The holidays are coming. So, you may be looking at getting a new vehicle. Many people buy cars or trucks as holiday presents. Other savvy buyers take advantage of year-end savings. With the used and new car markets tighter than usual, you might be very budget conscious. Fuel economy is a massive part of that occasion. You have to ask yourself, which car will cost you the least in the long run?
Your mechanic is in a great position to answer that question. We can help you understand fuel efficiency and operating costs for different car types. Armed with that information, you can make the best choice for your new or new-to-you vehicle!
First, it is essential to realize that not all cars suit everyone. Gas, diesel, and hybrids come with pros and cons. Understanding them is what helps you make the right choice for yourself.
Gasoline engines produce higher horsepower, but they are less efficient than diesel engines. Traditionally gas was cheaper than diesel. However, diesel has been more expensive than gas for a few years. There is no reason to expect that to turn around. So, even though gas engines are less efficient, fuel costs may be the same as diesel engines.
Diesel engines offer more torque than gas engines. Their engines last longer. They can last two to three times as long as gas engines. They also often outlast most hybrid batteries.
Hybrids run on both gas and electricity. They tend to have higher fuel efficiency and fewer emissions. In the U.S., we do not have diesel hybrids. However, there are hybrid diesel vehicles in other countries. For this article, hybrid means a gas hybrid.
EPA Fuel Estimates
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does fuel estimates for vehicles in the United States. The EPA bases estimates on standardized driving conditions. They provide estimates for city and highway driving. You can find these estimates at https://www.fueleconomy.gov/. While your car may not always hit the EPA numbers, they are a good gauge of a car’s fuel economy.
EPA estimates are for new cars. The more wear and tear on a vehicle, its fuel economy worsens. Regular maintenance can help keep fuel economy up. So, you want to maintain any of your cars.
Comparing miles per gallon (MPG) estimates for old and new cars can be tricky. MPG ratings have improved to reflect real-life driving conditions better. That change happened in 2008. So, keep that in mind when comparing vehicles.
Types of Drivers
You might be surprised to learn how your drive impacts your fuel economy. Driving in city traffic, especially during rush hour, means starts and stops. That means lower fuel economy. Quick accelerations burn up fuel. So, does faster driving. So, how you drive impacts whether you will see the average performance.
Initial Selling Price
We have to start at the initial selling price. Similar vehicles increase in price for new cars from gas to diesel to hybrid. For used vehicles, gas prices remain the lowest priced. However, the mileage and age can impact a hybrid’s resale value. So, diesel vehicles may be the most expensive used.
Generally, hybrids are about 35% to 33% more expensive than their gas counterparts. However, if you are buying new, that sticker price only tells part of the story. You may get a tax credit for a hybrid or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). With the tax benefit, the costs may be much closer. However, you only get rebates for new hybrids or PHEVs.
Hybrid batteries are expensive to replace. They usually have more extended warranties than the rest of the car. However, you need to investigate the warranty length and the car’s age before buying.
Hybrid batteries also have a type of fuel economy. How many miles can you get on the hybrid battery? For PHEVs, this number may be the miles you can drive on the electric-only engine. This number might be the extra miles you can get per gallon of gas for pure hybrids.
Are Hybrids Always More Efficient?
No. If efficiency is your number-one concern, a small diesel vehicle will still be more fuel-efficient than most hybrids. If you only compare cars from the same class, you may still find that some gas or diesel engines are more efficient than hybrids. You have to do the research.
Keep in mind that your driving habits matter. If most of your driving is short-distance errands, a PHEV can dramatically boost your mileage. Some PHEVs can go over 100 miles on a charge before using their gas engines. Most can go at least 20+ miles on a charge. So, a PHEV can boost your mileage if you are looking for a daily driver for short trips.
Improving Fuel Economy
Just like gas-powered engines, maintenance and driving habits impact hybrid efficiency. So, whatever type of vehicle you choose, keep these tips in mind to improve fuel economy.
Most people think that fuel economy starts with the engine. Your tires impact efficiency a lot. You want to make sure you inflate your tires properly. Under-inflated tires zap your fuel efficiency. However, do not overcorrect and overinflate your tires. That can be very dangerous.
Your wheel alignment also impacts fuel efficiency. Poor alignment increases friction between the road and your tires. Greater friction means your engine has to work harder to go the same distance. The result is a drop in fuel economy.
Make sure your spark plugs or glow plugs are in good working order. Replace them when they start to go bad. Use the manufacturer’s recommended replacement. You can damage your engine with other parts.
Oxygen sensors help control your engine’s fuel-to-air ratio. A failing oxygen sensor can make your fuel efficiency plummet. So can old ones. Changing your oxygen sensor can increase fuel efficiency. Just do not expect an immediate change. It takes two or three tanks of gas for your vehicle to adjust.
Make sure you have a snug gas cap. Otherwise, gas and diesel can evaporate from your gas tank. That is bad for the environment and your MPG.
Have your mechanic regularly inspect your vehicle. If you want to improve your gas mileage, make sure they check
- Fuel injection system
- Air filters
- Spark plugs
Another way to boost your efficiency is to lighten your load. The heavier your car, the more energy it takes to move it. Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle. For passenger vehicles, this might not be an issue. But you could easily haul thousands of extra pounds if you have a big work truck. So, empty your tools when not in use.
Use cruise control to maintain a steady speed. Ideally, 55 is a good speed for fuel efficiency. In Houston, going 55 on most roads could get you killed. So, drive at or near the speed limit, but use your cruise control to help prevent excessive acceleration.
Used Car Checkups
If you decide to buy a used model, have a mechanic check it before you buy it. We handle pre-purchase inspections. They give you a good snapshot of the vehicle’s overall condition before you commit!