Cruise control and how to use it to your advantage

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Cruise control is often intimidating for drivers who have never used it, as when they take their foot off the accelerator and the car doesn’t slow down, they feel like they are no longer in control of the car. Once you become familiar with how cruise control works and get used to it, you may find it a real benefit to your driving.

Your car’s cruise control function can make longer journeys more comfortable and can even help to save money on fuel. In addition, the cruise control feature will allow you to maintain your speed limit and avoid speeding fines.

Cruise control is primarily suited for those who are going to be driving at a steady speed of at least 30 mph without constant stopping – so, on a motorway or highway rather than on a street with frequent traffic lights.

Each car has a slightly different layout for the cruise control controls, but they are usually located on the steering wheel or a column stalk behind the steering wheel. The main controls are ‘Set’, ‘Cancel’, ‘Resume’ and ‘On/Off’.

You can usually adjust the programmed speed up or down using the same buttons – check your owner’s manual for specific instructions for your car. To initiate cruise control for your car, you must first accelerate to the desired speed over 30 mph – then press ‘Set’. Your car will now maintain its current speed without the need to keep your foot on the accelerator.

Turning off cruise control is as simple as applying the brake, pressing the ‘Cancel’ or ‘On/Off’ buttons or pushing the clutch pedal in a manual car. The feature is set up so that even a gentle tap of the brake pedal will shut cruise control off – requiring you to control the speed using your gas pedal again.

Most cars’ cruise control systems will allow you to return to your previously programmed speed by pressing ‘Resume’. With cruise control, you can rest easy knowing that you can comfortably take that long-distance drive without putting strain on your legs.

Some of the advantages of using your car’s cruise control include:

Cruise control improves your comfort while driving

You can comfortably take long road trips, or drive distances over 30 mph without putting strain on your legs through having to hold your foot in a set position for extended periods to manually control the gas pedal and speed.

With cruise control activated, you can sit back, relax your right leg, and steer your vehicle. When you need to slow down or stop, simply tap the brakes to deactivate.

Cruise control gives you better control over your speed

If you’re one who’s heavy on the gas pedal or has a habit of speeding – the cruise control feature can be your best friend. Activate this feature to maintain the speed limit, and avoid those expensive speeding tickets.

It also prevents you from creeping over the speed limit accidentally. When the speed limits change, you can easily adjust your cruise control settings to match – as long as it’s more than 30 mph.

Cruise control can improve your fuel consumption

Keeping your driving speeds steady can help you save money on fill-ups. Most drivers are fairly inconsistent at maintaining a given speed, instead of creeping up and drifting down as you drive along a road as you manually adjust relative to the speed limit and road conditions such as hills. Accelerating and braking continuously will use considerably more fuel than maintaining a set speed.

Faster drivers can save money on fuel by not speeding and then over-using the brakes to regularly come back down to the speed limit or slow down for other drivers. The faster you drive, the more fuel you will use.

Each 5 mph over 50 mph lowers the mileage that one can expect to get per gallon. Get into the habit of using cruise control to curb any aggressive driving tendencies.

Cruise control can work to your advantage in a variety of ways. Be sure to read your car’s user manual for specific details on how to operate your vehicle’s cruise control feature. Also remember that when using cruise control, you won’t have to control your accelerator – but you still must control the brake pedal at all times. In addition, the brake pedal will disable cruise control, so be aware if the brake pedal is accidentally hit or pressed while driving.

Cruise control can save you money on fuel -

You should also read: How well do you know your dashboard warning lights?

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.


  1. Are you planning to cover variable cruise controls that are becoming more popular? I’m not sure if I trust the car to brake for me.

  2. It’s weird, I used to use cruise control all the time, but now that reading this made me think about it, I don’t think I’ve used it in years. I guess I just don’t do as much highway driving as I used to.

  3. I have been using cruise control for past 4 years and so far it is one of the best features you can get in a car. I used to make a trip to austin from dallas every month, and using cruise control saved lots of frustration. It will not only keep your speed in check, but will improve your mileage. However the problem is you cannot use it if there are too many people on highway. Too many people means too much close, and too many brakes that takes fun out of cruise control. Nice to use if you don't have anyone in front of you for at least 200 yards.

    I have also tried adaptive cruise control on my sisters subaru forestor. It is a nice feature but can be little uncomfortable in the beginning as it will keep cruising intimately close to vehicle in front of you before adjusting distance again. This happens even when you set the gap very large. It takes a split second to judge the vehicle in front of and can be scary.

  4. Used it today for a 360 mile round trip. Improved economy on my Mondeo 2.2 TDCi automatic to 48 mpg from previous 38 at best. Worked out 33.5 litres first click to first click at the same fuel pump 24 hours later. Can’t recommend enough. MG

  5. Hi, can you explain how cruise control actually works? Does it use the car’s satnav or the speedometer to maintain the speed?

    • Hi Hayden. Cruise control works by the car holding the throttle position to keep the car travelling at the speed indicated, using the same sensors used to measure the speed in the first place. Some new vehicles can use the satnav to help the car’s automatic transmission decide which gear to select, but not to maintain the cruise control speed.

  6. I’m still amazed by how many people are completely ignorant of cruise control, it makes any kind of driving more relaxing and safer.

  7. i love the cc on the motorway when its quiet and essential through roadworks with a limit on with it in use it will not creep up faster as i find my right foot does sometimes

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