Last Updated on June 15, 2022
Are you wondering how to best maximize your gas mileage? Gas prices have been steadily increasing since hitting rock bottom in 2020 when the demand for gas was so low, gas suppliers paid customers to take gas from them.
In 2020, as a result of the pandemic, most people were obeying stay-at-home orders, and the demand for gasoline plummeted. Energy companies cut production.
Then in 2021, people began returning to their places of employment, visiting friends and family, going to shopping and sports centers. People were participating in community events, taking trips, so fuel usage greatly increased.
However, energy companies weren’t as quick to “turn the pumps back on,” so supply isn’t keeping up with demand. Coupled with inflation at a 30-year high, regular unleaded gasoline prices have risen by about $1.50 year over year (March 2021-March 2022). Diesel prices have risen by about $2.00 over the same time period.
Last spring, the United States imported oil from Russia at its highest rate in 10 years. By the end of 2021, Russia had become the second-largest exporter of oil to the US. Now, the US has stopped importing oil and gas from Russia.
Since ceasing imports of Russian oil, the price for a barrel of oil has spiked to more than $100 per barrel—a price not seen since 2014. Although gas prices have slightly subsided and plateaued, gas prices tend to increase in the summer.
What is good gas mileage?
Good gas mileage is measured in miles per gallon (mpg). Mpg states how many miles a vehicle can travel on a single gallon of fuel. The farther you travel on a gallon of fuel, the better the gas mileage of the vehicle.
A vehicle is listed with three mpg ratings. There is a city mpg rating, a highway mpg rating, and a combined mpg rating.
The city mpg rating represents the miles per gallon one can expect while driving just on city roads. Due to the increased braking and acceleration associated with city driving, city mpg is the lowest number of the three.
Highway mpg represents the expected miles per gallon while driving just on highways. It is the highest number of the three.
Combined mpg represents the miles per gallon expected when driving on both city streets and highways. Its number is an approximate average of the other two.
How to calculate a vehicle’s mpg
If you don’t know your vehicle’s mpg ratings, you can calculate them.
Completely fill your tank with gas. Drive a fair distance on city streets—at least 50 miles, so you encounter numerous driving conditions. That will help you produce a more accurate result. Then fill up your tank again. Make note of how many gallons you just put into the tank. Then take the number of miles driven and divide it by the number of gallons.
For example, if you filled the tank by 3.5 gallons after driving 53 miles, your vehicle’s city mpg would be 15.1, so it would drive 15.1 city miles for every gallon of fuel.
In order to calculate your vehicle’s highway mpg, perform the same experiment as above, but use gas stations located near a highway to minimize the amount of city driving.
Improving a vehicle’s gas mileage
There are a number of factors that affect gas mileage. The mpg ratings posted by the vehicle manufacturer is accurate only under certain vehicle and driving conditions.
According to the US Department of Energy (DoE): “Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15-30 percent at highway speeds and 10-40 percent in stop-and-go traffic.”
Drive the speed limit. Vehicles become less fuel efficient once they reach a certain speed. That speed differs from vehicle to vehicle. However, for every five miles per hour you drive in excess of that speed, is equivalent to paying $0.29 per gallon for gas according to the US DoE.
Other driving behaviors that affect gas mileage include using cruise control and idling.
You can also increase gas mileage by decreasing the total weight of the vehicle. Are you carrying anything in your car that you don’t need? If so, take those items out of your vehicle and find somewhere else to store them, or dispose of them.
Keep your vehicle streamlined. Items such as rooftop storage or flags produce a drag effect that decreases gas mileage.
Keep your vehicle in good operating condition. If a vehicle’s power system or a number of other inter-related systems is working inefficiently, it will require more power (and therefore more fuel). Keep your tires inflated. For every one psi missing from your vehicle’s tires, you lose 0.1 percent of your gas mileage.
Vehicles with the best gas mileage
Maybe you want to invest in a new vehicle and pay less at the pumps. Here are the top five (non-electric, non-hybrid) 2022 model cars with the highest mpg (city/highway/combined):
For those who consider the final two entries to be the same vehicle—both sharing the same architecture, engine and driveline—the car with the fifth highest mpg is the Toyota Corolla Hatchback at 32/41/35 city/highway/combined mpg.
And, here are the five (non-electric, non-hybrid) 2022 model SUVs with the highest mpg (city/highway/combined):
Gas mileage has improved over the years. Compare the top combined mileage for the most fuel efficient cars over the last three decades.
Escalating gas prices, government mandates, customer demand, and the rise of electric vehicles pushed manufacturers to offer vehicles with better gas mileage. Though, electric vehicles (EVs) are now lapping gasoline-powered vehicles when it comes to good mpg. EVs are measured in miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) so they can be compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, and the combined mpge of the EV with the best mileage is 118—the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt—triple the amount of the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Now, if a new vehicle isn’t quite your speed, you’re not alone. With inflation causing a rise in gas prices, there’s been a rise in everything else as well, including new and used cars. There are other options for you, some of which include searching through online actions to find a ride that matches your taste and keeps things frugal.
Gas already costs an arm and a leg. No need to lose your other arm and leg on a car.