Most of us already know that a car’s fuel efficiency can be improved by changing how we drive. Aggressive driving such rapid acceleration can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as 33%. Driving a car faster than 50 mph an hour can also lower fuel efficiency. But did you know that extra weight can also lower your efficiency?
For families on a cross country road trip, paying close attention to the weight load is not only better for the car but improves gas mileage as well, especially on under powered cars. How much? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel efficiency drops by about 2% for every extra 100 pounds of weight a car carries. Considering that most cars are tested for mileage ratings based on a passenger and cargo load of 300 pounds, a car packed for a road trip could experience a drop in fuel efficiency by 6% or even more.
Our family recently finished up a 7,000 mile road mile back and forth across the United States. To boost our fuel economy we drove sensibly and stuck to highways where the speed limits are a gas saving 50 mph. We also made a point of traveling as light as possible to as not to add any extra weight to the car. Here are a few of our tips.
To keep down the weight and free up cargo space, our family only took along enough clothes to fit into two small suitcases and just planned on doing laundry every 5 days. We also left most of our toiletries home too since hotel rooms usually come stocked with blow driers, shampoos and other items we would need.
While bringing your own food can save you money on a road trip, too much weight will cost you extra in fuel. To keep the weight down here, we left our camp cooler, canned goods and Gott water jugs behind and took along a small collapsible tote instead which was large enough to hold a day’s worth of eats.
It’s always tempting to bring items from home on a road trip, especially if traveling with kids. When our children were small, we used to limit them to one toy so as to avoid overloading the car. For the adults, we limit our extras to whatever fit in a single messenger bag.
Ship home heavy souvenirs
While on this particular trip we only purchased light weight souvenirs, in the past we’ve purchased everything from pottery to appliances and even a complete set of dishes. Heavy items like these were shipped home both to save space and fuel as well.
Traveling light on a road trip not only frees up room in a car, it will save you money too. We averaged nearly 40 miles per gallon on our road trip by watching the weight, driving sensibly and staying off the Interstate.
Resources: “Driving More Efficiently” by the U.S. Department of Energy.
More by this contributor:
Road trips and choosing a two-lane highway across America
Tips for keeping your rental car clean while on a road trip
how to pack the car trunk for a month long road trip