Can Cruise Control Save You Money?

Thanks to Ralph Teetor, cruise control makes long drives easier and helps you save on gas.

Cruise control technology, originally invented in 1788(!) by James Watt and Mathew Boulton to help control steam engines, maintains a constant speed by regulating the amount of fuel an engine receives. The speed-controlled steam engine did a lot to drive the Industrial Revolution forward, but its uses were mainly limited to factories, tractors, and (you guessed it) locomotives.

It wasn’t until 1945 that Ralph Teetor, a blind mechanical engineer, invented today’s modern automotive cruise control. Thanks to Ralph, this handy feature now makes long drives easier, keeps our speed constant, and even helps us save money.

How cruise control helps you save

Setting your cruise control at the posted speed limit can help you avoid speeding tickets and all the expenses (traffic school, higher car insurance rates) that come with them. And, as you know, a clean driving record could earn you car insurance discounts and lower car insurance rates.

In addition, by limiting the amount of fuel your engine receives and reducing gas-wasting acceleration and deceleration, cruise control can improve your fuel economy. If you set your speed at a steady 60 mph, you could increase your gas mileage even more — dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent!

When not to use cruise control

Although cruise control offers many benefits, there are times to avoid it for safety reasons. Police officers recommend avoiding cruise control:

  • On winding roads, in heavy traffic, and when you approach a bridge or overpass
    Obviously, it’s never a good idea to try and cruise when driving a constant speed is impractical.
  • On icy roads, during and after the first rain of the season, and during downpours or hailstorms
    Any situation that causes slippery roads — be it winter ice or the first rain after a long summer — increases the danger of sliding or hydroplaning. When this happens, the best thing to do is slow down. If you’re using cruise control when you do this, however, it will continue trying to maintain your speed. So when you stop hydroplaning, you’ll be back up to 50 or 60 (or whatever your favorite cruising speed is) in no time, and therefore in danger of losing control again.
  • Late at night or when you’re tired
    When you’re sleepy, cruise control can quickly turn into snooze control. Since you don’t have to actively engage with the gas pedal, cruise control makes it easy to doze off … and lose control of your vehicle.

Cruise control 2.0

Today, some cars come equipped with adaptive cruise control, which enables you to set a desired speed while the system automatically reads traffic and keeps your car at a safe following speed. In other words, it does the braking for you. In some systems, adaptive cruise control will brake, and then accelerate to the pre-set speed automatically. (Way cool!)

So now that you better understand cruise control (and how it can save you money), drive steady, cruise safely, and enjoy the benefits of Ralph Teetor’s automotive invention.

Avoid overpaying for gas with Fuelcaster™

Speaking of savings, before you hit the road this summer, make sure you’re equipped with Fuelcaster — the gas price predictor™. This website predicts whether gas prices are expected to rise or fall tomorrow. That way, you can decide whether it’s better to fill up today or wait. If you need gas pronto, it can also help you navigate to the closest gas stations with the cheapest gas.

Related links

3 Hot Tips for Keeping Your Car Cool

What to Do If Your Car Overheats: 5 Must-Know Steps

10 Tips for a Successful Car-Camping Road Trip

15 Responses to “Can Cruise Control Save You Money?”

  1. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    Jim Ridgway
    July 21, 2015 #

    I hate cruise control that will engine brake on hills if your speed gets a few MPH above what you'd set it at. You like to coast a little not have your trans downshift and screaming at a high RPM

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      r allen
      July 27, 2015 #

      simple, just push the coast button and then resume at bottom of hill..

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      Benny s
      July 31, 2015 #

      i like it because i set mine at 79 so if i go 80 they pull me over for sure. 10 over is the max they will let me get a way with never been pulled over with cruse at 79 in a 70.

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      Daryl Whitt
      August 30, 2015 #

      Get a hybrid. The engine brake is electric and it charges your batteries.

  2. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    July 22, 2015 #

    Actually, unless you are one of those LA-taxi-driver-types who accelerate and brake, accelerater and brake, you will probably get worse mileage with cruise. It doesn't anticipate hills so more fuel is added to accelerate back up to the set speed as you initially slow.
    Also, the real reason you shouldn't use it in slick conditions isn't that it gets you back to your set speed; it's that it will spin the tires as it tries to regain speed, and then you can lose control.
    Sometimes I wonder where some of the writers on these internet posts get their information.
    These sorts of inaccuracies are far too common, and prove the adage; don't believe everything you read on the internet!

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      July 26, 2015 #

      Your comment is absolutely correct and right on target!

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      Alfred Wiliams
      August 16, 2015 #

      John as a mechanic of 50 years and working in related fields in tech support on the road all over the country I assure you, you are completely incorrect about using more fuel you simply need to learn how to use cruise, the advise in the article is good. I have computer tested the mileage results on my pick up the savings is large. I hope no one takes your critique seriously with all due respect.

      • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
        Craig Loughery
        August 29, 2015 #

        My 50 years of experience as a mechanic, car enthusiast (built many engines+drivelines) and driver , tells me John is correct…My foot can out-mileage a cruise control, especially using a stick shift and even more so on hilly terrain…,

    • Avatar for Anne Le Tran
      Craig Loughery
      August 29, 2015 #

      you are absolutely right.

  3. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    Steven Painter
    July 24, 2015 #

    Most cruise controls are awful because they punch it to maintain speed when climbing hills. Tell me how that saves gas! It's also hard on engines. I owned a Honda Accord years ago that allowed the speed to slip back when climbing hills — nice. I don't know if Honda still has this feature.

  4. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    r allen
    July 27, 2015 #

    Engines with adequate h.p. don't do that.I have a 5000lb. suv and it doesn't over rev because it has a turbo on the little 2.3 4 cylinder engine with 285 h.p.

  5. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    July 27, 2015 #

    Personally, I love cruise control. I use it all the time- even in the park where the speed limit is 25 (I set it for 30… shh…). I do agree, however that it is generally not "smart" enough to know what to do with hills. Probably because it can't "see" the hill before the torque sensors detect the stress of climbing the hill? I don't know. But on the x-way, cruise control is great.

  6. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    July 28, 2015 #

    Actually keeping a constant throttle position is the most effiecient way to drive. That way the engine doesn't rev up when the cruise control downshifts the car on hills. Not having to move your foot can get tiring so I use the cruise control when I am on flat roads and my foot on the hills.

  7. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    August 6, 2015 #

    I find the comment about slowing from 70 to 60 will save you 17.2 percent interesting. I don't believe that it takes that much more gas to keep you at a constant speed just 10 miles faster. Besides you would be going 16.6 percent slower which would mean, if the gas usage was the same, you would get 16.6 percent worse gas milage. I love cruise control but only use it on open highways with minimal traffic.

  8. Avatar for Anne Le Tran
    August 11, 2015 #

    John you need to take a basic engineering or physics course. Yes 10 mph greater at that speed requires 20% more power (fuel) as you are pushing a huge bow wave of air regardless how slippery you think yor profile is.

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