Gas prices seem to reached a plateau at around $3.00/gallon for regular unleaded in the Portland area, but they’re expected to rise again before summer. With the high gas prices, people begin to look for ways to achieve better fuel economy. Edmunds.com has an article from last fall that seems more useful now: What really saves gas? And how much?

All we did was take several of the most common tips out there and put them to the test over a remote 55-mile route in the high desert of California. Some of them worked like a charm. Some of them didn’t work at all. We’ll give you the breakdown.

The tips they tested and the results of each were:

  • Aggressive vs. moderate driving: The most significant gas savings achieved from any of the tests. Accelerate more slowly. Brake over a longer distance. “If you slowed your 0-to-60-mph acceleration time down from your current 10 seconds to a more normal city pace of 15 seconds, you’ll feel the savings immediately.”
  • Lower speeds save gas: “People are wasting a lot of gas for the chance to get there a little earlier.” (I mentioned this tip last week.)
  • Use cruise control: Cruise control takes the human element out of speed, preventing unconscious acceleration and deceleration. Don’t use cruise control in hilly areas.
  • Air conditioning vs. windows down: “It’s not worth the argument because you won’t save a lot of gas either way. So just do what’s comfortable.” This surprised me; I’ve always been a windows-down kind of guy, but now I won’t feel so guilty on those hot summer days when I wimp out and use the air conditioner.
  • Tire pressure: “In this test we saw a modest difference in two of the cars. It might have been more dramatic with different tires on different cars. Experts swear by it; we couldn’t really document it… We recommend that you do your own tests to see what inflation setting gives you the best fuel economy.”
  • Avoid excessive idling: “If you turn off your car you will save gas. Obviously. But related questions are more difficult to answer. If you’re only stopping for only a minute, is it better to shut off the engine or keep it idling? Should I shut off the engine in traffic? How much gas will this save?” Edmunds doesn’t really find an answer.

For more about each of the tests, and the methodology behind the study, check out the complete article at edmunds.com.

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