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Last updated: December 20, 2023

Eco-Friendly Driving Guide

These eco-friendly driving tips can benefit the environment and your wallet.

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These days, many people are looking for ways to be more environmentally conscious. And while driving is a major contributor to climate change, it’s often unavoidable. Unless you live somewhere you can walk, bike, or take public transportation to get anywhere you need to go, you’ll need to rely on a motor vehicle for transportation, whether you’re driving, carpooling, or ridesharing.

The good news is, there are ways to make your driving more environmentally friendly. And in addition to helping our planet, these tips can help your wallet.

What Is Eco-Friendly Driving?

Eco-friendly driving, also known as eco-driving, is the use of driving habits and behaviors that are more energy efficient. These behaviors, including driving more slowly and maintaining your vehicle properly, help your vehicle run more efficiently, meaning it releases fewer greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Driving

More Environmentally Friendly

When we drive, we burn gasoline that releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the air. Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change and warm the planet.

Transportation makes up about 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. It’s the single largest source of these emissions, which means if more of us start driving in a more eco-friendly way, we can make a positive difference for the planet.1

Reduced Fuel Costs

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, driving fast can cost you more than a speeding ticket. Generally speaking, fuel economy decreases once you surpass a speed of 50 miles per gallon (mpg). In other words, you’re increasing your fuel costs when you speed.

Every vehicle has different gas mileage and optimal speeds for fuel economy. But in general, for each 5 mpg over 50 mpg that you drive, you’re paying what amounts to an extra $0.23 per gallon of gas.2


The U.S. Department of Energy has a calculator that allows you to enter your specific vehicle information and it will show you how much more you pay by driving over the speed limit. You can find it at

Reduced Vehicle Wear And Rear

Driving in a way that isn’t eco-friendly can speed up the wear and tear on your vehicle. Fast braking, acceleration, and gear changes can all cause you to need to repair and replace vehicle parts more quickly. Eco-driving will not only save you money at the mechanic, but it will also help your vehicle run more safely.

Increased Driving Safety

Speeding and driving aggressively take a toll both on your planet and your wallet, but they can also result in injuries to you or others.

Changing your driving habits may not seem to have that big of an impact, but consider that nearly 39,000 people died in car accidents in 2020.3 Even small changes in driving habits can bring that number down.

As an added bonus, driving safely can save you money. If you have a bad driving record, you’ll likely pay more for car insurance, and vice versa.

10 Eco-Friendly Driving Tips

1. Choose a Car With Good Gas Mileage

One of the best ways to improve your fuel economy and save money on gas is to choose a “green” car. Cars that are more environmentally friendly produce fewer emissions. Electric cars don’t require gas, meaning they don’t generate carbon emissions at all. Hybrid vehicles, which rely on a combination of gas and electric power, produce fewer emissions. Fuel-efficient vehicles result in lower emissions as well.

Each year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy publishes a list of the 12 greenest cars on the market. Here’s the list for 2022:

  • Honda Insight
  • Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue
  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid
  • Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue
  • Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid
  • Mazda Mx-30
  • Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2 Door
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tesla Motors Model Y RWD
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
  • Toyota Corolla Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Prime4


Considering a more fuel-efficient car? Calculate whether you’ll save money with a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

2. Stick to the Speed Limit

Not only is sticking to the speed limit better for the environment, but it will also save you money on fuel. And it’s one of the easiest habits you can adopt to make your driving more eco-friendly.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Idling

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vehicle idling uses between a quarter-gallon and a half-gallon of fuel each hour. You can save money by reducing your idling by as little as one minute.

If you’re waiting somewhere or making a quick stop, turn your car off instead of leaving it idling. If you let your car idle to warm it up in the winter, only do so for as long as necessary.

4. Maintain the Correct Tire Pressure

Maintaining the correct tire pressure doesn’t just help you drive more safely; it also improves your fuel economy. Keeping your tires properly inflated with regular maintenance can improve your gas mileage by an average of 0.6 percent, and in some cases, by as much as 3 percent.5


Not sure what your tire pressure should be? You can find that information on a sticker on your driver’s side door or in your vehicle owner’s manual.

5. Don’t Haul Cargo on Your Roof

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hauling cargo on your roof makes your car less aerodynamic, which means it’s less fuel-efficient.

Rather than hauling cargo on your roof, try hauling it on the back of your car. A cargo box on your roof can reduce your fuel economy by between 2 and 8 percent in cities, between 6 and 17 percent on highways, and between 10 and 25 percent on interstates.

Meanwhile, a rear-mounted cargo box only reduces your fuel economy by between 1 and 2 percent in cities and between 1 and 5 percent on highways. Fuel economy information on rear-mounted cargo boxes is not available for interstates

6. Use Your Cruise Control

Making use of your cruise control can help you save money on gas. As we mentioned, reducing your driving speed can help improve your fuel economy. Cruise control can help you do that more consistently.

7. Practice Smooth Braking and Accelerating

Fast braking and acceleration can cause wear and tear on your vehicle and reduce your car’s fuel economy. In fact, aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by as much as 15 to 30 percent on highways and 10 to 40 percent in cities.

As an added bonus, improving your braking and acceleration can help you save money. Many insurance companies offer discounts to safe drivers. These companies track your driving habits and then reward you if you meet certain standards. An example is Allstate’s Drivewise program.

8. Properly Maintain Your Car

Regular car maintenance is another strategy for eco-friendly driving. Steps such as getting regular oil changes, changing your oil filters, and getting regular engine tune-ups improve your fuel efficiency.

