintaining a consistent and moderate pace puts less strain on the engine.

Google Maps and other navigation apps usually provide the most efficient route, but not always. If you’re using one of these apps, see if there are better alternative routes. There might be a road less traveled that helps you dodge traffic.

3. Take Preventive Maintenance Seriously

Preventive maintenance is nonnegotiable if you want to improve your fuel economy. Each time your car is damaged, it loses a little bit of fuel efficiency.

You must stay on top of tasks like oil changes and routine service appointments.

How to Improve Your Fuel Economy - Stock Image from Canva of an oil change

Properly inflating your tires can improve your fuel economy by 3% and extend your car’s life span.

Ignoring maintenance and minor repairs will cause your fuel economy to plummet. You don’t have to be an automotive expert to be a responsible car owner. Find a reliable mechanic and give them frequent updates about your vehicle’s condition. If you notice anything worrisome, don’t be afraid to reach out. 

4. Make Fuel-Saving Modifications

You can make several modifications to improve your car’s fuel economy if you have a flexible budget.

The best change you can make is to switch from a manual to an automatic transmission. Manual used to be the better option for saving gas, but not anymore. Automatic gearboxes are now more advanced and fuel-efficient.

Eco tires are another extremely impactful modification. They are narrower than regular tires, giving them a lower rolling resistance that leads to better gas mileage. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard to keep them moving.

Making your car more aerodynamic will also increase its gas mileage. You can make lots of simple and inexpensive changes. Remove bike racks, mud flaps, antennas, and other standout features on the exterior. Avoid sticking your arm out the window when driving. The idea is to turn your vehicle into a torpedo that slices through the air with minimal engine exertion.

Your car might look drastically different when all the mods are complete. However, saving fuel and reducing emissions are more important than appearance. You must keep your priorities straight if you want to improve fuel economy.

5. Remove the Extra Weight

Another great way to improve your fuel economy is to remove extra weight.

Get rid of any miscellaneous stuff in your car you don’t need. Tools, sports equipment, and suitcases are some common examples.

Making your vehicle lighter will reduce the stress on the engine, so it burns less fuel.

How to Improve Your Fuel Economy - Stock Image from Canva of the trunk of a car filled with tools and boxes

However, you shouldn’t get rid of every single item. Essential supplies like tire-changing and first-aid kits can stay. Safety comes before fuel efficiency. Just remove any nonessentials.

If you have trouble keeping your car organized, try cleaning it out at the end of each week. Starting a cleaning routine will keep your vehicle lightweight and efficient.

6. Use the Windows Instead of A/C

Blasting the air conditioning is one of the quickest ways to burn fuel. The A/C vents get energy from the alternator, which gets power from the engine.

You must sacrifice a little comfort to improve your fuel economy. Roll down the windows and enjoy the natural breeze instead of relying on your car’s A/C all the time. 

This change will be difficult if you live in a warm climate. You have other options if rolling down the windows isn’t good enough.

You can always get a solar-powered car fan or a portable A/C unit. When you’re not driving, you can cover your windshield with a sunshade and park out of direct sunlight. Anything that helps you avoid using your car’s A/C is worth the effort.

7. Use All the Fuel in the Tank

Always let your car use all the gas in the tank before refueling. Don’t be afraid to let the “Fuel Level Low” notification pop up on your dashboard before going to a gas station.

Driving on a near-empty tank is risky, but it’s the best way to keep it in good condition and ensure you have fresh gas.

How to Improve Your Fuel Economy - Stock Image from Canva of a vintage car's fuel clock pointing to empty

If you frequently refuel when the tank is still half-full, the leftover unused gas will oxidize and form a sticky gum-like deposit along the inside.

These deposits will affect your car’s fuel economy and might even damage the engine. That’s why you should use as much gasoline as possible before refueling again.

8. Find Another Way to Commute

Sometimes the best way to improve your fuel economy is to avoid driving altogether. If possible, you should find another way to commute.

Only 0.6% of American workers ride bicycles to work. That number should increase as cities incorporate bike lanes and other cyclist-friendly amenities. Cycling is a great way to stay in shape, too. 

If cycling isn’t an option, you can also use public transportation or a ride-sharing service. Many people carpool with their co-workers to save gas and money.

Anything that helps you avoid burning fuel from your vehicle is a good alternative. 

Be the Most Efficient Car Owner You Can Be

Improving your fuel economy takes some work but is well worth it. These eight changes will help you become the most efficient car owner you can be.

Just take your time with each adjustment. You won’t notice a difference overnight — it will take weeks or months before the efforts begin to pay off.

Stay diligent and string as many days of efficient action together as possible. 

Check out this video by Engineering Explained for a more in-depth take on fuel-efficient driving:

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What harmful emissions are in car exhaust fumes?

Carbon dioxide is the main ingredient in car exhaust fumes. The fumes also contain high quantities of nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapor. Unburned fuel, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter are also found in smaller amounts. Read the full guide to learn more about exhaust emissions and how to reduce them.

Can bad weather affect my car’s fuel economy?

Yes, adverse weather conditions tend to decrease your car’s fuel economy. Precipitation cools the tires and other essential components, which operate less efficiently at lower temperatures. Rain and snow can also multiply the tires’ rolling resistance and slightly increase fuel consumption. Read the full guide to learn how to improve your fuel economy.

How will my car’s fuel economy change over time?

Unfortunately, your car’s fuel economy will decline once it reaches a certain age. Even if you take good care of the vehicle, it will become less efficient as you put more miles on the engine. However, proper maintenance will increase the time before the car loses gas mileage. Read the full guide to learn more ways to improve your gas mileage.

How is my car’s fuel economy determined?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives every make and model an average fuel economy rating. Auto manufacturers perform an EPA-sanctioned test during production. At least 10% of vehicle models must be tested to confirm the results. Read the full guide to learn more, and find simple ways to reduce your fuel consumption.

Resources

Bike Advisor: The State of Bike Commuting in the US

Modded: Mindfulness Driving: 7 Tips to Be a Thoughtful Driver

University of Michigan: Effects of Vehicle Fuel Economy, Distance Travelled, and Vehicle Load on the Amount of Fuel Used for Personal Transportation (PDF)

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