Finances & Money Frugality

I drove the speed limit for 200 miles!

So what, anyone can, and should, do that right? Well I have had a lead foot all my life, whether on a bicycle or in a car, and it has cost me dearly in traffic tickets, insurance premiums and even attorney fees (in the car, that is).

But today was a milestone. On the way back from Pennsylvania, I used the cruise control the whole way and ONLY went the speed limit! Actually, I even went under the speed limit on I-270 just because I didn’t feel like going faster.

This weekend, I took the Pontiac Grand Am to PA for a wedding anniversary, and then to show it to Stacie’s godparents to potentially buy (more on this later). On the way up, I used about 5/8 of a tank of gas, going 70-80mph. It’s a 15 gallon tank, and when I filled it up (from almost empty), I got about 30mpg (I started with only about 5/8 left).

After a conversation with my family about their gas usage when they brought down 3 different vehicles to our house from theirs (a Chevy Tracker, a Nissan Pathfinder and a Mitsubishi Galant), they all only used a half-tank to get here. I wondered why I had gotten such bad gas mileage (i.e. using over a half tank). So I decided to do my own test.

Could I go the speed limit?

I left around noon on Sunday for MD, and the roads were almost empty most of the way until a major backup near Hagerstown, MD. I decided that I would utilize cruise control to force myself to go the speed limit, but then I ended up using cruise control the entire way, except for exits, on-ramps and a few times traffic speeds were too sporadic. Also, to get around the backup, I took some country roads and didn’t use cruise control.

So, the entire way I did 55 in 55 zones, 65 in 65 zones, 50 in the construction zones and so on.

What was the result?

I didn’t refill the tank yet to find out the exact amount of gas used. However, I only used 3/8 of a tank of gas, versus the 5/8 going up the day before. That’s a quarter of a tank difference! If I calculated based on assuming the fuel pump and gas gauge are synced properly (they never are), then I got 39mpg on the trip. I think when I actually get gas next, it will be more like 35mpg. Not bad for a car the EPA says should get 29mpg highway!

Unless I got above 35mpg, I won’t post an update, but I probably won’t know until Friday or Saturday of this week. No point in getting more gas when it’s going down, right?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • That is fantastic! I drove 478 miles last week on one trip and purposely drove 10% under the limit as an experiment. 63 in a 70, 50ish in a 55, 58ish in a 65.

    In my 2005 v-6 Pontiac Bonneville I got 34 mpg. I couldn’t believe it! It was all highway but still…34!

    You really can get better mpg by changing your driving habits.

  • Cars with smaller engines can get fantastic gas mileage by going slower. On a long highway trip back home, we drove 55-60 on the freeway and got 44mpg, even though our car is rated at 32. That is better than a what our friends got in their prius. (42mpg)

  • @MGL, Yep, I stayed on the right except to pass.

    One thing I noticed is that I always got frustrated when going 5 over the speed limit as I wasn’t going fast enough for the left lane, and too fast for the right. When going the speed limit, I can just use cruise control much more often and just hang out on the right.

  • Just making sure you stayed right!

    One thing that I have noticed about keeping to the speed limit and just setting cruise control is that driving can be a lot less stressful. When I’m trying to outpace traffic (I don’t do it much anymore…), it’s always frustrating trying to get past slower traffic, changing lanes, looking out for speed traps, etc. But when I’m cruising at the speed limit, I can keep to the right lane and enjoy the soothing sounds of public radio. I guess trying to save fuel has also lowered my blood pressure!

  • Good for you going the speed limit the whole time. I’m a speed limit driver (right lane for me!) and agree that if you are going to speed you have to speed a lot to make it in the left lane- and that is not for me both due to tickets and accident potential, but if you’re in the right lane, going 5 over can be frustrating, because you have to break/acclerate a lot. Generally traveling the speed limit lets the cruise control just stay set.

    When I moved from Texas to Ohio, my loaded to the brim civic averaged 45 mpg.

  • Way to go!

    I recently traveled to two tennis tournaments with my doubles partner in his mini-suv which never gotten better than 24 mpg before. First trip going we got 27 mpg, second trip we got 28 mpg.

    He drove about 5 miles under the speed limit, so we made all of you speed limit drivers live on the wild side for a few seconds in the left lane. But it made splitting the cost of gas much easier, so it was worth it.

  • BUT… how much longer did it take?

    My wife and I drive a 500 mile trip to visit her folks a few times a year and the difference between speeding and not is roughly 1.5 – 2 hours. We average 75-80 the whole way and the speed limit varies from 55-70.

    I would much rather spend that 1.5-2 hours by the pool.

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