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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How to shop for a fuel-efficient used car

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There are many fuel-efficient options available among used cars, even for those without electric or hybrid engines. In the past decade, manufacturers have prioritized creating fuel-efficient cars across different engine types. Therefore, it should be relatively easy to find a used car with high miles per gallon. However, it may be challenging to find a low-cost option, given the current state of the car market.

Look at more than just hybrids

While hybrids are a great fuel-efficient option that can be purchased as used cars, they are not the only option available. With more manufacturers offering electric and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), as well as improvements in standard gasoline engines, there are many options to choose from.


If you have a place to charge your car overnight, electric vehicles can be a great option because they don’t use gasoline or oil. Some electric vehicles can travel for over 200 miles on a single charge. Additionally, you may be able to find a used electric vehicle easily, mainly if you live in an area with good public charging stations, as they have been available for a while.

Consider calculating the cost per mile by factoring in the expenses of installing a 240-watt plug and the electricity required for your car. Doing so can help you find a used electric car that won’t be more expensive to drive than a gas-guzzling car.

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids are different from traditional hybrids because they have an extra electric engine. This allows them to travel a longer distance and use both gas and electricity more efficiently, in comparison to traditional hybrids that rely solely on the energy generated from braking.

Although plug-in hybrids have been available for a few years, they are still in high demand, which may make finding a used model difficult and potentially more expensive compared to other options.

Natural gas

Although natural gas vehicles are an option, they are not as widely available as other alternative fuel vehicles. It can be challenging to find a used one, as they are less common. While natural gas emits fewer greenhouse gases, it also offers a shorter driving range than regular gas or diesel vehicles.

To make the right decision, consider both the fuel efficiency and availability of natural gas in your area when choosing a car. If natural gas is readily available where you live, it may be a more efficient option than a regular gas-powered vehicle. However, if natural gas is not readily available, the fuel efficiency alone may not make it worth driving a car that runs on natural gas.

If there is a shortage of natural gas, you may want to consider getting a bi-fuel or dual-fuel car. Bi-fuel vehicles are capable of running on both gasoline and natural gas, while dual-fuel cars use natural gas as their main fuel but require diesel to start the engine.

Clean diesel

If you’re considering SUVs or trucks, diesel engines could be a good choice for a cleaner and fuel-efficient option. They usually run on a combination of biodiesel and petroleum diesel, which helps to reduce emissions. However, diesel vehicles can be more expensive to purchase, and it may be challenging to find used ones. Before buying a diesel car, make sure to calculate if the fuel savings are worth the extra upfront cost.

Four-cylinder standard

Gasoline vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient every year, prompting manufacturers to prioritize maximizing mileage per gallon in each car. As a result, used cars are now almost as fuel efficient as new ones.

The US Department of Energy states that many vehicles are considered flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which can use up to 85% ethanol and still have a comparable range and miles per gallon to vehicles that run on 100% gasoline, resulting in less gasoline consumption.

To find a cost-effective vehicle, look up standard used models on websites such as Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and check their miles per gallon and fuel efficiency ratings. This research may help you find a fuel-efficient vehicle within your budget.

Consider your location

The duration of your journeys is significant. While electric and hybrid cars can now travel longer distances, they may still not be the optimal option for frequent lengthy trips.

  • Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are ideal for city dwellers who frequently take short trips around town. These vehicles offer the highest fuel efficiency for shorter distances.
  • If you live in the suburbs, consider your commuting needs before selecting a car. A plug-in hybrid is ideal for short trips and can help decrease fuel expenses. However, for longer commutes to a busy city with heavy traffic, an EV or FFV would be a better option if you have access to charging points.
  • If you reside in a rural locality, it’s better to opt for fully electric, traditional hybrid, gas, or diesel cars. As they can cover long distances without requiring frequent charging or refueling, they are suitable for long travels.

Don’t rush if you can afford to wait

Due to semiconductor shortages, shipping delays, and high demand, used car prices have gone up. It may be difficult to find a good bargain even if you negotiate well. Although interest rates are low, fuel-efficient cars are already more expensive than standard models on average, and low rates may not be enough to balance out the cost.

If you don’t urgently need a car, it might be better to wait. The car market could settle down and gas prices might go down if you wait. Additionally, you’ll have the chance to wait for newer models with updated features, and this will make current models decrease in value.

Forbes’ data shows that virtually all major manufacturers plan to increase their offering of electric and hybrid vehicles in the next decade. Therefore, if you hold off on purchasing a car, you may have the opportunity to acquire new technology that hasn’t been released for sale yet.

Be ready to negotiate

Purchasing a pre-owned vehicle requires the same amount of research and planning as buying a new one. Dealers acknowledge that most individuals prioritize fuel efficiency. Hence negotiation is necessary. It is advisable to have financing from a bank or other lender before going to the car lot and avoid agreeing to unnecessary add-ons.

To increase your chances of getting a good deal on your next car, consider trading in your old car that has lower fuel efficiency and making a substantial down payment.

Next steps

The market for used cars is busy, which gives you more options for finding fuel-efficient vehicles. However, keep in mind that prices may be higher than usual. Therefore, it’s essential to calculate whether the cost of purchasing a more fuel-efficient car is worth it when compared to the amount you’d save on gas over time. In some cases, it might be more economical to consider other factors, such as the overall cost of the used car, instead of just focusing on fuel efficiency.

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