GreenCars 101

Buying a Fuel-Efficient Vehicle

Dave Nichols
Jul 2023
Save on gasoline and money when you buy a fuel-efficient vehicle. These tips will help you when you are looking for a car that give you more smiles for the miles. 
Couple shopping for a new car in a dealership

Buying a Fuel-Efficient Vehicle

Most of the time, smaller, lighter vehicles are both less expensive and give you better gas mileage at the pump. Unless you are buying a Ferrari or Lamborghini, that is. Generally speaking, compact cars use less fuel and thereby produce fewer greenhouse gasses. So, compact cars help you both save money and save the planet.

You should also think small when it comes to horsepower. Buying a vehicle with a small three- or four-cylinder engine will produce less horsepower and use less gasoline. Smaller engines also cost less than V6 or V8 engines. A small, turbocharged engine can be extremely fuel efficient, but adding supercharging or turbocharging to a larger engine is likely to be less fuel efficient and use more gas.

Red Truck Driving On A Dirt Road

Fuel Efficient Vehicles: Diminutive Drivetrains

Besides getting a car with a small engine, simplify the entire drivetrain by buying a front-wheel drive vehicle. While all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles are the least fuel-efficient drivelines, front-wheel drive is the most efficient. Also consider getting a car with a constantly variable transmission (CVT). These use belts and pulleys to create an infinite number of gears that in turn, do a better job of keeping your engine running efficiently.

Person's Hand Held Up Against An AC Vent In A Car

Gas-Guzzling Features

Did you know that many added extra features on cars lower fuel efficiency? It’s true. Some features increase aerodynamic drag and that pulls extra power from the engine and sucks more gas. For instance, permanent roof racks increase drag and add to how much gas you need to move your car.

Other extra features add weight to the car and reduce fuel economy. For instance, the added weight of power seats alone can result in a three percent increase in fuel consumption. While power windows, mirrors, doors and seats are nice extras, they all add weight to the car.

The biggest gas-sucker when it comes to the features on a car is the air conditioner. Using it to keep cool will result in 20 percent more fuel consumption. Another feature that lowers fuel efficiency is the remote car starter. People start their vehicles remotely to warm them up in winter or cool them off in summer, so the car is ready to drive. But all that sitting and idling wastes gasoline.

Woman Crouching Down Examining Tire Rims

Car Features That Add Fuel-Efficiency

When you look for a car, think of these features that can actually make any car more fuel efficient.

Aluminum wheels reduce weight, and your vehicle uses less energy to move them down the road. Cruise control reduces fuel consumption by keeping your car at a constant and consistent speed, saving fuel over quick acceleration. Likewise, a GPS navigation system helps you drive directly where you are going, avoiding gas wasting detours.

Ask if your car is available with a block heater that warms up the engine block to improve winter fuel efficiency. While a sunroof is more fuel efficient than using air conditioning, it can also cause drag at highway speeds. If a sunroof is important to you, look for vehicles that offer a tilt function sunroof. These aid ventilation without causing more drag. If a roof rack is a feature you are interested in, look for a removable one. That way it will not add any drag when not in use.

A trip computer function is a positive feature since it shows you how much fuel you are using and can help you learn to use less. Believe it or not, tinted windows are another way to increase fuel efficiency as they help to keep your car cooler inside. They block some of the sun’s heat and that keeps the car cooler without using air conditioning.

A young couple admiring the forest and trees next to their RAV4 Hybrid

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