How I "Hypermiled" Myself Up To Seattle

by Katy on December 28, 2008 · 14 comments




The snow and ice have melted, and I drove my crazy offspring and myself up to Seattle to hang out with my big sister for a few days.

But first, I worked a little of that hypermiling magic.

What? You’ve never heard of hypermiling?!

Hypermiling is the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2008 word of the year.

It is defined as:

Hypermiling” or “to hypermile” is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques. Rather than aiming for good mileage or even great mileage, hypermilers seek to push their gas tanks to the limit and achieve hypermileage, exceeding EPA ratings for miles per gallon.

Many of the methods followed by hypermilers are basic common sense—drive the speed limit, avoid hills and stop-and-go traffic, maintain proper tire pressure, don’t let your car idle, get rid of excess cargo—but others practiced by some devotees may seem slightly eccentric:

driving without shoes (to increase the foot’s sensitivity on the pedals)
• parking so that you don’t have to back up to exit the space
• “ridge-riding” or driving with your tires lined up with the white line at the edge of the road to avoid driving through water-filled ruts in the road when it’s raining

So what did we do?

  • We made sure the tires were properly inflated.
  • I took off the Yakima rack off the top of the car, (okay, I made my husband do this.)
  • I took any and all opportunities to partake of the cruise control.

What I didn’t do:

Drive barefoot. That is just disgusting! The accelerator is a spot touched only by the bottoms of shoes. I would sooner walk barefoot through a dog park, than drive barefoot.


I know the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary dudes made hypermiling the official word of the year, but I’m still going with their runner-up — Frugalista.

Are you driving barefoot to save the planet? Please share your hypermiling tips in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

luneray December 29, 2008 at 12:23 am

hehe. I do prefer to drive barefoot. (not that I ever do except during the summer when I can easily slip my sandals off). It’s not out of any preference for hypermiling but because I feel that shoes are really bulky and uncomfortable on my gas-pedal foot.

Anyway, driving barefoot isn’t any more gross than walking barefoot. And with less chance of stepping in dog-doo or in broken glass. 🙂


Kristen@The Frugal Girl December 29, 2008 at 5:52 am

I drive barefoot in the summertime. and I agree with luneray…walking through a dog park would be WAY more gross. lol

I hypermile…I start slowly, I try to coast to as many stops as possible, and I drive the speed limit. I don’t get to use cruise control that much because I’m usually doing stop and go driving and I’m not going very far. I should do that on the highway, though.


Andy December 29, 2008 at 8:22 am

Back when I drove a shuttle for my job, I made hypermiling my job. The Chevy Venture minivan rated for 18mpg was then averaging 27mpg on each tank of gas, and I could get between the towns at 40mpg if I used all my techniques. It can get quite complicated with some of the techniques, but the obvious ones are what saves the most gas.

1. Accelerate moderately. Too slow (like just a few mph per second) or too fast (o-40 in 5 seconds) just plain use up more gas. Take your time, cause you’ll probably end up at the exact same stop as the car ahead.

2. Depending on your car, 40-45mph is the most efficient speed. Pick roads that make you drive more often in the highest gear at the lowest engine speed. For long distances, try state routes, as they are often more direct and with 55mph limits. My route to visit family used to be 258mi on interstates, but then I used state routes which made it 207mi at much more efficient speeds. Doing this saved 53% off the gas, plus it avoided paying $3.60 in tolls each way.

3. Keep a large buffer between cars, especially in city driving. Any time you brake, you are loosing momentum. Staying 20ft behind a car means that when they brake, you will too. If you leave 100ft, you won’t make all the little reactions they do.

4. Keep a steady throttle pressure. Most drivers don’t realize this, but they step on the gas, let off, step on it, let off, etc. Try to find the right spot that you are just moving along without needed to move your foot. Try this on little hills too, and your speed will drop slightly but as long as you stay in the same gear your MPGs will barely increase.

Using those techniques and others, I drove my 97 Subaru wagon (rated 23mpg) consistently above 35mpg. Just practice on those routes you drive often, and you’ll get the hang of it.


