A Way to Cut Down on Gas and Car Maintenance

What is hypermiling and does it really save on gas…or is it just hype? And a lesson on why your newer, more “efficient” cars are still sucking up gas. 

Over $4.00 a gallon and still counting. What are we to do about the price of gas? Let’s conserve–a gallon at a time. How many articles have you read about doing just that—all the hype about pumping up your tires, pumping gas when it’s cold out (or is it when it’s warm out?), empty your trunk, etc. But in Fairfield County, I still hear reports from others that everyone is jamming the gas and brake peddles on the highway, on side streets, everywhere. We’re rough with our cars–probably taking out financial angst and anger on those darn peddles. But that is no way to treat your car because not only will you burn more fuel drip by drip and you will ruin your brakes, which will set you back some serious dough.

Well, here’s the hype about hypermiling, because it can make a difference in a few ways, including how it can save your sanity. I talked to my husband, Steve, a somewhat dedicated hypermiler (who also knows a ton of information about any and all cars) about his thoughts on the practice that tends to frustrate those of us who drive with, or behind, hypermilers. And for all of you who may not know what it is, hypermiling is really just a way to coast (downhill) without pressing the gas or brake peddle.

2004-2007 Toyota Prius photographed in College...
Even if you own a hybrid, you may want to hypermile to save on gas and wear-and-tear. You will get the mpg listed for your car if you are driving the 55 mph. Don’t expect to get that mileage when you are going over 60-65 mph on the highway. 2004-2007 Toyota Prius photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a Q&A on the subject of hypermiling. If you want to learn more, please click here to go to a great article on hypermiling in Mother Earth News, and here, to this article in Mother Jones Magazine, called “This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk.”

Marilyn: How did you learn about hypermiling?

Steve: I’ve always done it, but I just heard the term a couple years ago.

Marilyn: Why did you always do it?

Steve: Why step on the gas unless you have to? It’s basic physics. You’re coasting down a hill and you don’t have to feed your car gas when going down a hill. But still, many people zoom down a hill 50 miles an hour. I don’t see people going slower, they gun it and go as fast as they possibly can. Once in a great while you see someone driving slowly. Not often. It upsets people behind me when I hypermile, but do I care? If they want to fill my gas tank with gas, then let them do it.

Marilyn: Do you see any savings?

Steve: Where you really save money is on the wear-and-tear of your car. Hypermiling means you are not braking so much, so you save on brake pads. Sometimes when I need to brake or slow down, I downshift to a lower gear.

Marilyn: Yes, but don’t you see savings when it comes to gas? Or why bother hypermiling?

Steve: Brake jobs are expensive! But as far as gas, the only way to save on gas is to go slower on the highway and do the speed limit around town. Any time you drive over 60 miles an hour on the highway you are burning up more gas as you would if you were going the speed limit. In other words, when you drive over 60 or 65 mph, you are bringing down your mpg by 4 miles. So, according to a CNN Money article, if you If a car gets 28 mpg at 65 mph, driving it at 75 would drop that to 24 mpg. Obviously, the faster you go, the more gas you burn. But there are some professional hypermilers around that save a lot of gas, like the guy featured in the Mother Earth News article and in the Mother Jones article. Around town, don’t do any jackrabbit starts, let your car accelerate up to speed after you leave a stoplight. People just plunge on the gas peddle to get away. And, don’t tailgate because you jam on your brakes, then you plunge on gas and that’s the biggest waste of gas.

Because I drive slow and don’t jam my peddles, I get 18 to 20 miles per gallon around town with an 8 cylinder SUV that’s 11 years old. Most people get 10 to 12 mpg around town with that kind of car, so hypermiling helps a bit with the gas.

The problem today is that newer cars don’t get as good mileage as they did 20 to 30 years ago. You could easily get 40 miles a gallon from older Hondas from the early 1980s. Older fuel-efficient cars from the 1980s were able to get so much better mileage. Years ago an old Honda CRF—the little two-door hatchbacks—used to get 50 miles per gallon, and if you drove well, you’d get better mileage. Now car manufacturers are shooting to get 40 mpg and they think that’s great. One of the problems with today’s new cars is that they are carrying so much more safety equipment so they are heavier, and that uses up more fuel.

Marilyn: You’re not such an angel when it comes to gas. You have a boat!

Steve: Yes, I do. Instead of hypermiling in a boat, we just anchor a lot! All that money I save by hypermiling pays for gas for the boat (chuckle). But, if I could figure out a way to efficiently hypermile on the water…

Marilyn: So, what should we do in our cars?

Steve: Stop being in such a rush and don’t take out frustrations on your gas and brake peddles. And if anyone knows of a bumper sticker that says “Be Patient, I’m Hypermiling,” please send it along to me.

Marilyn: Thanks for your tips.

Additional Articles on Hypermiling