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Myths and Facts for Better Gas Mileage




With fuel prices at an all-time high, it makes sense to try finding ways to improve fuel efficiency. There are a lot of information, misconceptions, and myths out there.

Don’t roll down the windows! Or, maybe it’s the air-conditioner that will really lower your gas mileage? Time of day, speed, brand name — what really affects your gas mileage?

The real truth on fuel economy lies somewhere in the middle. We’ve researched the validity of a few common beliefs on gas mileage.

Here are some myths and facts on fuel efficiency to help you get the most out of your next fill-up.

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  • Rolling down your windows creates drag and uses more gas 1 of 10
    Rolling down your windows creates drag and uses more gas
    It's a common belief that driving with the windows down will significantly lower your gas mileage. After having the opportunity to visit Ford's Wind Tunnel, I can tell you a ton of engineering and research goes into the aerodynamics of a vehicle. And, the truth is, the windows won't have a noticeable effect on gas mileage under 40mph. Which means, it won't affect city miles at all. So, go ahead — enjoy a drive through downtown with the wind in your hair.
  • Running the air-conditioner is hard on the engine 2 of 10
    Running the air-conditioner is hard on the engine
    This one is a little bit true, actually. The air-conditioner will draw on the engine a bit, and can lower your fuel economy by up to 1mpg, but it's kind of a trade-off. I'm not going to drive around hot & sweaty for 1mpg, but I might consider rolling down the windows at lower speeds.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user phillipstewart
  • Starting a car takes uses just as much gas as idling 3 of 10
    Starting a car takes uses just as much gas as idling
    Everywhere I go, I see people leaving their cars running while they wait for kids, run into a store or sit at the drive-thru. The prevailing theory is that the restart of an engine uses more gas than idling, but that's only true if you'll be idling for less than 30 seconds. 30 seconds! Anything more than that, and you're wasting expensive gas.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user jam343
  • Premium fuel offers better performance 4 of 10
    Premium fuel offers better performance
    Of course the gas stations want you to believe this so you'll pay $.20-.30 more for gasoline! In reality, there's no discernible difference in gasoline quality, and you won't get better gas mileage just for spending more money.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user koocbor
  • Electric cars cost too much to balance fuel savings 5 of 10
    Electric cars cost too much to balance fuel savings
    This one is a toughy — on the surface, it's basically true. Electric cars get about triple the gas mileage of their gas-powered counterparts, while costing more than twice as much. So, you'll spend thousands to save around $500 per year. But buying an electric car makes you eligible for a $7500 tax credit and other state incentives. Plus, if you mostly drive a short commute and can run on all electric, you may never have to buy gas again!
  • Shopping around for lower prices wastes more money in gas than you’ll save 6 of 10
    Shopping around for lower prices wastes more money in gas than you'll save
    I hear this one all the time when I tell people how I choose my fueling station, but come on! Of course, if you're driving around for blocks & blocks trying to find a better price, you'll waste plenty of gas — but who does that? Using Gas Buddy or the Fuel Finder app on my phone, I can choose the best gas station before I ever get in my car — saving as much as $.30/gallon at each fill-up!
    Photo Credit: Flickr user dave_mcmt
  • Drive 55 for the best gas mileage 7 of 10
    Drive 55 for the best gas mileage
    I've heard this one for years and while I can't say I've always followed it, I did feel guilty about it! Well, guilt no more — it turns out, there is no negligible difference in gas mileage until you're over 60mph. And, how you drive has more impact than how fast you drive. Smooth acceleration and cruise control will make a much bigger difference in your fuel efficiency than sticking to a set speed. In fact, cruise control can improve fuel economy by as much as 7%.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user lofink
  • Fueling up in the morning nets more gas 8 of 10
    Fueling up in the morning nets more gas
    This one makes the rounds now & then and seems to make sense because it's based on real science. The idea is to fill up when it's cooler outside, when the gas is more dense. The reality is that gasoline is stored underground and comes out of the pump at basically the same temperature all day long.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user stc4blues
  • Brand name stations have better fuel 9 of 10
    Brand name stations have better fuel
    A lot of marketing money has been spent to convince people that one brand is better than another. But even the smallest independent stations get their gas from the same oil sources. While some may have additives designed to clean your engine, but there is very little evidence that these additives are effective at improving gas mileage.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user leejordan
  • Empty the trunk to reduce drag on the vehicle 10 of 10
    Empty the trunk to reduce drag on the vehicle
    Here's one that may have some truth to it. It's not as much as some people would like you to believe, but fuel economy is affected by added weight. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce fuel economy by up to 2%. So, while a few things left behind in the trunk won't have much impact, you might want to rethink carrying around a lot of heavy extras — like a large stroller or golf clubs.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user mr_t_in_dc

Sources: Consumer Reports, Gas-Mileage.com, Car and Driver, CNN Money
Photo Credit: Flickr user koocbor

Follow Heather on Twitter, Pinterest, and her blogs.

More from Heather:
The Future of Fuel Efficiency
Fuel Efficiency Trips from Ford
When a Deal Isn’t a Deal at All: Coupon Math

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