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Many Factors Affect Fuel Economy

Vehicles in traffic

Quick acceleration and heavy braking can reduce fuel economy by up to 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent 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.