Car MPG Calculator


This calculator will compute your car's Miles Per Gallon and forecast your gasoline expense for one month and for one year. It also allows you to see how much money you would save if you were driving a car that got better gas mileage.

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Mastering Mileage: Boost Savings Through Fuel Efficiency

Authored by Jose Abuyuan on June 11, 2020

Pigly driving a car.

The cost of automobile fuel can be punitive for the average motorist. Sudden swings in gas prices can beat the crap out of your budget. And it gets worse when you punch in other factors. The average motorist is unaware of the many things that contribute to the hefty price they pay at the pump. Traffic jams impede the car's speed and performance, as well as poor driving habits and maintenance.

And it's not just your wallet that feels the punch. The transportation sector alone contributes nearly 27% of greenhouse gas emissions. Wasted fuel destroys the environment and jeopardizes human health.

Of course, we don't all have the option to bike or use public transport on our daily commute. For people who want to go green and save green, improving fuel efficiency is the way to go.

Your Mileage May Vary

Fuel efficiency (or fuel economy) is the distance your car can travel for every unit of fuel it burns. In the U.S., it is expressed in miles per gallon (mpg) or mileage. An efficient vehicle uses less fuel when traveling the same distance. Improving your car's fuel efficiency helps you save money on each trip. With the right choices and driving habits, you can make drastic improvements to your fuel efficiency.

Most cars on the road today rely on the internal combustion engine. Much of the content in this article applies to internal combustion and hybrid vehicles unless specified.

These are some of the factors that affect your car's fuel efficiency.

  • Prevailing fuel prices: You might feel the punch immediately if oil prices skyrocket.
  • Fuel quality: Engines are often designed for a specific type of fuel.
  • Distance: Some vehicle types are more fuel efficient in specific distances.
  • Traffic conditions: Getting stuck in traffic consumes a lot of gas.
  • Weather conditions: Extreme temperatures can make the engine consume more fuel.
  • Weight: Heavier vehicles use much more energy to move.

There is no one measure that lets you determine the fuel efficiency of a vehicle in all conditions. Vehicles perform better in some situations than others. Top Gear-esque comparisons don't always reflect real-life driving conditions. A speeding Prius isn't going to be as efficient as a BMW on cruise control in an empty track. In a busy highway with speed limits, this is not the case.

Fuel Efficiency in the Auto Market

Because of this, it can be difficult to get an accurate reading of how fuel efficient a car model is. However, there are a few good rules of thumb to follow. The fuel efficiency ratings made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are far from comprehensive. But they can help you make reasonable choices when selecting a fuel efficient car.

Some vehicles are inefficient by design. Sports utility vehicles (SUVs), “bro trucks,” and minivans popular in the mid-2000s were notorious gas guzzlers. The surge in oil prices in the late 2000s recession caused them to fall out of favor with the average consumer.

On average, today's cars averaged up to 24.9 mpg, an almost 8-mile increase from the average mileage in 1980 at about 17 mpg. Here are some of the most fuel efficient vehicle models in the United States, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2020. This list includes electric vehicles (marked with an asterisk). Their mpg is measured by the EPA through their equivalent in electricity consumption (eGallons).

EPA Class Vehicle Model Combined MPG
Two-seater BMW I8 Roadster* 36
Fiat 124 Spider, Mazda MX-5 30
Minicompact MINI Cooper Convertible 31
Subcompact BMW i3*
BMW i3s*
Chevrolet Spark,
Chevrolet Spark ACTIV
Compact Volkswagen e-Golf* 113
Toyota Corolla Hybrid 52
Midsize Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus* 141
Toyota Prius Eco 52
Large Tesla Model S Long Range* 111
Hyundai Ioniq Blue 85
Small station wagon Chevrolet Bolt EV* 118
Kia Niro FE 50
Midsize station wagon Volvo V90 FWD 26
Small pickup trucks Chevrolet Colorado 2WD,
GMC Canyon 2WD
Standard pickup trucks Chevrolet Silverado 2WD 27
Small SUVs Tesla Model Y Performance AWD* 121
Ford Escape FWD HEV 41
Standard SUVs Tesla Model X Long Range* 121
Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD,
Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD LTD/PLAT
Minivans Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid* 48
Chrysler Pacifica,
Chrysler Voyager,
Honda Odyssey

Both Kinds of Green

Fuel efficiency correlates to emissions. In general, an energy efficient vehicle releases fewer pollutants to the atmosphere. While this is straightforward for electrics, it is much more complicated for internal combustion vehicles

Diesel, for instance, produces 22.44 pounds of excess carbon dioxide (CO2) per gallon, while gasoline produces only 19.59 pounds per gallon. You'd think diesel would be more polluting, but think again. Diesel vehicles consume less fuel when running. This means they produce fewer emissions per mile. In addition, modern diesel engines produce less carbon monoxide (CO), and in recent years, fewer nitrous oxides (NO2, NO).

