fuel efficient

How To Find The Best Fuel Efficient Car

Tired of paying a lot for gas? Want something affordable but not a gasoline guzzler? Gals, maybe it is time for you all to start looking at fuel efficient cars. Fuel efficient cars might have started off as luxury vehicles, but thanks to today’s technology and the demand of reliable but inexpensive cars, we have many safe options. Fuel costs can vary substantially from year to year. In 2008, average gas prices broke records at $4 per gallon. The current average cost is $1.80, but the last time prices plunged this low dates back to seven years ago. Like changing your winter wardrobe to spring, gas stations switch from winter-grade to summer-grade fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates this production to reduce pollution during the summer ozone season. Summer blends contain more additives to make them burn cleaner. They are more expensive to produce than winter blends, and the increased cost is passed on to us. Therefore, while prices might be low now, they could spike back up in the summer. The price roller coaster is a factor of life. But thanks to fuel efficiency, this factor can be easily managed. Below are tips on finding a fuel efficient car. Because saving money on gas is a wonderful thing for the world.



You already know that a fuel efficient car saves money. I am not saying they are cheap upfront, but they will save you money in the long run. Here’s just how much. Let’s say you drive 15,000 miles annually, and you’re paying an average of $1.82 per gallon for gas. According to the EPA, if you drive a car that gets 30 miles per gallon versus 20, you’ll save $455 per year. If you own the same vehicle for five years, you’ll save a total of $2,275!



Finding the safest vehicle is obviously number one. Whether American made or built outside the USA, car safety has increased tremendously. As you read along and research the cars mentioned throughout this article, make sure to check on reviews stating the safest fuel efficient vehicle. I would look at consumerreports.org. These reports are solely based on opinions, so be careful when trusting them all. With that being said, here are my tips for finding the right fuel efficient car.

First, assess your driving needs

While a small car is less thirsty than a truck, giving the best bang for your buck, it may not be practical for you. To guide your choice, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many passengers do I need to transport or have in my family?
  • What type of roads do I primarily drive; highway or city streets?
  • How much cargo capacity do I need?

Based on your results, you might opt for a smaller car and go for a truck. In which I will mention some great diesel trucks in a second.

Decide on wheel drive

The term “wheel drive” refers to the wheels that move the vehicle. There are four types:

Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)- engine power is routed to the front wheels. The two-wheel drive provides the best gas mileage and offers good traction.

Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD)- rear wheels move the vehicle and front wheel steer. RWD provides better acceleration, braking, and traction than FWD. However, increased vehicle weight reduces fuel efficiency. A lot of fun sporty cars are RWD.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)- power is directed to all four wheels, improving tire grip. It works automatically, triggered when sensors detect a loss of traction. The extra energy and vehicle weight decrease fuel economy. The EPA states that AWD cars lose 1-2 miles per gallon (MPG) over FWD.

4-Wheel Drive (4WD)- All four wheels move the vehicle, engaged by flipping a switch or pulling a lever. This drive makes an engine work hardest. It also adds hundreds of pounds to a vehicle’s weight. The result is a 1-2 MPG decrease in fuel efficiency and an added expense of roughly $200/year. But at least you can drive in any condition with 4WD!

Determine which wheel drive will benefit your driving the most.

Compare engine size

Engine size is proportional to fuel economy. The larger the engine, the more gas a car guzzles. Before going full-throttle on engine size, let’s review engine anatomy.


How A Car Engine Works

A car engine contains a set of cooking pots called “cylinders.” There can be up to 12 in an engine, but typically, there are four, six, or eight. Fuel burns within these pots, and at the top of each sits a spark plug. It generates an electric spark to burn fuel. Inside each cylinder, rods called “pistons” pump up and down. At the bottom of a cylinder, a piston attached to an axle called a “crankshaft” powers a gearbox that drives the wheels. The engine converts fuel into mechanical energy which moves the gears and wheels. It almost sounds magical, doesn’t it? All this occurs in the blink of an eye!

Cylinder configurations vary. A 4-cylinder engine is designed in a straight line. A 6-cylinder engine takes the form of a “V” shape and is referred to as a “V6”. The size of a car’s engine is measured in liters (L). This designation indicates how much volume is displaced by the pistons with each stroke. For example, a Toyota Prius Hybrid has a 1.5L, 4-cylinder engine. With each revolution, the engine draws in and expels 1.5L of air, almost like breathing. The more air an engine moves, the more fuel it consumes. Therefore, a car with six or eight cylinders is generally less efficient than one with four.

Factor in horsepower

Horsepower (HP) is a measurement of engine power. The more horsepower a car has, the more fuel it consumes. Sport cars are considered less fuel efficient because of their high HP. So if you want a fun fuel efficient car, you have to relax on the Lamborghini’s.