9. Reduce Extra Weight on Your Vehicle

Excess weight on your vehicle can reduce its fuel efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every extra 100 pounds in your vehicle reduces your miles per gallon by roughly 1 percent. While extra weight in your vehicle isn’t always avoidable, you can be more thoughtful about driving with heavy objects in your car unnecessarily.

10. Use Your Car’s Eco Mode

Many cars have an eco mode that reduces your car’s engine output, which improves its fuel economy. Turning on this eco mode will help you to get more miles per gallon and reduce the amount you spend on gas.


Eco mode makes your vehicle less responsive, including your pedals. Be a more cautious driver while using the eco mode, and avoid using it in situations like inclement weather and heavy traffic when you need to be able to react quickly.

Bonus Tip: Avoid Unnecessary Driving

The more time you spend driving, the larger your carbon footprint. An easy way to be more environmentally conscious with your driving is to do less of it.

You can make changes to your driving habits, like taking the fastest route to your destination or avoiding driving “just because.”

You can also trade driving your own vehicle for more environmentally friendly options, like public transportation and carpools. If you live nearby the places you travel to, consider walking or using a bike or scooter instead of a car.

Finally, telecommuting to work instead of going into the office can make a big difference in your carbon emissions. Not only will you reduce your environmental impact, but you’ll also save a lot of money on gas by getting rid of your daily commute.

Are Electric Vehicles More Eco-Friendly?

Electric vehicles (EVs) have become more popular and accessible in recent years. In fact, light-duty plug-in electric vehicle sales nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021.6 Drivers like that EVs mean they can avoid spending money on gas while also helping the environment.

However, some critics say these cars aren’t all that much better for the environment. In this section, we’ll talk about some of the pros and cons of electric vehicles to help you decide whether they’re worth it.

Pros of Electric Vehicles

  • You’ll save on fuel costs. A primary reason that drivers like electric vehicles is because they don’t have to buy gas. When you drive a gas-powered vehicle, you’re at the mercy of fluctuations in gas prices. So when gas prices reach record highs, as they did in mid-2022 (the highest ever recorded price was $5.016 per gallon on June 147) — using your vehicle costs more.

    Of course, there are still costs associated with electric vehicles since you must pay for the electricity to charge them. However, in 2022, electric vehicle owners spent an average of 4.04 cents on fuel per mile, compared to 14.37 cents per mile for owners of gas-powered medium sedans. Overall, lower fuel costs help electric vehicles maintain a lower annual operating cost than traditional vehicles, $1,198 for electric vehicles and $2,502 for gas-powered medium sedans, according to AAA.

  • Electric vehicles have no emissions. Driving an electric vehicle doesn’t result in carbon emissions, unlike driving a gas-powered vehicle. So not only are you saving money on gas, but you’re also benefiting the environment.

Cons of Electric Vehicles

  • Charging creates carbon pollution. Driving your electric vehicle may not produce carbon emissions, but the electricity you use to charge it certainly does. The type of electricity generation in your area impacts your electric vehicle’s carbon footprint. Clean energy sources like wind and solar don’t emit carbon like coal or natural gas electricity do.

    It’s worth noting that even considering the emissions from the electricity used to charge electric vehicles, they still result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions (roughly half as much, in fact) than the average gas-powered vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Raw materials have negative environmental impacts. Some critics argue that the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, including the raw materials that make them up, is worse for the environment than gas-powered vehicles. It’s true that the process of manufacturing electric vehicle batteries uses raw materials like cobalt and lithium, which have been linked to environmental harm.8

    That being said, even when you account for the production of electric vehicles and their batteries, gas-powered vehicles still create more greenhouse gas emissions.

Pro Tip:

Use our Gas vs Electric Car Cost Calculator whether an electric car will save you money compared to a gas vehicle.


Eco-friendly driving requires adopting habits to reduce your carbon footprint while driving. It comes with plenty of benefits, including reducing your carbon emissions and saving you money on gas. And while eco-driving may sound difficult, it’s easier than you think. Simple changes such as maintaining the correct tire pressure and lowering your speed can make a big difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most eco-friendly speed?

Every vehicle is at its most eco-friendly at a different speed. Generally speaking, gas mileage decreases once you surpass 50 mpg.

What is the most eco-friendly type of vehicle?

The most eco-friendly types of vehicles are electric vehicles and hybrids. Based on the top 12 most environmentally friendly list from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), three of the top vehicles are plug-in hybrids, three are electric vehicles, and the rest are gasoline hybrids.

Can I drive my car in eco mode all the time?

No, you shouldn’t drive in eco mode all the time. It makes sense to use eco mode when you’re driving at a slower pace around cities, but eco mode impacts your car’s response time. You shouldn’t drive in eco-friendly mode when you’re merging onto or off of highways, driving in heavy traffic or busy weather, or in any other situation where you need to be able to move quickly.

What are the benefits of eco-driving?

Eco-driving helps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. In addition to its environmental impacts, eco-driving decreases the amount you’ll spend on gas and reduces wear and tear on your car.


  1. Carbon Pollution from Transportation. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023).

  2. Driving More Efficiently. U.S. Department of Energy. (2023).

  3. Fatality Facts 2020 Yearly Snapshot. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute. (2023).

  4. Plug-In and Gas Hybrids Top GreenerCars’ 2022 Ratings as Automakers Shift to Larger EVs. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. (2022, Feb 15).

  5. Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape. U.S. Department of Energy. (2023).

  6. New Plug-in Electric Vehicle Sales in the United States Nearly Doubled from 2020 to 2021. U.S. Department of Energy. (2022, Mar 1).

  7. Gas Prices. AAA. (2023).

  8. How Green Are Electric Vehicles? The New York Times. (2021, Mar 2).