Here’s Why Real-World MPG Doesn’t Match EPA Ratings

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Has this happened to you? You go shopping for a new car and great fuel economy is high on the list of things you want. You buy a car that’s rated 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg overall by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But after a month or so of driving around, you find that the best fuel efficiency you can get is a measly 24 mpg average. You might acknowledge that you drive a little faster than the speed limit, but you’re no hot-rodder.

So why doesn’t your fuel economy match the EPA rating?

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A key element in assessing the EPA rating for a vehicle’s average fuel economy (EPA combined) is the split between highway and city driving. Almost all cars and trucks deliver better fuel economy while cruising at 55 mph on the open highway than they do while stopping and starting at low speed on city streets.

The EPA rating for combined mpg presumes that we drive 55 percent of the time in the city and 45 percent of the time on the highway. Most people simply assume that’s the case in their own driving. But many motorists — especially those in urban regions with lots of traffic congestion — spend far more time driving in city conditions than they do on the open road.

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