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Use Cruise Control to Increase MPG? It Really Depends on Your Personality

By • Dec 11th, 2008 • Category: Maximize Your MPG

Cruise control stalkAdvices abound about how you can improve your car’s mileage or miles per gallon (MPG) by using the cruise control. Essentially by using your car’s cruise control, you are telling the car to travel at a constant speed regardless of road conditions. It’s a very nice feature originally offered to allow driving on long trips without getting fatigued.

Here are a few ideas and advices from , and Daily Fuel Economy Tip. There are countless others if you google for them.

By definition, cruise control keeps your car at a constant speed. Manufacturers build some “smart” into the system by allowing cruise control activation only above a certain speeds, typically around 25-30 miles per hour (mph) for most cars. This means you can’t use cruise control in relatively low speed stop and start driving, or in other words, most city driving. The system is not designed for such driving environment.

In city driving where sometime you can get up to 40 mph, I find it’s more of a hassle to put on cruise control than it’s worth. This is because, more than likely, you wouldn’t be able to drive at that speed for too long before having to slow down again. So for most city or stop-and-go driving, cruise control does not do anything for you in terms of fuel economy.

Cruise control really shines when it comes to long trips. That’s what cruise control was originally built for anyway. In more environmentally conscious times like now, this little invention can also save you real dollars. If you do it right, that is.

On my many long drives between San Diego and Los Angeles, a very hilly drive along the California coast, the best mileage I get has been with my foot regulating the speed, no cruise control. I regularly achieve around 29 mpg in “manual” (foot) mode, while could only squeeze around 25 mpg with the cruise control on most of the trip. On the other hand, for the relatively flatter drive from Southern California to Las Vegas, for example, cruise control can really show its benefits. For the typical driver I think it will boil down to a combination of 3 things: convenience (long drive with less work on the pedal), fuel economy (get the best mpg with or without cruise control), and habits (subconscious actions without special awareness). No matter what camp you are from, here’s the reality.

On a given long-distance drive you can encounter a combination of flat, hilly and stop-and-go driving conditions. If you want to arrive with great feelings and no foot/leg fatigue, then go cruise control the whole way, except of course during very steep hills and in heavy traffic. If you’re more about getting there with the least fuel consumed, then set cruise control for long stretches of flat highway but take more active role to regulate speeds during hilly portions and stop-and-go traffic. Finally if you don’t care, then of course do what you want and just enjoy the trip.

There you have it. It’s really up to each of us to do the right thing, for us and for the environment. Take your pick.

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is a marketing communications consultant working in the San Diego area. Cuong is dedicated to helping individuals and companies maximize their presence on the Internet and efficiently take products and services to market through SEO and network marketing. Cuong also maintains a blog on Marketing at You can also find Cuong Huynh's profile on LinkedIn. For fun he maintains a blog on Vietnamese pho, soccer and do storyboards for movie and film projects. Follow Cuong on Twitter @CuongHuynh, @LovingPho, @CleanCarTalk, @BlockbusterFilm, @SoccerUSA.
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