A car with a gas nozzle in its tank.

14 Tips on How to Get Better Gas Mileage

Updated October 14, 2020 . AmFam Team

Everyone wants a car with good gas mileage, but getting rid of your gas guzzler and buying a more efficient vehicle can be time-consuming and stressful. You’re not out of luck — we’ve got plenty of tips to help you make your car run cleaner and more efficiently, saving you money on gas in the process.


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What is good gas mileage?

What’s considered “good” for gas mileage can vary due to many factors, such as the type of vehicle. As a rule of thumb, a gas mileage rating of 23mpg – for combined highway and city – is considered good. Here’s a quick breakdown of popular vehicle types and what type of gas mileage to expect from each:

A smiling person in a truck.

Non-Electric Pickup Trucks

  • Standard size truck. Standard trucks can get around 25 mpg.
  • Small size truck. Small trucks usually get about 23 mpg.
An SUV driving with the ocean in the background.

Non-Electric SUVs

  • Standard size SUVs. Standard size SUVs get around 33 mpg.
  • Small size SUVs. Small SUVs get around 40 mpg.
A happy family washing their car on a sunny day.

Non-Electric Cars

  • Subcompact cars. A subcompact car should get about 33 mpg.
  • Compact cars. A compact car can get up to 46 mpg.
  • Midsize cars. Midsize cars can get up to 56 mpg.
  • Large cars. A large car can get up to 58 mpg.

Bear in mind that there are many factors that can affect fuel efficiency, and the average miles-per-gallon shown above are considered top-of-the-line gas sippers for their category.

Two people buckling their seatbelts for a drive.

Safe Driving Tips for More Fuel-Efficient Driving

Your vehicle’s gas mileage isn’t just dependent on all its moving parts — a lot of it rides on you, the driver. Here’s how you can fine-tune your driving habits to get better efficiency from your vehicle on the road:

Two happy drivers.

1. Drive Patiently and Defensively

Zipping around other cars by rapidly accelerating and decelerating wastes gas, and it’s not particularly safe either. Be kind to other drivers (and your wallet!) by gradually applying the gas and avoiding excessively stepping on and off the brake.

A car driving down a city road at night.

2. Avoid Speeding

The accepted rule of thumb is that every five miles per hour you drive over 50 should reduce your fuel efficiency — as much as an additional $0.15 per gallon of gas. Obeying the speed limit can help you stay beneath that threshold. Save and be safer by keeping a steady, legal speed.

A person driving on an open road.

3. Take Advantage of Cruise Control

Instead of constantly accelerating and decelerating over the course of longer trips, let your cruise control maintain your vehicle’s speed and keep your car running at an efficient pace.

A vehicle idling in a driveway.

4. Don’t Waste Gas on Idling Your Vehicle

Whether you’re picking up your kids at school or waiting at the bank drive-up window, turn off the car and put it in park. By avoiding idling, you’ll save gas, money and help the environment.

For those in colder climates, making sure to park your car in the garage when you can and avoiding warming up your car before you head to work can help you save, too. While it’s a great feeling hopping into a warm, defrosted car that’s been running for ten minutes, you’re wasting valuable gas when you let it sit in your driveway and heat up.

A happy family going for a drive.

5. Be Cool About Using Air Conditioning

Good news! Warm weather improves your engine’s efficiency. But, when you turn on the air conditioner, you’re using more gas. According to fueleconomy.gov (Opens in a new tab), air conditioning is a leading cause of reduced gas efficiency in warm weather. Use these AC guidelines in summer:

  • Drive with windows open at slower speeds and enjoy the breeze
  • Set the temperature at a reasonable setting when you have to close windows
  • Turn it off when you’re cool enough
  • Keep it off when you’re idling
A happy person driving.

6. Roll Up Those Windows

When you’re driving on the highway, keeping your windows closed can keep your car at peak performance. When your windows are open, you’re inviting aerodynamic drag to make it tougher for your vehicle to maintain its speed, burning more gas in the process.

