Nobody wants to spend more at the pump than they have to, but many drivers don't realize all the little things they can do — both behind the wheel and as part of routine maintenance — to ease the financial sting when they fill up.
Come up to speed gradually
Aggressive driving has one of the most severe impacts on your mileage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering it by as much as 33 percent on the highway. Gunning your engine uses a lot of fuel. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but hitting the pedal hard as a matter of course will have a negative effect on your mileage. Bring your car gently up to speed whenever possible, and then keep your speed steady using cruise control if driving conditions allow it.
Reduce your speed overall
Roadways with slower speed limits are better for gas mileage. The U.S. Department of Energy indicates that mileage drops dramatically at speeds of more than over 49 mph. Even just keeping your speed at 55 mph will help.
Don't stop more than necessary
Avoid stopping any more often than necessary. A route with one stop sign or traffic light is better for your mileage than one with three, because each time you stop you must bring your car back up to speed again; this uses more gas, even when taking your time.
Staying off the brakes as much as possible, even if you simply want to slow down going around a turn, saves gas overall. Ease up on the accelerator in advance of the turn instead.
Don't make your car work harder than it has to
Wind resistance kills your gas mileage. Even something as seemingly innocuous as your side mirrors produce drag, making your car's engine work harder to move through the air. The U.S. Department of Energy says that cargo box on your roof will reduce your fuel economy by as much as 25 percent on an Interstate, although significantly less when driving in the city. Leave it at home if you don't really need it, or consider a rear-mounted box instead. When you're buying a new vehicle, ask yourself if you really need that roof rack.
What's inside your car?
Moving everything from that cargo box into the passenger area of your vehicle won't help much. Unnecessary weight in your car pulls down fuel economy; even the spare tire in your trunk contributes slightly to diminished mileage. You lose one percent off your miles per gallon with every 100 pounds your vehicle carries - and it's more for smaller cars.
The weather affects miles per gallon
It's relatively common knowledge that turning on your car's air conditioning will sap gas, but lowering the windows to keep cool produces drag so it may not be a worthwhile alternative, particularly on really hot days. However, it's cold weather that has the biggest effect on your engine. Mileage drops by about 12 percent from 77 degrees F to roughly 20 degrees F. In colder weather it takes longer for your vehicle to warm up to its most fuel-efficient operating temperature. Cold air tends to be thicker and heavier, too, which creates more drag as your car drives through it.
A garage — ideally a heated one — can help considerably, but consider parking in the sun if a garage isn't an alternative, or invest in an insulated car cover.