Tips for buying a fuel-efficient vehicle
If you shop smart, you can save fuel – and money – for years to come. These tips will help you sort through the hundreds of vehicle models on the market so you can find the most fuel-efficient vehicle to meet your needs.
Play the free Auto$mart Game and complete fun challenges to learn more about how fuel-efficient driving can help you save money and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
Buy the smallest vehicle
Generally, the smaller the vehicle, the less fuel it consumes and carbon dioxide it produces. Narrow your options to the smallest type of vehicle that meets your everyday needs and you’ll save money not only in the showroom, but also on the road.
Choose a vehicle with extra gears
Extra gears can do a better job of keeping the engine running at its most efficient level. To get the most gear ratios possible, consider a continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVTs use belts and pulleys to allow for an infinite number of gears.
Simplify your drivetrain
Front-wheel drive is the most efficient. All-wheel and four-wheel drive are the least fuel-efficient. But if you need it, choose a drivetrain that engages all four wheels only when required.
Buy less horsepower
Generally, the bigger the engine (that is, the greater the horsepower) the more fuel it consumes. Many vehicles come with various sizes of engine and you can save money by buying smaller.
Avoid unnecessary extras
Many extra features increase the amount of fuel a vehicle consumes by adding weight, increasing aerodynamic drag, or drawing extra power from the engine. Ask yourself whether the comfort or convenience these features provide is worth an ongoing increase in fuel costs.
Power windows, seats, mirrors and doors
The electricity drawn by power seats, windows, mirrors and door locks is not significant. Their added weight, however, is. Power seats can add between 40 and 60 kilograms to a 1,200-kilogram vehicle, resulting in a 2 to 3% increase in fuel consumption.
Remote car starter
Remote car starters encourage people to start their cars before they are ready to drive them. This wastes fuel.
Air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by more than 20% under city-driving conditions. Look for a system with an “economy” mode to help minimize the impact of air conditioning use.
Permanent roof rack
Even empty, a permanent roof rack increases aerodynamic drag. By extension, it increases the amount of fuel a vehicle must burn to move.
Downsizing to a smaller engine with a turbocharger can be more fuel-efficient. However, turbocharging a standard size engine to get more power may increase fuel costs rather than saving them.
Ask for fuel-efficient features
A number of inexpensive options can help you reduce fuel consumption:
Aluminum wheels are lighter than regular wheels. As a result, a vehicle doesn’t need to use as much energy to move them.
A block heater heats a vehicle’s engine block. This means you start a semi-warm engine and improve your vehicle’s overall winter fuel efficiency.
Cruise control helps keep a vehicle’s speed constant on the highway. This avoids unintended slowdowns and accelerations that increase the amount of fuel a vehicle uses.
Navigation systems show you the most direct route to your destination. That saves you from wasting fuel on detours.
Removable roof rack
Removable roof racks are more fuel-efficient than permanent ones, because you can remove them, and eliminate drag, when you’re not using them.
Open windows or sunroofs are more fuel-efficient than air conditioning at city speeds. But on highways, they increase drag and fuel consumption. Look for a sunroof that has a tilt function, which boosts ventilation without increasing drag.
Tachometers show engine speed. They let you know when to shift a manual transmission for the best fuel efficiency.
Tinted glass blocks some of the sun's heat from getting into your vehicle. This keeps you cooler without airconditioning. You can install tinted glass on any vehicle, new or used.
Trip computers show the amount of fuel you use and challenge you to consume less.
Buying your first car – Video
Learn more about how to make one of the most important decisions of your life: choosing your first car.
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