Cars stuck in stopped traffic.

7. Adjust Your Commute Times

Driving in slow, stop-and-go traffic can take a toll on your gas mileage. Sometimes leaving earlier or later can reduce your travel time and improve fuel efficiency, with relatively minor adjustments to your work schedule. Talk to your employer about how you can alter your work schedule to spend less of your valuable time waiting on the road, wasting gas.

A couple planning their trip with a map.

8. Plan Your Trips Effectively

Need to go to the gym, grocery store and pharmacy? Instead of tackling them one by one and returning home after each, plan your day around doing them all in one swoop and save gas. When it makes sense to, include a trip to the gas station to refuel as well.

A person writing on a clipboard.

Maintain Your Car to Improve Gas Mileage

Keeping your car up to date on routine maintenance is key to preserving its fuel efficiency — not to mention keeping it running smoothly and maintaining its sale or trade value. Here are some ways to keep your car healthy and happy:

A person checking their tire pressure.

9. Keep Your Car’s Tires Inflated

Check your owner’s manual, the sticker on your driver’s side door jamb or in your glove box to determine proper tire inflation pressure (psi). Don’t use the maximum psi printed on your tire.

Keeping your tires inflated has other benefits, too as they’ll be less susceptible to leaks and blowouts if they’re consistently properly inflated.

A mechanic working on a car's engine.

10. Tune Your Engine

If your engine light goes on, investigate the issue and take your car to the auto repair shop if necessary. When your engine works efficiently, you get better gas mileage. Make sure to ask to have your air filters examined the next time you take your car to the shop for an oil change or maintenance. While you’re at it, ask about the health of your spark plugs, too. All of these can have major effects on your vehicle’s efficiency and performance.

A mechanic checking a car's oil.

11. Change Your Oil on Time

Regular oil changes with the correct grade of oil can improve your gas mileage. Some motor oils with energy conservation stickers can further improve your performance, if appropriate for your vehicle.

A happy family packing their SUV for a trip.

Watch Your Vehicle Weight

Adding extra weight to your car can reduce your gas mileage, whether you’re carrying your bike or hauling a trailer full of old furniture. Here’s how you can make sure your next transport trip doesn’t cost you tons of gas:

A close-up of a vehicle's roof rack.

12. Rooftop Racks and Cargo Can Be a Drag

Think twice about putting a cargo unit on your roof, which can reduce your car’s gas efficiency by as much as 25 percent on highways. Using a rear-mounted cargo box or tray also reduces fuel economy, but only by about one to five percent on the highway.

Even when you’re not using it, rooftop racks can still reduce your gas mileage. So, if you’ve found you haven’t used it in a long time, consider having it professionally removed from your vehicle for good.

A happy family packing their car for a road trip.

13. Only Carry What You Need in Your Trunk

There’s probably plenty of stuff weighing down your vehicle in your trunk. And besides your emergency kit, it’s probably unnecessary. Take out your golf clubs and heavy tool kit, leave the emergency essentials and watch your car get a slight bump in its gas mileage!

A truck towing a boat.

14. Check Your Trailer Tires

Like the tires on your car, low tire pressure on your trailer can increase drag and reduce efficiency. Follow the same tips we gave for your vehicle’s tires — keep them properly inflated for better gas mileage and to reduce the risk of blowouts and leaks. And don’t overinflate!

A happy person leaning out their SUV window.

Protect Your Car from the Unexpected

By keeping these tips in mind, you can improve your car’s gas mileage and potentially reduce your carbon footprint. While you take care of your car, your agent can help you prepare for the unexpected with a car insurance policy specifically built just for you.

 Get in touch with an American Family Insurance agent and gain the peace of mind you deserve.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. We do not make any guarantees or promise any results based on this information.

*Customers who bundle home and auto insurance policies may save up to 23% on both policies together (as of December 2023). Discounts may vary by state, property, policy form and company underwriting the home and/or auto policy. Discounts may not apply to all coverages on a home or auto policy.

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