How to Boost Your Fuel Economy
and Make Your Car Last Longer
You might be holding off on selling your old car for different reasons.Maybe you like the idea of it being paid for, or perhaps it’s just not the right time to buy since new cars are expensive.
Even if you’ve already sold your old car and you recently bought a new one, you might be looking for ways to boost your fuel economy and extend the overall life of your vehicle.
With gas prices soaring throughout the country, this is a significant topic right now.
With all these things in mind, below is a guide to boosting your fuel economy and making your car last longer.
What is Fuel Economy, and Why Does It Matter?
First, what is the fuel economy? Why should you care?
If you’ve ever gone to the dealership and bought a new car, you’ve likely seen fuel economy numbers listed on the sticker. When gas prices are high like they are now, fuel economy becomes especially relevant to everyone.
In technical terms, fuel economy is how far your vehicle can go on a certain amount of fuel. Understanding this number is essential when you buy a car because it will significantly affect your expenses.
Fuel economy is measured in miles per gallon, or miles per gallon gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) for electric vehicles. The more miles per gallon a car gets, the farther it can go on a single tank of gas. That means the car has a better fuel economy.
Fuel efficiency is not the same as fuel economy. Fuel efficiency refers to the amount of fuel needed to power a car instead of an indicator of how far the fuel will take you.
Carmakers measure fuel economy through a series of lab tests that are reported to the EPA. The EPA reviews the tests and then confirms some of the results with their own testing. You can check fueleconomy.gov to learn more about the estimates for fuel economy for many cars on the road currently.
In 2020, the EPA listed cars with the best fuel economy with a combined MPG of at least 22. Good fuel economy depends on the type of vehicle as well.
The cars with the best fuel economy are often hybrids like the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Prius Eco.
Hybrid and electric cars can be more expensive than gas vehicles, but you might do the math and figure out in the long run if it could save you money. You can save hundreds of dollars a year based on your fuel economy.
Optimizing Your Fuel Economy
No matter the type of car you have, there are also things you can do on your own to get the most out of every tank of gas.
Your real-world driving will affect your fuel economy, and the EPA ratings are only an estimate.
- Don’t speed or drive aggressively. When you speed or are an aggressive driver, you aren’t just putting yourself and others on the roadway at risk. You’re also going to spend more on fuel. Speeding and other forms of aggressive driving that include rapid acceleration and braking can lower your fuel economy by as much as 30% on speeds like you would go on the highway. In stop-and-go traffic, it can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 40%. If you’re going faster than 50 mph, your gas mileage usually goes down pretty fast too.
- Don’t have unnecessary weight in your vehicle. For example, avoid driving around with heavy things in your trunk for excessive periods of time. Don’t take anything you don’t need. An additional 100 pounds in your car can reduce your fuel economy by 1% or more.
- Avoid cargo boxes that mount to your roof. The boxes increase your wind resistance. If you’re going at highway speeds, that can lower your fuel efficiency by as much as 25%.
- Make sure your tires are always correctly inflated. Underinflated tires can be a safety hazard, and they can also greatly reduce your gas mileage according to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When you keep your tires properly inflated you might see improvements in gas mileage as high as 3%.
- Keep your engine well-maintained, which talk about more below. When you have an issue with the engine, like a problem with the oxygen sensor, it can drop your MPG by as much as 40%. Regular tune-ups will help you avoid paying too much for gas.
- Check your gas cap. Around 17% of cars on the roads are thought to have gas caps that are broken or missing. It allows harmful fumes to escape, and it reduces your gas mileage. Interestingly an issue with your gas cap is one of the most common reasons your check engine light might come on, but it’s also the easiest to fix.
- Get your front-end aligned. When you’re hitting potholes, it affects your alignment. Then it causes your tires to wear out faster and your engine to have to work harder, reducing your gas mileage.
- Ensure your vehicle is getting the correct type of oil. You should check your owner’s manual to figure out the recommendation from your car manufacturer.
How to Maintain Your Car for Longevity
Many of the things you can do to improve your gas mileage can also help you keep your car working well for longer. In addition to what’s above, the following are general maintenance and car care tips to expand your vehicle’s lifespan.
- Maintain the battery. If you don’t use your car for periods of time, your battery degrades. You can use a trickle charger if you aren’t going to be using your car for a while. Otherwise, try to drive your car at least once a week and especially during the cold weather months.
- Regularly change your filters. This too often gets overlooked as part of your car maintenance routine, but it can make a big difference. Your oil and air filters get clogged over time. When you get your car serviced, they should be replaced, but you can also check them on your own. You can even wash your air filter to reduce how often you have to change it.
- We talked about the importance of being a good, smooth driver for your fuel economy. It also benefits your car’s overall longevity. When you’re a smooth driver who isn’t accelerating and braking too often, it reduces the wear and tear on your car’s components, as well as helps your gas go further.
- Don’t use your air conditioner when you don’t need it because it lowers your fuel economy, but use it occasionally. Your air conditioner will leak refrigerant gas over time when it’s not used. You should, every once and a while, even let your vents blow cold air in the winter.
- Replace your spark plugs. Your spark plugs and leads are something you might be able to do on your own, but you should check your car’s manual first.
- Replenish your fluids on a regular basis. You might want to create a reminder on your phone when it’s time to check them. You should check your oil and your coolant reservoir.
- Follow your regular servicing schedule, even if you do some of the maintenance on your car yourself. Service intervals are usually based either on the miles you drive or time. For example, your service schedule might be every 10,000 miles you drive or every year.
- Keep your car covered if you don’t have or don’t use a garage.
- Keep your car clean. It’s not just about aesthetics. When you clean your car, particularly if you live somewhere near the sea or that gets a lot of snow, you can remove the salt in the air that’s damaging to your vehicle’s exterior.
- Don’t carry a lot of heavy loads. We talked about this above regarding your fuel economy, but frequently carrying heavy loads can also affect your car’s longevity. It causes your suspension to be misaligned, wears out your tires, and affects the breaks.
When you notice a problem with your vehicle, even if it’s a seemingly small one, don’t ignore it. For example, if your check engine light comes on, rather than ignoring it, proactively figure out what’s wrong. It can likely be something small and easy to fix, but when problems on your car aren’t fixed, they tend to become much more significant issues.
Anything that’s a warning signal should be checked as soon as possible.
When you take good care of your car, and you’re mindful of how you’re driving and maintaining it, you can save on gas, which is a huge priority for consumers right now. You can also drive your car for longer and avoid having to buy a new one, which is a key priority for many since new cars a depreciating asset.
When you do decide to sell a car, you’ll get more money for it if you keep it well-maintained.