Here's how you can squeeze more mpg out of your used car or truck. Better gas mileage is within your reach!

Improve Gas Mileage | CarMax

When it comes to fuel economy, all the parts of your car work together to provide the best possible mileage. You’re part of the equation, too! Take care of your car, drive it efficiently, and plan ahead, and you’ll be rewarded with the best possible fuel economy – so you can get more out of every drive! A small difference of several miles per gallon can mean a big difference in your fuel budget over the course of a year. If you’re not already driving one of the best gas mileage cars out there, there are steps you can take to maximize the mileage you’re getting now.


Keep Your Used Car in Good Working Order

Maintain your engine

A properly tuned engine will reward you with its best possible fuel efficiency, so stick to your car’s maintenance schedule in order to get more miles for your dollar. You’ll be giving your engine a healthy long life, too! Addressing maintenance in a timely manner is the best way to minimize the chance of smaller issues turning into bigger (read: expensive) problems! A few specific areas include: 

  • Emission Control System: That dashboard warning light could be signaling a problem that may cause a big decrease in your fuel economy. Let's say you're driving one of the best mpg cars out there. If your car averages 30 mpg and your O2 sensor goes bad, your mileage could drop to as little as 20 mpg!*
  • Air Filter: Have your service professional check your air filter at each service so your engine doesn’t struggle to breathe freely. Replace it when needed.
  • Spark Plugs: You’ve got either four, six, or eight of them (maybe even 12!), and they light off your fuel mixture. When they’re fouled, your fuel economy could suffer. Be sure to follow your OEM’s recommended maintenance schedule.

Fixing these potential problems when they occur could improve your gas mileage by an average of 4 percent!*

Use the right motor oil

Engine lubricants can be found on store shelves everywhere — from auto parts centers to convenience stores. But not just any oil will do for your car’s engine. For example, don’t use 10W-30 motor oil if your engine is designed to use 5W-30; it’s not good for your engine and it can lower your gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent. Using the proper type and viscosity of motor oil will maximize your fuel efficiency and economy. If you’re buying motor oil yourself, look at the API symbol on the container. If it reads “Energy Conserving,” the oil contains extra friction-reducing additives, which could give you even better fuel mileage. Your car’s manufacturer sets your recommended mile and service intervals, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual. And don’t forget to change your oil filter — this should be part of every oil service.

Proper tire inflation and wheel alignment

When your tires are underinflated, you’ve got more rolling resistance, and your engine will burn more fuel in order to push you down the road. Check your tire pressure each month when the tires are cold, and make sure they’re inflated to the recommended pressure on the tire placard or your owners manual. You may need to check more often during the winter, since air molecules tend to contract in cold weather. And ask your service professional about tire balancing and wheel alignment, too. As with proper tire inflation, your engine won’t work as hard when all of your tires are pointing in the same direction!


Drive Efficiently

Driving efficiently can have a huge impact on your gas mileage. Here are a few driving ideas to help maximize your mileage and your fuel efficiency.

Drive with the AC off when possible 

Your engine drives your car’s AC compressor via a serpentine belt, and when you crank your air conditioning, your engine has to work a little harder (and use more fuel) in order to cool the cabin air around you. If you’re tooling around town and it’s not too hot, power down your AC and roll down your windows for better economy. (Drivers in East Texas and Arizona, you have our sympathies.)

Go easy on the “go pedal”

A heavy foot on the accelerator encourages your engine to gulp, rather than sip, fuel. And goosing your gas pedal too often can cause your fuel mileage to dip by up to one third on the highway! So whether you’re accelerating from a stop or driving on highways and secondary roads, drive with a lighter right foot and your wallet will feel the difference.

Idling engines burn more fuel than you think

Gone are the days where you’d need to idle for several minutes or more to let your car’s engine warm up each morning. Modern engines are warmed up after about 30 seconds of operation. And, it’s OK to turn off your motor more often when you’re not in motion. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning off your engine when you plan to idle for more than one minute could save you money.


Plan Ahead

You plan trips, meetings, and household chores and projects. Why not plan ahead to save gas, too? Here are a few simple steps you can take to cut your vehicle’s fuel usage each month.

Combine your errands to make fewer trips

Turning several shorter trips into one longer, multipurpose trip that covers the same distance is a good way to save fuel. If you make the same trips each week, plan to drop off your dry cleaning, grocery shop, et cetera on the same outing. You’ll also save wear and tear on your car.

Lighten your load

Simply put, your engine uses less fuel when you’re carrying less weight. If you drive a minivan, for example, and don’t need all the extra seats — take them out! For every 100 pounds of weight you remove from your vehicle, you’ll increase your gas mileage by much as 2 percent. Or, let’s say you’re planning a long trip in the family car. A rooftop rack and storage box might sound tempting for the additional storage room — but the additional wind resistance can increase your fuel usage. Pack wisely and store as much luggage as you can in your trunk. 

Commute smartly

If you’re regularly hauling around a boat, trailer, or a large family, sure — driving a larger vehicle with a more powerful motor makes sense. Otherwise, try to make your daily commute in a vehicle that gets great gas mileage. You could also set up a carpool with coworkers so you can make use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in your area. HOV lanes help you save fuel because you won’t be stopping and starting in traffic as frequently. Other fuel saving options include telecommuting several days a week to reduce fill-ups at the gas station, commuting during off-peak hours to avoid idling in traffic, and making use of public transportation. 

Some used cars that get great gas mileage

Looking for a used fuel efficient car or the best fuel efficient car that gets you more miles for every dollar you spend at the gas pump? Take a look at the top 10 hybrid cars of 2016. Or, you can check out these 10 sedans:

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Hyundai Elantra
  3. Nissan Altima
  4. Toyota Corolla
  5. Honda Accord
  6. Toyota Prius
  7. Mini Cooper
  8. Toyota Camry
  9. Fiat 500
  10. Chevrolet Cruze

* Source: fueleconomy.gov


This information is not intended to be legally binding. We’re out to help our customers, and we’re presenting this as a well-intentioned service. All statistics are based on information from www.fueleconomy.gov, the US Government’s fuel economy website.