How to Get the Best Mileage From Your Toyota Prius
Buying a Prius a few years ago may have been more of a “green” gesture than a practical one, but as gas prices rise ever higher, it’s the people who drive non-hybrid cars who are green – with envy! Here are some low-tech mileage-boosting tips to help you get more value out of your investment while reducing your carbon footprint. To go even further, see the Resources section.
- A Toyota Prius, preferably one with the multi-information display that allows you to monitor mileage and energy use
Set reasonable expectations, especially if you are a new Prius owner. Many Prius owners report lower-than-expected mileage during the break-in period. This may well be a characteristic of the car, but most likely also reflects a learning curve as you shift your previous driving habits into “Prius mode.” What’s reasonable to expect? A poll of over 1100 drivers on one of the largest Prius mailing lists indicates that most people average from 42 to 47 miles overall, with 45 being the most often reported figure.
Realize that your mileage will vary with different types of driving. You can get great mileage on long trips but lots of short runs around town will drive your average mileage down. Overall, the kind of driving you do most often will affect your mileage more than any tips you’ll find online. So if most of your driving is quick trips to the store, taking kids to school, etc., find ways to consolidate short trips into longer ones and you should see some mileage improvement fairly quickly.
Keep nonessentials out of your car. Yes, of course you have to bring the groceries home, but allowing other assorted belongings to take up semi-permanent residence in the car means you’re carrying more weight than you need. Any increase in weight means the engine has to work harder, decreasing the mileage.
Work on developing a “feather foot.” You want the lightest possible touch on the accelerator, and you need to get into the habit of taking full advantage of your car’s built-up momentum. There’s no need to keep your foot on the accelerator when going downhill, and you’ll find that you can keep lifting it off the accelerator periodically when driving on a level surface. If you see a red light or a stop sign ahead, take your foot off the accelerator immediately and allow the car to come to a stop on its own.
If you have the multi-information screen feature in your car, it can help you learn feather-foot techniques more quickly. Set the Trip Information setting as your default. Watch it as you drive and monitor how much gas you are using when going uphill vs. downhill, and when you’re pressing on the accelerator and releasing it. The difference is very dramatic and will be very helpful in enabling you to use less gas.If you don’t have a multi-information screen in your Prius, use mental imagery. Imagine that there is an egg underneath your accelerator, and that you need to drive without cracking the shell. The more you focus on this image, the better you will become at minimizing your gas use.
Don’t exceed the speed limit. You’ll find that the highest mileage can be achieved when you are able to drive at speeds of 35 to 45 mph with minimal stops. I’ve personally seen mileage go as high as 60 mpg under these conditions. So if you aren’t in a hurry, slow down a bit and save gas.
Use the cruise control as often as you can. It is more effective at saving gas than the lightest possible “feather foot.” It isn’t only for highway use. If you’re driving for a few miles in an area without a lot of traffic lights, use the cruise to maintain that ideal 40-mph speed and you should get mileage worth bragging about.
Ration your air conditioning use in the summer. When you start the car, roll down the windows, open all the vents, and turn on the fan. Do not turn the AC on until you’ve been driving for a few minutes and the circulating air has cooled down the car a bit. Once you do turn it on, allow it to bring the car down to a comfortably cool temperature. Then turn it off and lower two of the windows on ONE side of the car by 1” to 2”. This has relatively low impact on air drag but still helps circulate air. Switch back and forth between the use of the air conditioner and the two open windows on one side, turning the AC back on when it gets too warm for you.
Make sure the tires are properly inflated. Over-inflating them to reduce road resistance and decrease gas consumption will just eventually require the purchase of a new set of tires. Check your owner's manual for the recommended pressure and monitor it regularly.
Tips & Warnings
These ideas are intended for a non-technical or novice Prius driver. There are other, more involved and/or technical ways to improve Prius mileage – check out the Resources for more info.