As oil prices continue to rise, it is becoming obvious that it is only going to get more expensive to fill up your vehicle at the gas station. High prices will be around at least for the summer, and most likely for the long term. It has already been several years since gas was less than $2 per gallon. These days, anything under $3 per gallon is considered cheap. These prices have people seeking out more fuel efficient cars. More and more gas/electric hybrids are finding their way onto dealership lots and purely electric cars are starting to roll out of factories as well. The electric car revolution is starting, but more development is needed before these cars, like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, become real options for mainstream drivers. For now, limited range and questions about how much charging these cars will require (not to mention high sticker prices) will keep many car-seekers from considering going totally electric.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for fuel efficient vehicles, with some traditional gas-powered vehicles actually challenging the best hybrids in terms of miles per gallon.
The Toyota Prius - newer models are now at the $21,000 mark – is still one of the better cars when it comes to overall MPGs. It averages more than 50 miles per gallon when on the highway. Honda’s Civic and Insight hybrids also offer decent fuel economy, with both serving up more than 40 miles per gallon in the city and on the highway. The Insight is one of the cheaper hybrids on the market at $18,000.
The best value, overall, might be found amongst all-gas compact cars. Options from Hyundai and Kia come in at $15,000 or less. The Kia Forte and Kio Rio average 36-38 miles per gallon on the highway, as does the small Hyundai Accent. The sub-$15,000 Ford Fiesta can approach 40 highway miles per gallon, as can the newly re-released Honda CR-Z ($19,000 sticker price). Many people consider the Fiesta to be the best overall value amongst fuel efficient cars because of its low price tag and decent overall performance. Green-minded drivers will also be happy to know that the Fiesta produces less carbon emissions than its compact kin (though slightly more than the Prius and Insight).
Diesel cars have been making waves in the US as well. Though diesel is currently more expensive at the pump than regular fuel, it burns much slower, giving diesel cars increased miles-per-gallon stats. Audi and VW have diesel models for sale in the US. These cars generally offer better performance than hybrids or compacts, but still keep fuel costs reasonably low. Volkswagen’s Jetta and Golf TDIs get over 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Both cars have sticker prices around $22,000. Audi’s A3 is a luxury diesel that starts at around $30,000. Today’s clean diesel fuel does not pollute as much as older diesel fuel. For people who want good performance, these cars are a good fuel efficient alternative to compacts and hybrids.
The Nissan Leaf is an electric car that is worth considering for regular commuters who will not have to travel long distances between charges. That is because the federal government and many state governments are offering significant tax breaks to people who purchase these vehicles. If you are lucky enough to live in a state that offers tax breaks for electric cars, you can see more than $10,000 in tax credits ($7,500 from the US government alone). That said, the low range between charges and the fact that the Leaf and Volt haven’t had long to prove themselves on the road means that most buyers will forego them in the near future. That said, high fuel prices have definitely been speeding up the electric car revolution, meaning that viable models could be on the road in a few short years.