Pigly's Tip!

If you drive a hybrid car, always keep your batteries fully charged. This way, you boost your driving distance and get more miles per gallon.

Busting the Myths of Mileage

The desire to save money on gas has led to a profusion of myths surrounding fuel efficiency. Some of these are outright scams that fleece misinformed motorists. Others are the product of misunderstanding how cars work. Arm yourself with knowledge and avoid these common misconceptions and scams.

Myth Fact
Use a magnet device on your car's fuel line to break up fuel particles for a more efficient burn.   Up to 99% of fuel is already burned. Magnets also only attract iron, which is not even combustible in the first place.
Add this dongle to your car. It will fix the circuitry within and give you better mileage! That's not how any of this works.
Mix these after-market fuel additives to your car to help improve fuel efficiency. Using additives does nothing to improve your vehicle's performance. These can also damage your car's engine and increase your tailpipe emissions.
Higher-grade fuels are better for your car. You are better off using the types of fuel recommended by your manufacturer; see our section on octane ratings below.
You can use diesel or jet fuel to run your gasoline-powered car. Your car isn't built to use either of those fuels. If you tried jet fuel on a car, it will simply not run.
Branded fuels are better. While some name-brand fuels have cleaning agents in their fuel, they don't affect vehicle performance otherwise. You can get by with cheaper generic fuel, just like you would for many other products.
Starting your engine consumes more fuel than leaving your engine idle. It's better to turn your car off when stopping even for a little while. Unless, of course, you're stuck in traffic or waiting in line. Leave your engine idle then.
Spoilers and other aerodynamic modifications can streamline your car and improve speed and fuel efficiency. Body kits and spoilers add needless weight to your car, which makes it slower and less fuel efficient.

There are a few common myths about cars that used to be valid but don't apply anymore. Technology marches on, and the cars of today don't need the same care tips as your grandparents' station wagon. Unless your car really is that old, you might not need to follow these old tips. Follow your manufacturer's recommendations on the ideal care your car should receive.

Vintage Truck Next to a Modern Sports Car.
They really don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Outdated Current
Warm up your engine to boost its efficiency on a cold day. Most modern cars have engine warmers for this purpose.
A smaller car always gets more fuel mileage. Many new standard and large cars have high fuel efficiency ratings.
Manual transmissions are more efficient than automatics. Today's automatic transmission vehicles are often as efficient as their manual counterparts, if not more so.
Clean out your air filter to improve your car's fuel efficiency. Today's cars use on-board computers to control the flow of air. Do it often anyway. A clean air filter may not boost fuel efficiency, but it does improve engine performance.
Older cars are less fuel efficient. With proper care, an older car can be just as fuel efficient as a new one. Fuel efficienty often improves over the first few years of ownership.
Opening your windows creates excess drag that slows down your car. Turn on the AC instead. Leaving the AC on can make your car use up more fuel than leaving the windows open.
Change your oil every 3000 miles. Today's synthetic engine oils can last much longer. Only when you drive in adverse conditions regularly should you change your oil more often.
You don't need to change the oil of a new car ever. Modern synthetic oils must be changed at least between 7,500 and 10,000 miles.

Fuel Choices

An important factor in fuel efficiency is the energy density of fuel. The more energy density a fuel has, the more energy it can convert into motion. Diesel fuels stand head and shoulders above its alternatives. Diesel contains about 15 percent more energy than gasoline and is 2 percent more efficient than biodiesel. They can travel up to 35 percent farther than gasoline engines of the same size. Gasoline and alternative fuels, meanwhile, are usually less expensive. However, the price between the three can fluctuate often.

On the surface, diesel vehicles appear to be the most efficient choice. And in some cases, it can be. Diesel engines use less fuel when accelerating and have better torque. This makes them an excellent choice for large or load-bearing vehicles. Even when considering price fluctuations, diesel drivers can save more money over the lifetime of their vehicles. That is, of course, if they drive long distances.

The most cost-effective fuel varies on the length of your commute. The more often you drive great distances, the more it makes sense to drive a diesel vehicle. This explains the commonness of light trucks in the back country.

Illustration of a Country Man Driving a Tractor.

Diesel, however, loses its advantages in the big city. This, plus their reputation as heavy polluters, made them fall out of favor in the Urban America. There, gasoline cars and their electric counterparts came to dominate. They don't have the staying power of diesel in longer driving conditions. But in city driving, distance is a moot point.

