Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563

Suggestions help motorists stretch gas budget

Do you want to squeeze more miles out of each gallon you pump into your vehicle? The news media is replete with suggestions on how to improve gas mileage. Among the recent suggestions are:

Adjust your work commute schedule
In addition to hitting the road early, employees with flexible schedules can also try leaving work later. While it may be unappetizing to wait out evening traffic at the end of a long workday, it could be worth it.

In some cities, drivers can use an Internet service such as to see a specialized report about the driving conditions on a particular commute. If it looks bad, adjust your departure time.

Choose a more fuel-efficient vehicle
In the pantheon of features to consider when shopping for a vehicle, make gas-mileage ratings a serious priority. Choose a four-cylinder engine over a V6, or a V6 over a V8, to get better fuel economy. Smaller, lighter cars also use less gasoline. You can compare models at ( ).

Those who lease gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles may want to consider transferring their leases and switching to smaller, more efficient vehicles.

"We're noticing an increase in SUV transfers," said Sergio Stiberman, president and founder of ( ), a marketplace for leases that serves both buyers and sellers. The site's SUV category has grown 30 percent since last year. More than half of the customers who have transferred out of SUV leases have opted for smaller cars, according to the company.

Shop for the best fuel prices
Web users can compare gas prices at stations along a planned route, thanks to a service the American Automobile Association introduced earlier this year.

For example, on one recent day the online TripTik Travel Planner at showed as much as a 16-cent-per-gallon price differential for regular gas at stations located within a few miles of each other in Pennsylvania.

Bookmark a few of the leading gas price sites, which are free to use: and do a little bit of research? Here are some to try:

Share the ride
Robert Gentile, director of Consumer Reports' Auto Price Service, said some companies are putting up Intranet sites for employees to find colleagues living in their area who are willing to carpool. (In the Treasure Valley, Ada County Highway District’s Commuteride serves as a clearinghouse for vanpools and carpools. Call 345-7665.) If you carpool with just one other co-worker, you save 50 percent on your gas bill.

Some companies also help out workers with a vanpool and by supporting bike-to-work days.

Reduce unnecessary drag
Reducing unnecessary drag that diverts engine power can also improve your fuel efficiency. One simple tip: Avoid carrying items, even empty racks, on top of your car.

Pickup owners can enjoy some of the biggest gas-mileage gains when they improve their vehicles' aerodynamics by installing a tonneau cover on the truck's bed, according to A tonneau cover can improve fuel economy by preventing the open truck bed from dragging down mileage.

Edmunds also suggests other tips to improve your car's aerodynamics, including rolling up your windows, lowering your vehicle, and using narrower tires and smoother wheels. However, Reed said, aerodynamics don't come into play on most vehicles until they're traveling at least 30 miles per hour.

Other gas-saving tips

  • Get out of your car and walk, bike or use public transit.
  • Minimize driving with a cold engine by combining separate short trips into one longer trip.
  • Drive smoothly, avoiding hard acceleration and braking, and maintain a steady pace in top gear. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, according to, a government Web site.
  • Turn off your car rather than letting it idle for extended periods.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated, which can improve gas mileage by about 3.3 percent, according to
  • Keep your car in good shape and well tuned. Correcting a serious problem can improve mileage by up to 40 percent, according to .
  • Try to use regular gas unless the manufacturer indicates that premium is necessary.
  • Don’t get weighed down. If you want to increase your gas mileage, start by removing unnecessary weight from your trunk and other areas of your vehicle. You can improve your fuel economy by up to 5 percent by taking a removable roof rack off your vehicle.
  • Try to avoid long warm-ups and other situations where your engine idles for more than 30 seconds. Keeping the engine running longer than that will burn more gasoline than restarting the engine entirely, so turn the ignition key to the off position if you anticipate a long wait.
  • Ensure optimum vehicle condition. By getting regular tune-ups, you can avoid gas-mileage problems caused by dragging brakes, worn spark plugs, a clogged air filter, low transmission fluid or the transmission’s failure to go into high gear. Also, make a point of using the recommended grade of motor oil for your vehicle and getting periodic wheel alignments.
  • Keep your vehicle's tires properly inflated to the maximum recommended pressure, which can be located on a label inside your car. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy say tires under-inflated by just two pounds per square inch can reduce gas mileage by nearly 1 percent. In contrast, properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by about 3.3 percent.
  • Watch your driving habits. Want to improve your gas mileage by a whopping 15 percent? Try driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph. You’ll also see improvements if you avoid quick starts and sudden braking whenever possible. In addition, if your car has overdrive gearing or cruise control, remember to make use of it as soon as your speed is high enough.
  • Coordinate/consolidate your trips. Save all your errands for a single outing and do some advance planning. Map everything out in such a way that you can complete a number of tasks in the same general part of town. Better yet, if possible, park your car in one spot and do everything you need to do on foot.
  • Mail bill payments or pay online. For the price of a gallon of gas, you can buy about eight stamps.
  • Walking, riding a bike, taking a bus or carpooling just once or twice a week could make a major difference in your gas bill. As a big side benefit, you might be surprised to find out how much more enjoyable and less stressful such forms of commuting can be.
  • Use regular-grade gasoline unless your car owner’s manual says otherwise or your engine knocks and pings. You won’t get better acceleration or fuel economy if you use premium fuel in a car that runs just fine on regular. The difference of 10 to 30 cents per gallon adds up quickly.

Published 6-8-07