59 mph is the Ideal Speed to Save Money on Gas

Thomas Smith

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With gas prices soaring to record levels as a result of supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine, we’re all looking for ways to save money while driving. Many people wonder what’s the best speed to drive to reduce the amount of gas your car uses, and to save money.

It turns out that there’s a relatively clear-cut answer to this question. The best speed to drive is 59 mph.

Why is that? At lower speeds, your car might use less fuel because it’s traveling slower and needs to push less air out of the way. That effect is relatively small, though, especially at very low speeds. Traveling slower also means it will take you longer to get to your destination, which means more driving time and more fuel used.

For that reason, there is a sweet spot where you’re traveling fast enough to get you to your destination in a timely way and drive for less total time, but not so fast that the wind resistance on your car starts to really eat into your gas mileage.

Many people think that this speed is around 55 mph, and that they should travel that slowly if they want the best gas mileage. That’s not actually true. According to the EPA, most cars' mileage does peek at 50 mph, and then starts to drop off after that. The drop between 50 and 60 mph is very small, though, whereas over 60mph it drops much faster. Going 55 instead of a bit faster means more driving time, with minimal efficiency improvements, so driving that slowly probably isn't worth it.

If you want the best fuel economy and to save the most money, you shouldn’t drive at 55 miles an hour. You also shouldn’t drive at 60 mph or above, either. That’s why 59 mph is the ideal speed if you want to save gas and cut wind resistance while also getting to your destination in a reasonable time. It's the maximum speed you can travel before your efficiency starts to taper off rapidly, which means it's the ideal balance between minimizing your driving time and maximizing your MPG.

Of course, you should always obey posted speed limits. If you’re driving on a road that’s posted at 55 miles an hour, you shouldn’t go faster than that. If you’re on one of the many highways with a speed limit higher than 55, though, you should go around 59 mph if it’s safe to do so in order to get the most bang for your dollar of gas.

What if you speed up significantly to around 80 miles an hour, getting to your destinations much faster and thus spending less time driving? Less driving time means less time to burn fuel, right?

Not so fast. For one thing, driving at the speed is illegal in most places. From an efficiency standpoint, your fuel economy also drops off very quickly when you go above 60 mph. The EPA says it can decline as much as 5 miles per gallon when you increase your speed by only 10 miles an hour over 60mph.

The takeaway? In these times of high gas prices, the ideal speed you should go is 59 miles an hour when you can safely do so in order to get the most benefit out of your driving time and save the most money.

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Award-winning entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO of Gado Images. Thomas writes, speaks and consults about artificial intelligence, privacy, food, photography, tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a professional photographer, Thomas' photographic work regularly appears in publications worldwide. Pitches/news tips: tom@gadoimages.com

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