What Is Eco Mode In A Car And Should You Use It?

What is "Eco Mode" or "Econ Mode" on a car and what does it do? Is it something that you should use? Here's a super simple guide.

Eco mode is an advanced bit of fuel-saving technology that debuted in the 2008 Nissan Leaf Hybrid. Today, Eco mode is found in many modern cars. As for how Eco mode works, the system makes slight adjustments to how a vehicle performs to boost fuel economy.

Does Eco mode really save gas?

Yes, Eco mode will lower your fuel bill, but not much. Some automakers claim a fuel savings of 10% to 12%, but real-world figures run closer to 5%. Still, Eco mode works best when passively driving around town, like in stop-and-go traffic. The system is less effective at highway speeds.

In this guide, I’ll provide further details about Eco mode, like how it works, when to use it, how effective it is, and more.

Let’s get started.

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How Eco Mode Works

Eco Mode

Vehicles are designed to provide an enjoyable mix of performance and fuel efficiency. Some models lean more towards performance, others to fuel efficiency. If your car has Eco mode, you can basically opt for the latter with the push of a button.

Press the Eco button, and the system will moderate throttle response, shift points, the engine’s air/fuel ratios, and more to improve fuel economy.

Still not sure how Eco mode works in a car? Here’s an example:

Normally, if you press hard on your car’s gas pedal, you’ll see RPMs climb until nearly reaching the red. The transmission will then shift, RPMs drop down, and the process begins again. In Eco mode, the transmission shifts earlier, so RPMs don’t climb as high, burning less fuel.

Another example:

Most drivers expect to press their vehicle’s gas pedal and instantly feel the car speed up. In Eco mode, how quickly you feel that power is reduced. The system may limit RPMs and/or adjust the engine’s air/fuel ratios to accomplish this.

When To Use Eco Mode

City Traffic

Eco mode works best in city driving situations, like stop-and-go traffic or cruising around town. The system is less effective at highway speeds, basically anything over 35 or 45 miles per hour.

Why is Eco mode better for city driving? Because in the city, the transmission is constantly working, often shifting from 1st to 2nd, maybe 3rd, just going light to light. This frequent activity is when Eco mode shines brightest, suppressing engine RPMs and throttle response to boost MPGs. 

The benefits of Eco mode aren’t nearly as noticeable at consistent highway speeds, as the car will likely remain in its two highest gears. The same goes for having a quicker throttle response; it’s just not used often enough to make a noticeable difference.

A passive driving style is also encouraged to maximize the benefits of using Eco mode. Why? Because it allows the system to do what it was made for. If you’re driving aggressively, like frequently hard accelerating, Eco mode never has a chance to work.

For these reasons, the best time to use Eco mode for most car owners is when driving in the city and when not in a rush. Go easy on the pedal, don’t accelerate too hard, and you’ll surely notice a reduction in your monthly fuel expenses.

Negatives Of Using Eco Mode

Eco Mode

Eco mode is meant to complement a passive driving style. If you’re often speeding between stop lights, passing on the highway, or driving uphill, you will not enjoy having Eco mode turned on. In these cases, your car will feel slow, sluggish, and less responsive.

Thankfully, Eco mode is push-button activated/deactivated, so you can instantly turn the system on or off at any point without harming your vehicle.

Ultimately, there really aren’t any “negatives” of using Eco mode. Just make sure you use the system at the right time and drive more passively, or else there also won’t be many positives.

Eco Mode Will Not Damage Your Car

V8 Engine

Driving in Eco mode will not harm your car’s engine, transmission, or any other components. Nothing that Eco mode adjusts will negatively impact your vehicle’s longevity. Moreover, Eco mode will not drain your car’s battery.

In fact, Eco mode may actually be good for your vehicle, as it lowers average engine RPMs and softens gear shifts. Will you notice? Probably not.

Eco Mode Really Does Save Gas

Filling up gas in a car

Some automakers claim an MPG increase of 10% to 12% while using Eco mode. However, according to Consumer Reports, real-world figures run closer to around 5%, or less if you’re not also adapting to a more passive driving style.

This means a car that would usually average 20 MPG in the city might see an increase of 1 MPG. That’s a savings of about $10 off a $200 monthly fuel bill if you primarily drive around town. 

Save The Most On Fuel By Combining Eco Mode With A Routine Maintenance Schedule

Car Maintenance Schedule Guide

Eco mode is just one of many methods for improving a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Other ways to boost gas mileage include keeping your tires properly inflated, going easy on AC usage, not idling for too long, and more.

You should also follow a routine maintenance schedule, which ensures your car is running its best and not burning excessive fuel.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.