How To Get Better Gas Mileage In A Truck

Dustin Hawley | Dec 24, 2020

If you drive a truck for work or pleasure, you’re well aware of how much fuel they burn. But if you need to haul a heavy load or pull a trailer, a gas-guzzling pickup may be your only option. 

how to get better gas mileage for a truck

So, how do you boost your truck’s gas mileage? Read ahead for some tips.

Use Cruise Control

A common cause of poor mileage is inconsistent speed. Put simply - it takes more gas to accelerate than it does to maintain the same speed.

Unless you’re focused solely on speed while driving, you’ll invariably speed up and slow down, getting fewer miles per gallon (MPG). To avoid this, use cruise control on the highway, so you maintain a consistent speed.

Avoid Idling

Almost by definition, idling is a waste of gas. The less you idle, the better. That said, there’s a rule of thumb for stoplights: one minute of idling burns about as much fuel as starting the engine. If it’s a short light, keep your engine running, and you’ll probably burn less.

On a similar note, avoid drive-thrus when possible. Park your truck and pick up your food inside when you can.

Plan Ahead

If you have multiple errands to run, do them all in one trip to save gas. While you’re at it, plan your route to be as efficient as possible. Most modern GPS apps (like Waze) can find the fastest route, which is not necessarily the shortest. This helps you avoid wasting fuel in stop-and-go traffic.

Lighten The Load

The less weight you’re hauling or towing, the less gas you’ll burn. Look at what’s in your truck bed, and ask if that rusty toolbox or bag of cement really needs to go everywhere with you. The same principle applies to any gear you’re hauling in a Jobsite trailer.

Use A Lower-Viscosity Oil

Your oil pump efficiency has a major impact on your gas mileage. Thick oil increases the load on the pump, directly impacting how many MPG you get. This is particularly true in the winter months when oil gets thicker in the cold.

One solution is to use a lighter oil, particularly in winter. Always follow your manufacturer’s recommendations, though. Also, remember that heavier loads require thicker oil. Whether you’re hauling dry brush or towing a mobile home makes a big difference in what oil will be acceptable.

Even if you can’t use lighter oil, regular oil changes will keep your oil from getting excessively thick. Have these performed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, just before winter, or whenever your manufacturer recommends.

Stay Up-To-Date On Maintenance

Tire pressure, brake quality, and the state of your transmission all impact your fuel economy. The better-maintained your truck is, the more efficiently it will run. Wheel alignment and proper tire rotation are also crucial to maintaining peak efficiency.

Are Modifications Worthwhile?

Because trucks are so fuel-inefficient, many drivers outfit their rigs with cold air intakes, modified computers, vortex systems, and free flow exhausts. These modifications can indeed improve your gas mileage. However, the benefits may be negligible at best.

Now, if your only concern is saving the environment, you can skip the rest of this section. Whether or not you want to invest in a particular upgrade will be a personal ethical decision, and that’s beyond our purview. Instead, let’s look at the cost benefits of modifying your pickup.

And because every modification and each truck is different, there’s no single yes or no answer. Instead, you need to do the math. Here’s how:

  • Divide the number of miles you drive in a year by your truck’s miles per gallon to find the number of gallons you burn per year. If you get 20 miles per gallon and drive 10,000 miles a year, you would calculate: 10,000/20 = 500, so you burn 500 gallons per year.
  • Multiply that number by the average cost of gas in your area. If gas costs $3 per gallon and you burn 500 gallons per year, you would calculate: 500 x $3 = $1,500, so you spend approximately $1,500 on gas per year.
  • Now, it’s time to figure out how much fuel the modification will save you. Take the estimated MPG savings and divide that by two because manufacturers tend to exaggerate. If possible, check reviews to see how much better others performed.
  • Redo the same calculations using the new MPG number. Let’s assume that a new exhaust system is advertised to save you 4 MPG. You would divide that by two to get a savings of 2 MPG. Add that to 20, and you get 22 MPG. Ten thousand miles at 22 MPG burns about 455 gallons. Four hundred fifty-five gallons at $3 per gallon is $1,365 per year in gas.
  • Subtract that number from whatever you’re spending now. In this case, $1,500 - $1,365 gets you a savings of $135 per year with the exhaust upgrade.
  • Divide the cost of the modification by the estimated savings. This tells you how many years it will take for the modification to pay for itself. Let’s assume the upgraded exhaust costs $700. $700/$135 is 5.18, so our hypothetical $700 exhaust will take a little over five years to pay for itself.

Once you know how long it will take for a modification to pay for itself, deciding whether to invest in it is easy. For our example, you’d ask yourself if you’re going to drive that truck for another five years. If so, you’d want to install the new exhaust. If not, the exhaust would cost you more than it saved.


Not every one of these tips will apply to every driver. But most of them will be of help to most people, so do whatever works for you. Even if you only shave off a few MPG, you’ll still be better off!

Want to learn more? Read our other articles to find anything you want to know about your car or truck!

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