If you are on the road this Thanksgiving, consider this fact from the US Department of Energy: “Idling gets you 0 miles per gallon”. In fact, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more gas than turning the car off then on as needed. So if you are waiting in long lines of traffic approaching tolls, or waiting in line for fast-food, consider turning off the engine. Be safe, and don’t gun the engine to make up for being behind, but turning off the engine to avoid idling does actually make sense in some cases. Also, if you have an automatic transmission, putting the car in neutral while you are stopped or coasting is a good middle ground. Hey, at least it’s something to do while you wait :-)
Of course, if you had a hybrid car, the engine would turn off automatically (it’s a bit strange until you get used to it). A year or two ago, I recall being in a long, slow-moving line of traffic on Thanksgiving, during which the engine never switched on once for over 20 miles.
And, when you get home, or are at the mall, remember, idling the most efficient car out there gets you worse mileage than the least efficient moving vehicle. Please, don’t “warm up” your car by starting it and idling for “a few minutes” — the real reason people do this is to have a nice warm car to get into as they start their commute in the cold winter months. There’s some old car lore that people rationalize this with, suggesting a benefit to the engine, but this is not true. Idling just wastes gas, just like turning on the water in your shower until the bathroom is nice and steamy, which apparently some people also do.
Have a happy thanksgiving!