How to Improve Your Fuel Economy According to Consumer Reports

Looking for ways to improve your fuel economy? Consumer Reports ran a few tests to see what actually impacted the mileage in various cars. Tests using a Toyota RAV4 and a Nissan Altima showed a difference in fuel economy under a few circumstances.

What’s the best way to improve your fuel economy?

Fuel pumps sitting at a gas station
Consumer Reports notes a few ways to improve your fuel economy | Mykola Tys/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Consumer Reports offered some tips for drivers to increase fuel economy in cars, trucks, and SUVs. One of the major improvements came from simply driving slower. During Consumer Reports testing, speeding on both the highway and in the city increased gas consumption.

The tests included drives at 55, 65, and 75 miles per hour in both a Nissan Altima and Toyota RAV4. By dropping from 65 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, the fuel economy improved by six miles per gallon in the Altima. In the RAV4, the mileage improved eight miles per hour.

For the 75 mile per hour drive, the Altima lost seven miles per gallon and the Toyota RAV4 lost six.

The company also noted that hard braking and acceleration both impacted the fuel economy. In a Toyota Camry test, frequent acceleration and braking reduced the mileage by two to three miles per gallon.

What about carrying cargo on the roof?

Consumer Reports says don’t do it! “At highway speeds, more than 50 percent of engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag.” CR noted during testing that having two bikes on the roof had the most impact.

The Altima lost 13 miles per gallon, and the RAV4 lost seven miles per gallon. The Altima lost five miles per gallon with just a roof rack, and the Toyota lost two.

No matter what was on the roof, both the car and SUV lost some mileage. It isn’t likely that you will be carrying cargo daily, so don’t worry about it too much.

In conclusion, it seems the bigger the item is, the more it lowers your mileage. Also, the Altima was impacted more by any cargo than the RAV4. The RAV4 seemed to take less of a hit overall due to the bigger shape.

Air conditioning had a big impact


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It is no secret that air conditioning impacts the fuel economy, especially in warmer weather. When Consumer Reports tested the fuel economy with the air conditioning, there was a loss of about one to four miles per gallon.

It should be noted that not using air conditioning in hot weather can be distracting. If you need to use the air, go for it. Being hot and distracted while driving is not worth the mileage gain.

With the windows open, it did not impact the gas mileage much. It was also not impacted as much when the air outside was colder.

In another test, a dirty air filter did not have much impact on the fuel. It did impact the acceleration, but otherwise, there was not much of a difference.