What's a Good Gas Mileage for a Car?

What's a Good Gas Mileage for a Car?

Chalk it up to drivers seeking to protect the environment or wanting to save money at the pump. Or both. Either way, these days, vehicles with increasingly improved fuel economy are becoming the norm.

So, what constitutes good gas mileage these days? It's not as simple as looking at a particular vehicle's city and highway miles-per-gallon stats. Factors like vehicle type, driving habits, engine size, and more all play a crucial part in determining good fuel economy. Also, the most fuel-efficient cars may not have the features specific drivers want.

Narrowing down the choice for your next vehicle entails looking at attributes beyond how many miles per gallon a car gets, like power, acceleration, handling, and cargo capacity. You'll also want to consider the type of vehicle you want or need, whether a subcompact, minivan, or small SUV. 

In the end, it comes down to your personal preference and whether you value fuel economy above all else.

Let's explore what good fuel economy is and how to measure mpg.

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What is a good mpg for a car?

In simple terms, a car's mpg – which stands for "miles per gallon" – denotes the number of miles it travels on one gallon of gas. A rating of 30 mpg means a vehicle can go 30 miles per gallon of fuel.

There are three numbers to pay attention to when looking at a car's EPA-rated mpg figures: city, highway, and combined. 

The city number refers to driving a vehicle around town in stop-and-go traffic. This figure will be the lowest because frequent acceleration consumes more gas.

Next is the EPA-rated highway mpg. This number will be the highest because maintaining a constant speed over a smooth surface decreases engine loads and maximizes fuel efficiency.

The last number, the EPA-rated combined mpg, is an average of city and highway ratings. This amount is a good reference point if you only want to know how the car consumes fuel during various driving conditions.

What constitutes good gas mileage? It depends. Most vehicles these days will get an EPA-rated 20 miles per gallon on the highway. But whether that's good comes down to what the driver wants and needs.

If you're looking for the best price on a fuel-efficient used car, Shift offers fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. 

Mpg and vehicle type

Vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, some better suited for specific purposes than others. A hybrid like the Hyundai Ionique is great for daily commutes to the office and will bank more miles per gallon than a full-size pickup truck like the Ram 1500, for example. But needless to say, the hybrid is unable to haul all that the pickup can. 

Some cars, such as crossover SUVs like the Subaru Crosstrek or Honda CR-V, meet in the middle with good horsepower and fuel economy.

Electric vehicles get the top mpg ratings of anything on the market. Fuel economy ratings that would have been unheard of 20 years ago are now standard. Case in point: The Chevrolet Bolt EV, which achieves an impressive EPA-rated 118 miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent, or "mpge."

Manufacturers design hybrid cars to maximize fuel economy while still utilizing a gasoline engine. For instance, the Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid returns an EPA-rated 56 mpg combined. Design elements like aerodynamics, electric motors, batteries, start-stop engines are just a few things that send mpg figures soaring. But the downside to that is less all-around driving performance. In general, acceleration will be slower and cargo space somewhat limited compared to something like an SUV.

On the other end of the spectrum is a full-size truck. Full-size trucks, designed to handle just about any condition, from rocky roads to highway trips, are usually powered by large V8 engines. Consequently, fuel economy drops as these heavy vehicles take a lot of power to get going. EPA-rated city mpg on full-size trucks is usually in the teens. If you need a full-size pickup and still want good miles per gallon, a diesel-powered version is a good choice. For example, the Ford F-150 2WD diesel gets a respectable EPA-rated 25 mpg combined. Several automakers now offer hybrid versions of their full-size trucks, too.

Some cars offer the best of both worlds in terms of performance and fuel economy. The Mazda MX-5, a fun roadster with good acceleration and handling, returns a frugal EPA-rated 30 mpg combined. And the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid midsize SUV, with ample cargo space, AWD, and solid power, gets an EPA-rated 40 mpg combined.

Looking for a used car with good fuel economy but haven't decided on a make and model? Shift's easy-to-use website has a wide selection of cars, trucks, and SUVs located across the country.

How To Calculate MPG

Today's vehicles feature advanced computers, and most will show an average mpg number on the instrument panel. Though these numbers may not be completely accurate, they're a good indication of how much fuel you're consuming.

If you want to calculate your mpg using a more old-fashioned method:

  1. Fill up your gas tank and drive 100 miles.
  2. Once you've crossed the century mark, go back to the gas station and fill up the tank again, paying attention to how many gallons it takes.
  3. Divide the 100 miles by that number, and you've got a good idea of your car's fuel economy. 

If you want to take a test drive before signing the papers, a Shift concierge will drive the car to you at no additional charge in some markets. Paired with Shift's seven-day no-questions-asked refund policy, you're getting the assurance of seeing a vehicle in person and returning it if you change your mind.

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How driving habits and vehicle condition affect mpg

Getting the best gas mileage is also influenced by how someone drives a car or truck. The vehicle's condition can play into the equation as well. 

Acceleration burns fuel much faster than cruising down the highway at a constant speed.

Extra power and torque are needed to get a vehicle up to speed, and an engine needs extra gasoline to do that. 

City driving is another fuel-burning condition, with frequent braking and speeding up that puts additional strain on the engine. 

Fuel economy can also depend on a person's specific style of driving. Someone who accelerates slowly and evenly will burn less fuel than a driver who floors the gas pedal as soon as the light turns green.

Conversely, a car set to cruise control on a highway will sip fuel as the engine purrs along at low RPM. Traveling at a constant speed on the highway is the optimum driving condition to achieve the best fuel economy.

Additionally, proper vehicle maintenance influences how many miles per gallon your car will. Regular oil changes, frequently rotated and inflated tires, and high-quality gasoline are just a few things that can increase fuel efficiency.

When you buy a used car from Shift, you can be sure you're getting a well-maintained, quality vehicle. That's because Shift's mechanics perform extensive 150-point inspections on every member of its expansive inventory, and Shift provides free vehicle history reports, too.

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What is good gas mileage? It depends

Though vehicles these days generally get better miles per gallon than ever before, determining good gas mileage depends on what type of car the driver wants, how they drive it, and how well they maintain it.

Some drivers may want a Ford F-150's utility and storage space and go for a 2WD diesel version that gets an EPA-rated 25 mpg combined. Others may wish to spend as little on gasoline as possible and prefer a plug-in hybrid like the Toyota Prius Prime that gets an EPA-rated 54 mpg combined and 133 mpge. For those who want to avoid the pump altogether and drive the cleanest car possible, an electric vehicle like the BMW i3 hatchback with its 102 mpge could be the choice. 

With Shift's extensive selection of all types of vehicles, you'll be able to find what you want at a great price. Add to that Shift's in-house financing and best-in-industry service contracts, and you'll save big and have a reliable vehicle in no time.

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Author
Shift Editorial Team