13 ways to make your car more eco-friendly and fuel efficient

Author profile picture

Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

Author profile picture

Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross h…

Don't overpay for car insurance. Save an average of $440/year when you let The Zebra handle insurance shopping for you.

Location pin icon
No junk mail. No spam calls. Free quotes.

How to make your car more eco-friendly

Approximately one-third of the pollution created in the U.S. comes from transportation.[1] While more energy-efficient vehicles may reduce the harmful impact of pollution on environment and our health, we have a long way to go in making transportation environmentally friendly.

Our vehicles’ impact on the earth will likely never drop to zero, but there are steps to make your car operate more sustainably. Find below 13 ways to reduce your vehicle’s carbon emissions today, as well as tips for buying green, the case for electric vehicles, and how going green can even help you save on car insurance. You can also jump to our infographic to discover how to put your car’s carbon emissions in reverse.

1. Drive safely: Did you know that aggressive driving wastes gas? Going easy on your gas pedal and brakes is typically the most effective way to reduce your vehicle’s GHG emissions. Eliminating speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking can lower your gas usage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds. Driving safely also helps to lower your car insurance rates.[2]

2. Obey the speed limit: Once you hit speeds of 50 miles per hour and above, fuel economy decreases rapidly. Every 5 mph by which you exceed 50 mph adds up to an extra $.18 per gallon of gas. You can help the planet, your wallet, and your safety by slowing down on the roads.

3. Use cruise control: You can easily abide by the speed limit and save gas by utilizing your cruise control when you are on the highway. Before you turn on your cruise control settings, make sure weather conditions are good and traffic around you is steady but not heavy.

4. Purchase smarter: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you don’t need to buy an electric vehicle or hybrid in order to get a fuel-efficient car. Avoid large SUVs, vans, and trucks if you want to still want to make an eco-friendly purchase. Vehicles that get 30 miles per gallon or higher are considered fuel-efficient.

5. Fill up wisely: When you put gas in your car, don’t top off your tank. That extra pump after the pump stops can cause harmful vapors to escape your tank and can force liquid fuel into the canister. Another way to reduce vapor emissions is to make sure your fuel cap is screwed on tight.

6. Limit AC usage: Your car’s AC doesn’t always have to be on high — although it’s important to remember that hot cars can become dangerous for vulnerable passengers such as children, the elderly, and pets. You can limit your car’s AC with products such as window tint — which can reflect up to 78% of the sun’s heat — and other DIY cooling car hacks.


7. Avoid unnecessary trips: Reduce extraneous driving by planning your trips. If you have multiple errands to do, plan to make multiple stops in the same trip. Your engine becomes more efficient as it warms up, so one longer trip is better than multiple short trips.

8. Get regular maintenance: Taking your car in for routine maintenance can boost your gas mileage by 4%.[3] Regular maintenance also allows you to catch serious problems early. Repairing engine issues can improve fuel efficiency by 40%. While maintenance requirements depend on how many miles you put on your car, you should get your car checked at least once every 12 months.

9. Remove extra weight: The less your car weighs, the more efficiently it runs. Car weights have increased steadily since the 1970s, despite the fact that lighter cars enjoy better vehicle performance and fuel economy. Reducing your car’s weight by 20% provides an 8.4% mileage boost. Some easy ways to get the weight down include clearing out your trunk and back seat and only filling your gas tank halfway.

10. Maintain the radiator: The key to your car’s engine’s cooling system — which keeps your car from overheating and more — is the radiator[4]. Keep your radiator running at maximum capacity by keeping the coolant filled at all times, keeping the cap on tight, and getting the radiator flushed and filled annually.

11. Check the tire pressure: One of the easiest ways to boost your fuel economy is to check your tire pressure regularly. If you don’t maintain your tire pressure, your tires won’t roll as efficiently, which in turn makes your engine work harder to get the tires moving. Over 4 million gallons of gas are wasted each day due to low tire pressure.[5] Check your tires at least once a month to ensure they have the correct pressure.

12. Have the fuel system checked: Look out for signs of a fuel leak, which can reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. The biggest sign of a fuel leak is the smell. Otherwise, get your fuel filter and injectors flushed with regular maintenance.

13. Change your air filters: You don’t have to take your car to the shop in order to change your air filters. Like your house air conditioning system, your car’s air filters should be changed regularly in order to run at maximum efficiency. The good news is you can do this yourself in just a few simple steps.[6]


Are electric vehicles more sustainable?

Over the last few years, electric vehicles have been a major talking point in the sustainable car conversation. But are they better for the environment?

While electric vehicles (EVs) don’t emit pollution while in drive, they do require overnight charging. The electricity used to charge electric vehicles comes from power plants. If the power plant is powered by hydrogen or natural gas, its emissions may be relatively clean. But, if a power plant is powered by coal, the emissions can be just as bad or worse than the emissions issued from a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Other ways to travel green

The best way to reduce your car’s emissions and impact is to drive it less often. For local travel, consider using micro-mobility options such as scooters, public transit, or bike rental apps to get from point A to point B.

You can also do something that’s good for the environment and your health: walk. Scientists recommend 10,000 steps a day yet the average American is only logging 3,000 to 4,000.[7]

Take a look at ways to revamp your commute to and from work. Is there a coworker closeby who you can carpool with, or public transportation to use? If your company is mindful of its environmental impact, consider making the point that telecommuting one or two days a week can help reduce employees’ carbon footprint.

Check out the visual below for more tips on how to drive greener.


Take steps to be more eco-friendly on the road to improve the environment and your wallet. Remember: driving safely is one great way to go green and get you a better car insurance rate. It’s never too late to adopt sustainable practices in your driving habits, vehicle maintenance, and daily commute.

Infographic sources:
Popular Mechanics | EPA | Driving Tests | The Verge

Other sources
  1. Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. EPA

  2. Driving More Efficiently. U.S. Department of Energy

  3. 10 Ways to Reduce (Or Reverse) Your Car's Carbon Skidmark. Treehugger

  4. How to Maintain a Happy and Healthy Radiator. Meineke


  6. How to Change Your Car’s Air Filter. Art of Manliness

  7. 10,000 steps a day: Too low? Too high? Mayo Clinic