The old-fashioned way to get great gas mileage in some of the more gas-guzzling cars of old was to keep the lead out of your foot (don’t stomp on the accelerator), coast when going downhill (put the car in neutral and literally coast), and just don’t drive!

Today, with gas prices being anywhere from $3.50 to $5.00 a gallon, everyone needs help in saving gas.

To get the most out of a Prius, drivers should always use common sense. If you zip back and forth flooring the accelerator and then stomping on the brakes, gas mileage will suffer. If, on the other hand, care is taken in acceleration and deceleration, gas mileage can be much improved.

As with all new vehicles, a break-in period of 6 to 12 months must be tolerated before mileage will improve considerably. Once this period is over, drivers may experience as much as a 15-percent improvement in mileage in their Prius or other hybrid cars.

Basically, when driving a hybrid, you have to think a little differently. For gasoline engines, long stretches of highway at constant highway speeds are best. For a hybrid, long stretches that require the vehicle to run under 40 mph actually improve mileage. Don’t worry about hills because the downside of hills gives you enough recharging to offset the power used to climb. Also, the Prius is designed to handle winds from the front with its aerodynamic styling but winds that buffet the sides could cause a loss in mpg.

For hybrids, Prius included, cold starting consumes more fuel than on warm days. All errands should be completed in one trip instead of running in and out. Every time the Prius cools down, it has to go through the warm up process again. Rain, snow and slushy weather should also be avoided as it requires more gas to navigate in.

Tire pressure is vital to maximizing efficiency and should be checked and maintained regularly. For hybrid vehicles, the lower octane fuels work better because they produce more power. Maximizing the amount of time to stop is also crucial to efficiency because hybrids conserve the most when coasting. So, releasing the gas pedal way ahead of a stop allows the car to coast (no gas power) until stopping.

Overall, use common sense. The Prius has dashboard displays that monitor efficiency and using these displays will help maximize efficiency. Minimal acceleration, longer stopping time and utilizing the electric motor as much as possible will certainly increase efficiency. Finally, research any new ways to increase efficiency and keep driving.