These vehicles can handle the many frustrating stops of city driving without wasting as much fuel. There, you don't really have much room to speed up anyway. Thus, city slickers usually save diesel vehicles for out-of-town trips.

Octane Obliviousness

Even the most uninformed car novice knows that high-octane translates to high-performance. But unless you're an auto nerd, you won't know what it means for your engine. Eager motorists sometimes pay top dollar for high-octane fuel. This is a big waste of money.

Long story short, octane ratings are not about the gas; they're about the engine.

Did You Know?

The high-performance engines of professional race cars need top-of-the-line fuel to reach top speeds. When everything's down to the wire, a split second difference can decide the winner. Your daily commute, of course, is likely the opposite of Formula 1.

First off, let's talk about what octane is. It is a hydrocarbon (C6H18) and alkane present in gasoline fuel. A high concentration of octane prevents “knocking,” the premature ignition of gasoline in the engine. Octane can withstand pressure better before igniting.

While some knocking is harmless, too much can affect your engine's performance. Knocking is more of a problem in high-performance engines. These have high compression ratios and use turbocharging or supercharging to add air to the engines. Thus, a higher octane level is necessary for peak performance and fuel efficiency. Knocking isn't a problem for diesel engines. They rely on pressure to ignite the fuel without using a spark plug.

Most cars have engines geared to use fuel with a specific octane rating. Regular gas, which has an average octane rating of 87 in most states, is more than enough for the average sedan. Sports cars, meanwhile, have engines that need octane ratings of 91 or higher. When in doubt, read your owner's manual and stick to the recommended octane rating for your car's model.

Pumping premium gas into high performance vehicles.
Do you really need to have what he’s having?

Good Maintenance Matters

Newer vehicles, in general, have better gas mileage than their older counterparts. Today's diesel vehicles produce less pollution than they did before. Automatic transmission vehicles have caught up to their stick-shift counterparts in gas savings. Modern cars today also have different maintenance needs.

As stated above, this is far from universal. Even if your vintage car isn't a supercharged sleeper, it can still be efficient if you give it a regular tune-up. Learn as much about the maintenance needs of your car's model as possible from your owner's manual. Add your recommended schedule for maintenance to your budget's calendar.

Some maintenance tasks are more important than others. Oil changes are due every few months. Tire pressure checks should happen every week or so. Others, such as professional fuel injector cleaning, should only be done when your car's fuel injectors are clogged.

The Spark of Speed

Spark plugs are an essential component in the gasoline engine's ignition system. Gasoline engines use them to ignite compressed fuel to turn the pistons.

If your car accelerates much slower or consumes more fuel than usual, it could be because of a faulty spark plug. For many cars, the regular replacement of spark plugs is the key to keeping your engine in top form. A good rule of thumb is to have standard spark plugs replaced every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. Iridium- or platinum-tipped spark plugs, meanwhile, last between 60,000 and 150,000 miles. Check your car's owner's manual for specific instructions.

When tuning up your engine for better gas mileage, you don't always need to replace your spark plugs. Have your mechanic check the plugs to see if they can repair anything wrong with them. Sometimes, a plug burns out and needs replacing. In other cases, the plug might have too broad a gap between its electrodes. In this case, all the mechanic needs to do is bring the plug's wires back to factory settings.

Make Time for Lubricant

Oil helps your fuel economy by reducing the friction between your engine's parts. You usually only had a sticker and a rule of thumb to remind you of oil changes in the past. Today, phone apps and in-built sensors in your car can help you identify when you need an oil change.

The type of oil you need matters. Today's synthetic oils can last up to a distance of 10,000 miles at most. They have a lower viscosity that allows smoother movement between engine parts. They also resist heat better, letting engines operate for much longer. The costs of synthetic engine oils, however, are more than twice that of other oils.

In some cases, though, this price is worth it. If you live in an area with hot summers or cold winters, synthetic oil may be your best bet to protect your engine. Synthetic oils also work better for families who make plenty of short trips with their car. Finally, a synthetic oil can help older cars avoid engine failure due to sludge build-up.

Car in great mechanical shape.
A little TLC helps.

Keep Rollin'

Check your tire pressure often. An inflated tire causes less friction on the road than a flabby one and drives smoother. Even a difference of 5 PSI from your recommended pressure levels can lead to a 2 percent increase in fuel consumption. Ideally, you should check your tires' pressure each time you fill up on gas.

