Why You Don’t Get Your EPA Fuel Economy MPG

The EPA fuel economy MPG is those numbers they put on the car window sticker that estimate how many miles per gallon (mpg) you should be getting out of your car.  Most people do NOT get that number, but instead get a lower mpg.

I’ve heard folks who maintain their car religiously, check their tire pressure (tyre inflation for the Brits), get an oil change at every 3000 miles on the dot, get their tune-ups on time, and basically do everything under the sun to get the best number of miles per gallon out of their car, then still fail to acheive the number on the window sticker that they laminated and keep in the glovebox.  They ask: Why?

In a nutshell: It’s your driving style!

That’s right, take a good look in the mirror if you’ve done all the maintenance possible and still can’t get up to your EPA fuel economy number.  As a pizza delivery driver, I have probably seen you in MY rear-view mirror or through my windshield, and I can say that all the maintenance in the world will be undone by driving style.  Here are the official EPA tips to improve your mpg through driving style:

  • SLOW DOWN!!!  Seriously, most people on the road with me are driving 5-15 mph over the posted speed limit, even through known speed traps and school zones.  The EPA estimates that simply observing the speed limit will save you 7-23%, which translates to $0.23-0.74 per gallon at $3.239 per gallon price (what I saw this weekend).  That doesn’t take into account the expense of getting a speeding ticket and having your driving insurance rate raised.
  • Aggressive driving costs you.  Rapid acceleration, especially from a full stop (often called drag racing starts or jackrabbit starts), uses the most gas for the least amount of distance.  I see this the most in town between stoplights!  Why are you in such a hurry to slam on the brakes at the next stoplight?  The EPA estimates that “aggressive driving” costs 5-33% of your mpg depending on just how aggressive you truly drive.  At $3.239 per gallon of gas, that could cost you $0.16-$1.07 per gallon!  So how does it feel to stomp on the gas pedal and know that you just burned 1/3 of your fuel effieciency?  If you can’t tell, this one is a pet peeve of mine, especially when the aggressive driver is directly behind me.
  • Excess weight in your car makes your engine work harder.  The EPA estimate is 1-2% per every 100 pounds of extra weight in your car, which translates to $0.03-$0.06 per gallon of gasoline.  Basically, if you are dragging around excess weight you just negated any savings you might have gotten by price shopping or using a discount card at the pump.
  • Avoid idling.  When you are idling, you are burning gas to go absolutely nowhere.  I always turn the Pizza Taxi off instead of idling at a customer’s house or at the shop in between deliveries. (No EPA figures)
  • Use cruise control (if you have it).   This helps you keep a smooth constant speed on the highway as opposed to the speed-up-slow-down routine, even on the hills.  Hubby’s truck has cruise control, but as a 5-speed the Pizza Taxi doesn’t. (No EPA figures)
  • Use overdrive if you have it.  Once you are up to highway speed, pop it in overdrive to let your engine work less. (No EPA figures)

I know some of y’all are wondering just how well I do against the EPA figures for my Pizza Taxi.  Here are the stats I plugged into the “Find your fuel economy” page: 2000 Ford Escort ZX2 5-speed manual.

  • Old EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway
  • New EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway
  • MY fuel economy on the last fill-up (Thursday before work to Saturday after work)  325 miles travelled, 9.6 gallons of gasoline used for 34.58 mpg!
  • My record for city and delivery mpg: last summer I got 35.8 mpg while driving for Domino’s and delivering into downtown even!
  • My record for highway mileage: 39.2 mpg on a road trip about three years ago immediately after an oil change and tune-up and driving on a windless mild day.

I beat the old EPA fuel economy numbers, and stomp all over the revised numbers.  Why?  HOW?  I follow all the tips I just listed for y’all, plus a few of my personal gasoline-saving driving tips listed last week.

Here’s my challenge for everyone: Try one week of driving like the EPA and I recommend, and figure your gas mileage.  To do this, start with a completely full gas tank and either note your starting miles on the odometer or reset your trip meter to zero.  When you go to fill up again, top it off, and the number of gallons it takes is how much you used.  Then divide number of miles traveled by gallons used for your mpg.  Compare this number to what the EPA says you should be getting (both old and new numbers for fun!) and post it here :)