Ten Tips for Selecting a Fuel-efficient Car

Helpful considerations when buying a car with great mileage

Buying a new car always involves a series of choices and trade-offs. With today’s gas prices, we may all want the highest gas mileage vehicle available. When availability, sticker price and desired features are considered, however, our choices can become more complicated, and even confusing.

To help sort out what is really best for you and your family, here are ten shopping tips to help you buy a fuel efficient vehicle that’s best for you.

1. List your needs

What do you need your car to do? Is it to carry just yourself to and from work? Do you have children that you need to get from place to place? Will this be your primary car that is drive the most miles, or a secondary vehicle you’ll use when needed? Let your most important needs led to the models you consider. If you pick the model first, the try to live with a car that isn’t meeting all your needs, you could end up with a fuel-efficient headache.

2. Bigger is better, up to a point.

One of the most overlooked needs has to do with vehicle size. If you are handy, for instance, making certain that your vehicle is sufficiently sized to handle all that you might want to carry back from Home Depot might be a key consideration. If you are often traveling with four people in your car, you may want to consider how easy it is for them to get into and out of the vehicle. Just how comfortable will they be if you have to drive an hour or more? It is true that the more you ask a car or truck to do, the heavier that vehicle tends to be. The heavier the vehicle, the less fuel-efficient is the vehicle. If your car choice doesn’t fit your needs, however, you may not be happy with the compromises made for the sake of fuel-efficiency.

3. When less is more

When considering those around you on the road, you’ve probably observed that most drivers are fairly aggressive. And it’s nice to know that you too have some power under the hood when you want it. But when it comes to the number of cylinders in your engine and fuel-efficiency, less is more. The biggest savings in gas mileage will come from a four cylinder engine rather than a six or eight-cylinder power plant.

4. Research MPG using CarQuotes.com

Using the CarQuotes.com resource available through your Credit Union, you can do some basic research on fuel-efficiency. Just click on the “research” button and you instantly have a variety of tools and extensive information at your fingertips.

5. Consider a Hybrid

When it comes to saving money at the pump, hybrid vehicles become an obvious consideration. With today’s technology, hybrid vehicles have an established history of reliability, and you can find hybrids in all model types from compacts to SUVs. The only downside to limiting your choice for fuel efficient vehicles to hybrids is that you’re likely to pay a little bit more for a hybrid.

With a little bit of math, you can figure out whether the gas savings over a five year period is worth the cost of a hybrid. Here’s how you would do that calculation. Let’s assume that you drive 15,000 miles per year (mpy), and that cost of a gallon of gas is $4.00. Now let’s assume that the gas version of the model you want gets 20 mpg, while the hybrid gets 25. For the gas version, the formula is (15,000 mpy/20 mpg) x $4 = $3,000. For the hybrid version (15,000 mpy/25 mpg) x $4 = $2,400. This means that the hybrid version saves about $600 per year in fuel costs. Over a 5 year period, that savings totals $3,000. So, it the hybrid you are considering costs more than $3,000 than the gas model, in this example, the hybrid may not be the better value.

6. The Diesel Alternative

Diesel engines achieve roughly 50% better fuel economy than gasoline engines. Not only does diesel fuel contains more energy than gasoline, diesel engines use that energy more efficiently thanks to compression ratios and combustion temperatures that are higher than gasoline engines. In Europe, where gasoline is even more expensive than in the United States, diesel powered vehicles now account for nearly half of all new vehicle sales. With improved design that allows diesel engines to meet the clean air standards of all 50 states, manufacturers anticipate offering more diesel models in the years to come.

7. Options you should avoid to maximize mileage

The rated gas mileage on the sticker is one thing, but all those options you might add can change the numbers significantly. Everything that gets added contributes to weight, which means the engine has to work that much harder. Rooftop luggage racks and running boards tend to be the most popular options, and the biggest drag on fuel economy. Want an option that could actually improve gas mileage? Opt for that manual transmission.

8. Buy New for Better Mileage

One key to fuel efficiency is to properly maintain your vehicle. If you are considering a used car, truck or van, make certain you know something about how well that vehicle was maintained. Also, in recent years, engines have added a variety of technologies to improve mileage. Engineering advances in more recent models have help newer cars lower overall weight without sacrificing safety or ride.

9. Tires make a difference

Several new car models now offer a low-resistance tire option to boost fuel economy. Most tire choices offered on new cars tend to be a compromise designed to satisfy a range of consumer preferences. The special low-resistance tires, those with resistance ratings 20% or lower than standard tires, can improve gas mileage by 5%. However, no matter the tire you consider, make certain they are properly inflated to the maximum rated pressure as stated on the tire’s sidewall. For every three pounds below recommended pressure, fuel economy goes down by as much as 1%.

10. Change Some Driving Habits

Ever notice the small print next to the gas mileage rating on the sticker? “Your mileage may vary” means if you speed, and make frequent jack-rabbit starts, your gas mileage may be less than that stated on the sticker. Can you ever do better than the rated mileage? Absolutely! The single biggest change you can make to your driving habits to help you achieve better than rates mileage is: don’t speed. Lowering your speed on the highway from 75 down to 65 mph will improve fuel economy about 10%. At $4 per gallon, you can figure that for every 5 miles over 60 mph, it costs you about $0.35 extra per gallon in lost mileage.

Cruise control will help maintain your speed, and if you can get by without air conditioning, all the better. Also, remember that engine idling gets you zero miles per gallon. Fast starts and fast stops are also gas wasters.

To make certain you get the most enjoyment from your new fuel vehicle, at least from an investment stand point, watch your speed, keep those tires properly inflated, and do your research using CarQuotes.com.

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