With this in mind, it's tempting to lower the amount of friction your tires get. Although low-rolling resistance tires are more fuel-efficient they also have less traction. They can be dangerous in adverse weather conditions such as snow where the roads are slippery. If you live in a dry, snow-free area, this might be a good option for you. Otherwise, stick to good-quality all-weather tires and keep them well-inflated.

Red Flags

A misfiring engine is characterized by the sputtering or stumbling sound it makes. This is often caused by a faulty ignition system, either by a sensor malfunction or a faulty spark plug. Left to itself, the engine will lose power and fuel efficiency and produce more exhaust emissions.

Do not delay any repairs that might affect the performance of your car. Ignoring these and other red flags may cause you more expensive problems down the line. Schedule a visit to the mechanic at the soonest convenience.

Drive Your Way to Gas Savings

To quote Top Gears's Jeremy Clarkson, “It isn't what you drive that matters, it's how you drive it.” One of the biggest factors in fuel savings is the motorist's driving style. You hold the literal key to better gas mileage. Motorists can use driving techniques known as hypermiling to reduce their fuel consumption.

An entire subculture of motorists built up around saving money through hypermiling. In extreme cases, these can lead to reckless driving and even road rage. A few obsessive hypermilers chose gas savings over road courtesy, putting the practice in a negative light. Of course, you wouldn't need to be rude or annoying to take advantage of hypermiling.

Hold Your Horsepower

Not so fast, Sonic! While we tend to associate efficiency with acceleration, this is certainly not the case with cars. Speeding is not only against the law; it is also unsafe and ineffective. You might think that going fast can save you a lot of time, but this isn't the case. Instead, you end up consuming more fuel by speeding for a negligible savings in time.

Automobile engines are at their most efficient when working at a consistent speed. Take it easy on the gas pedal and slowly bring your car up to a reasonable speed before turning on cruise control. Gradual acceleration consumes less fuel than putting the pedal to the metal.

Brake It To Me Gently

Nobody likes it when you hit the brakes abruptly. Getting catapulted forward during a sudden stop is not a pleasurable experience for anyone. Hitting the brakes too fast would also damage your engine. Slow down when approaching a stop or an intersection and hit the brakes gently.

If you drive stick, learn motor braking. This involves downshifting your car to a smaller gear to slow down. Using the brakes themselves is quite wasteful as it interrupts your car's forward momentum. It takes less energy to let your car slow down before stopping than bring it to a sudden halt.

Pay close attention to the flow of traffic. That way, you'll have a good idea of when you'll need to slow down.

Fix Your Habits

A big factor in your everyday fuel efficiency is timing. When and how often you drive can have as big an impact as your gas mileage as anything else. The stereotype of the suburban parent who uses an oversized car as a mall crawler has its origins in real life. Reduce the frequency of your grocery trips by buying in bulk. Finally, try to stagger all your car-based errands on a single trip.

If you must travel on cold days, don't bother warming up your engine. Instead, bundle up on easy-to-remove outerwear and start driving. Your engine and your car will warm up as you travel.

Travel Light

In general, the lighter the vehicle, the more fuel efficient it is. Not a few suburban vehicles have things like bike racks and roof racks attached to them. While useful in some circumstances, they can reduce the efficiency of your vehicle because of the extra weight. If they're not in use, remove them until you need them again. Keep only the essentials in your vehicle.

The same goes for auto decorations. You might think that a new spoiler might make your car look as cool as a supercar, but most of the time it just adds drag. Keep your ornaments sensible. That one show didn't always let the customers keep all the impractical mods, and with good reason.

Another source of extra weight is dirt. If your car is caked in mud, it might be time for a trip to the car wash.

The Topic of Traffic

Rush-hour traffic is the worst. That's fuel going up in smoke as you idle in the middle of congestion. Of course, we don't always have the option of living somewhere without heavy traffic. Adapting to rush hour and avoiding choke points may be your best option to reduce congestion. If you have the option to go to work at your own time, use it. It helps to start your commute outside of peak hours.

And don't stop there. Pay close attention to the state of the road network in your destination. Listen to traffic reports and know when and where construction and repair jobs are being done. The fewer stops or points of congestion you encounter, the better. Plan each cross-country road trip in advance. Avoid thoroughfares that drive through cities that are not you main destination.

Finally, consider carpooling for your everyday commutes. You spend less money and fuel per capita by traveling together.

Looking for in-depth information on securing auto loans? Check out our guide on our car payment calculator.

About The Author

Jose Abuyuan is a web content writer, fictionist, and digital artist hailing from Las Piñas City. He is a graduate of Communication and Media Studies at San Beda College Alabang, who took his internship in the weekly news magazine the Philippines Graphic. He has authored works professionally for over a decade.

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