Consider diesel

Like I mentioned above, diesel vehicles are very fuel efficient. Diesel is more energy-dense than gas. It’s a good choice if you are doing long-distance driving at a steady speed, such as highway cruising. However, it’s more costly, currently averaging $2.03 per gallon. To obtain the benefit of driving a diesel vehicle (DV), you need to be a high-mileage driver. However, the future of diesel fuel is here, and for several reasons:

Diesel Pros and Cons


  • Fuel economy- diesel achieves more mileage than gas, delivering 33% better fuel economy. For example, if a gas-powered car travels 30 miles per gallon, a comparable diesel does 40.
  • Maintenance- since DVs don’t use spark plugs, they never need ignition tune-ups.
  • Repair- engines are more rugged, able to go the distance before needing major repairs.
  • Responsiveness- DVs accelerate faster than gas. For all you fast, cool, car lovers, this might be the better choice!


  • Vehicle cost- according to CarDirect.com, a DV is roughly $700 more expensive than its gas equivalent.
  • Ride- DVs are noisier than gas-powered cars, and render a rougher ride.

Here you can see the full 2016 line-up of diesel vehicles.

Test drive manual and automatic cars

Up until three years ago (around 2012/2013), manual transmissions were more fuel efficient than automatics. However, automatics have now caught up, courtesy of advancing technology and additional gears. So don’t belabor a choice of transmission. When is comes to fuel economy, the difference between the two types is minor.

Think about getting a hybrid vehicle

A hybrid uses two engines, an electric motor, and a conventional engine, either gas or diesel. The electric motor powers the vehicle at low speeds and the gas engine kicks in at high speeds. A regenerative braking system conserves energy. Each time you brake, the battery recharges. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of hybrids.

Hybrid Pros and Cons


  • Hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, conserve fuel and produce less CO2 emissions.
  • Certain plug-in hybrids are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The amount varies, based on battery capacity. State and local credits may also apply. Rebate information is available here.
  • They’re best for city driving.
  • Hybrids are gaining popularity, increasing their resale value.


  • Maintenance can be more costly, the result of dual engine and continuous changes in technology.
  • It is harder to find a used Hybrid car since they are still fairly new.

I researched theses stats at FuelEconomy.gov. To compare hybrid and non-hybrid versions of a given make and model, you can select one from the list. The website then compares the two versions. To explore all your options, you can access the site directly here.

Go electric

An electric vehicle (EV) is powered by an electric motor rather than a gas engine. The electric motor receives its energy from a controller. This device regulates the amount of power according to how you use the accelerator pedal. Energy is stored in the car’s batteries which are recharged via household current.

In the past, EVs were overlooked since they had limited driving range, long recharging times, and lacked the comfort of conventional cars. With an improvement in battery technology, we now have a new generation of electric cars. EVs such as Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf save money and the environment. Let’s assess the pros and cons of owning an EV.

Electric Car Pros and Cons


  • Government Incentives- going green with an EV makes you eligible for federal and state credits.
  • Fuel costs- you will never, ever, have to buy gas again. Period. Cost savings range from $2,000-$5,000 per year. Probably the cheapest idea!
  • No pollution- EVs are entirely eco-friendly since they don’t produce emissions.
  • Maintenance- lube, oil, and filter changes are history. Farewell, emissions testing.
  • Vehicle Cost- MSRP is comparable to conventional vehicles. For example, a fully-equipped 2015 Chevy Spark has an MSRP of $25,560.


  • Fueling stations- recharge points aren’t yet mainstream. If you run out of charge, and there isn’t an electric fueling station nearby… you’ll get stranded.
  • Driving range- EVs aren’t designed for long trips since range limits them. Most have a range of 500-100 miles before they need a recharge, which could take up to six hours.

Review the “top fuel efficient cars”

Money-zine.com has comprised a list of the “Top Fuel Sippers,” based on EPA ratings for the 2015-2016 model years. Rated below are the all-stars by vehicle type, along with their combined MPG rating:

  1. Two Seater- Honda CR-Z, 37 MPG
  2. Compact- Ford Fiesta, 36 MPG
  3. Midsize- Toyota Prius, 50 MPG
  4. Large- Ford C-MAX Hybrid, 40 MPG
  5. Small Station Wagon- Toyota Prius v, 42 MPG
  6. Standard Pickup Truck- Ram 1500 HFE 2WD, 24 MPG
  7. Standard Sports Utility Vehicle- Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 28 MPG
  8. Minivan- Mazda 5, 24 MPG

Here you can see spec details.

Your Cheat Sheet For Finding A Fuel Efficient Car

Here’s a roundup of the considerations to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your fuel dollars:

S: Satisfy your driving needs. Love what your drive and drive what you love.

T: Talk wheel drive. Understand which works best for your driving situation.

R: Reassess engine size. What type of engine do you need and is most suitable for your everyday drive?

E: Evaluate diesel fuel. Maybe diesel is the way to go. Whether in a truck or car, diesel might be a nice choice for you.

T: Test drive manual and automatic cars. Now, there is not much of a difference in fuel economy between manual and automatic cars.

C: Check out all electric vehicles.

H: Horsepower and hybrid. Consider which means the most to you.

Using my STRETCH analysis, you will be set to determine whether or not a more fuel efficient car is the way to go. Do you want to protect the Earth, save a few dollars, or be a part of a new driving generation? If you said yes to one or all, then a fuel efficient car is for you. Always think STRETCH your fuel dollars, and enjoy the extra spending money!


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