Magdalena December 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Driving barefoot is illegal in some states! I don’t know why. I used to wear little ballet slippers for driving, not the dancing kind, but the kind with some nonskid. It made sense to have better roadfeel through the pedals. My dad wouldn’t let us drive in clogs or thick shoes. (I learned to drive in the seventies, and my sisters and I loved those platformy shoes.) Recently, on the program broadcast here in the North called “Canada’s Worst Driver,” one of the students had to carry driving shoes with her – her heels were impairing her driving. She still finished last, though.


Dawn December 29, 2008 at 4:17 pm

When my partner and I drove cross country from Colorado to Maine, I drove barefoot and loved it!

It kept me awake by driving barefoot and kept me cool a bit since we were driving through during the summer season.


Julie December 30, 2008 at 6:26 am

I’ve been driving a Prius hybrid for the last 2-1/2 years and one of the best things about it is the display which shows how many miles per gallon you are getting at any moment. It made me much more aware of how my actions were affecting my gas mileage. Some stupid things I had been doing since I learned to drive in 1983, like zooming up to stop lights only to slam on the brakes at the red, just had to be changed. I’ve learned to coast a lot more, just be lighter on the accelerator in general (as mentioned above) and to use the cruise control a lot. Just chill out, it’s not a race! I think if every car, especially non-hybrid ones, had this feature of real time mpg, a ton of gas (and money!) would be saved when people could see for themselves what a big difference one’s driving style makes.


Tara Morrison December 30, 2008 at 6:46 am

I drive a mini van, not much choice with 3 kids and one on the way. Any way we ventured from Alabama to Indiana for husband to play in a Bluegrass Festival this summer, when gas was really high. Well we set our cruise on 64 and got approximately 27 mpg. Which is awesome since the owners manual says you can only get 22 on hwy. Slow down and save gas!


Tamara Kittelson-Aldred December 30, 2008 at 8:16 am

I found side benefit of “hypermiling” – I am a more alert and attentive driver and driving itself is more interesting. It is difficult to go into a “trance” traveling from point A to B when I am being intentional about maximizing my gas mileage.


Bev December 31, 2008 at 8:42 am

What a wonderful time with your sis and family! One thing my hubby and I did when we needed to cut WAY back and decided to stay home for vacation was we checked out travelogs from the library and had dinner on the card table in front of the tv. When we watched the dvd about travel in China I stir-fried veggies and warmed up frozen egg rolls. When we watched the Mexico dvd, we had fajitas, rice and beans, chips and salsa. Italy…well, you get the idea. He still talks about how much fun we had that vacation. We did the zoo and early movies, but mostly attended free jazz performances, parks, etc. Free is FUN – including water 🙂


Sam January 3, 2009 at 3:59 am

I “hypermiled” my ’94 Buick Park Avenue recently, and got 32.4 mpg on one leg of a recent trip from Post Falls, Idaho to Portland. That’s better mileage than a pricey new Camry. Yeah, I drive a big fat heavy American car, but it’s aerodynamic, and has a well-engineered 3.8 litre six cylinder engine with overdrive. With careful driving, I usually get 26-30 mpg on the freeway. My previous best was 31.2 mpg. How? I use cruise control a lot, but I use it judiciously. I DON’T use it to accelerate, since it tends to speed the car up TOO quickly. Likewise, I turn it off if I’m going up much of a hill, and let the car slow down a little. Going downhill, I’ll let gravity bring the speed back up, if it’s steep enough and it’s not a hazard to traffic. On this particular trip, it helped that it was later in the day without much traffic. Keeping long following distances helped too, although you can’t do that hypermile-style when there’s much traffic. Now if I could just keep my leadfoot driving down to 55 or 60 mph, I bet I could break 35 mpg. Who says big American cars are so inefficient? And this is with 15 year-old technology.


Hippy Habibi January 23, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Oooo, I have been driving barefoot for years! (It was easier for me when I learned to drive stick.) I didn’t know it save gas mileage. Hooray!


chicco August 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I drive always barefoot for years! Most sure,and most comfort!!!!


chicco August 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I drive always barefoot for years!!!!Most sure and most comfort!!!!


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