3 Ways to Save Gas When Buying a Car, According to Consumer Reports

If you don’t have access to public transportation, car buying is a process you’ll probably have to endure at some point. Fortunately, online shopping has eliminated many of the hassles associated with finding a car. You can search for the exact make and model you want, then pick it up at your earliest convenience. 

However, with fuel prices rising daily, gas mileage concerns could throw a wrench in your plans. Your dream car might not seem so appealing anymore if it turns out to be a gas-guzzler. If you find yourself stuck looking for alternatives, Consumer Reports has a few great tips.

1. Downsize to a smaller car that uses less gas

Fueling up a car at a gas station pump in Horbranz, Austria
Fueling up a car at a gas station | Felix Kästle/picture alliance via Getty Images

While large vehicles are practical for growing families, it’s no secret that big SUVs use more gas than their smaller counterparts. Consumer Reports cites the 2017 Chevy Traverse as an example, which only earns 16 mpg combined city/highway. Some owners reported that it earned 19 mpg overall, but that’s still a considerable amount of money spent on fuel.

If you only need to accommodate five riders, it makes more sense to buy a compact SUV like the Toyota RAV4. This model earns 27 mpg combined city/highway, which CR estimates could shave $1,523 off your year’s fuel costs.

Additionally, smaller SUVs are often easier to handle than larger ones and don’t exhibit as much body lean. Parking is easier because you’re working with a smaller wheelbase, which is good for those who commute to work in crowded cities.

In the case of switching from a Traverse to a RAV4, you also get a more reliable vehicle. The 2017 Chevy Traverse is known for having several severe problems, including issues related to the engine and transmission. Meanwhile, the Toyota RAV4 historically has fewer problems, so the money saved on repairs offsets its higher price.

2. Buy the hybrid or PHEV option that needs less gas

If you absolutely need a three-row SUV to accommodate your family, at least look for one with a hybrid powertrain. Consumer Reports recommends the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which earns 35 mpg city/highway. CR says that you could potentially save up to $2,030 a year when you substitute that vehicle for the 2017 Chevy Traverse.

A hybrid car isn’t just efficient: it can also provide a smoother, quieter ride. Hybrid cars are often cheaper to maintain, and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) can qualify for federal tax credits.

If you’re still on the fence about switching to electric, PHEVs can help ease the transition. These vehicles usually have anywhere between 22-45 miles of electric range before switching back to conventional power. You can enjoy the benefits of excellent gas mileage without worrying about range anxiety. Additionally, in some cases, you might be able to commute to and from work or school on electric power alone. Afterward, PHEV batteries can be recharged safely with any 120-volt outlet you have in your household. 

The U.S. Department of Energy says it only costs $6 to recharge an EV with a 200-mile range. Considering that, it would only cost around $1.50 to recharge your PHEV at home.

3. Treat yourself to a new vehicle with a better fuel economy

Automakers are constantly refining the engines in their vehicles to operate more efficiently. For example, the 2022 Honda Odyssey currently makes 22 mpg combined city/highway. For comparison, the 2017 model only makes 21 mpg overall.

It might not seem like a big difference, but Consumer Reports says that one point could save you $130 yearly on gas. CR data also reveals that you can save $1,187 a year by trading your new Odyssey for a Toyota Sienna. The latest vehicles will also have the most updated technology to keep your family safe and entertained.

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