Many Factors Affect Fuel Economy
Quick acceleration and heavy braking can reduce fuel economy by up to 33% on the highway and 5% around town. New EPA tests account for faster acceleration rates, but vigorous driving can still lower MPG.
Excessive idling decreases MPG. The EPA city test includes idling, but more idling will lower MPG.
Driving at higher speeds increases aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), reducing fuel economy. The new EPA tests account for aerodynamic drag up to highway speeds of 80 mph, but some drivers exceed this speed.
Cold weather and frequent short trips can reduce fuel economy, since your engine doesn't operate efficiently until it is warmed up. In colder weather, it takes longer for your engine to warm, and on short trips, your vehicle operates a smaller percentage of time at the desired temperature. Note: Letting your car idle to warm-up doesn't help your fuel economy. It actually uses more fuel and creates more pollution.
Cargo or cargo racks on top of your vehicle (e.g., cargo boxes, canoes, etc.) increase aerodynamic drag and lower fuel economy. MPG tests do not account for this type of cargo.
Towing a trailer or carrying excessive weight decreases fuel economy. Vehicles are assumed to carry only three hundred pounds of passengers and cargo during testing.
Running electrical accessories (e.g., air conditioner) decreases fuel economy. Operating the air conditioner on "Max" can reduce MPG by roughly 5%–25% compared to not using it.
Driving on hilly or mountainous terrain or on unpaved roads can reduce fuel economy. The EPA test assumes vehicles operate on flat ground.
Using 4-wheel drive reduces fuel economy. Four-wheel drive vehicles are tested in 2-wheel drive. Engaging all four wheels makes the engine work harder and increases transfer case and differential losses.
Visit our Driving More Efficiently page to learn how you can improve your fuel economy through better driving habits.
A poorly tuned engine burns more fuel.
Improperly aligned or inflated tires can lower fuel economy by increasing rolling resistance.
Brake drag can make your engine work harder.
A dirty air filter can decrease the fuel economy of older cars with carbureted engines.
Find out how you can improve your fuel economy by Keeping Your Car in Shape.
Some fuels contain less energy than others.
Using oxygenated fuels or reformulated gasoline (RFG), for example, can cause a small decrease (1%–3%) in fuel economy.
Most of the gasoline now sold has a small amount of ethanol in it—up to 10% by volume depending upon the region. Using gasoline with 10% ethanol decreases fuel economy by 3%–4%.
The energy content of gasoline varies seasonally. Typical summer conventional gasoline contains about 1.7% more energy than typical winter conventional gasoline.
Small variations in the way vehicles are manufactured and assembled can cause MPG variations among vehicles of the same make and model. Usually, differences are small, but a few drivers will see a marked deviation from the EPA estimates.
New vehicles will not obtain their optimal fuel economy until the engine has broken in. This may take 3–5 thousand miles.