Consumer Reports: How to Pick a Fuel-Efficient New Car

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is currently at $4.32. That’s insane! And if you happen to live in affluent states like California, then you can get used to paying closer to $6 for a gallon of liquid gold. In these high-priced times, it’s important to have a fuel-efficient car. And if you happen shopping for a new car right now, Consumer Reports has some tips on how to pick the most fuel-efficient one for your needs.

Major fuel savings can be found by buying a newer car or a hybrid

Honda Odyssey minivan
Honda Odyssey minivan | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you’re shopping for a new car and want to maximize your fuel savings, then the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to downsize. Sure, buying a 2022 Honda Civic can definitely yield lower dollar amounts at the gas pump compared to your old 2017 Honda Odyssey. But simply switching to a newer version of the same model can help as well. For example, Consumer Reports says that trading in a 2017 Honda Odyssey – which gets 21 mpg overall – for a 2022 model (that can achieve up to 22 mpg) can lead to an annual fuel savings of $112.

Sure, that may not sound like much, but at this point, every dollar counts. If you want to save even more, then you can always downsize. One example of this is if you have a 2017 Chevrolet Traverse that gets 16 mpg, then you can potentially trade it in for a new Toyota Highlander Hybrid that can get up to 35 mpg. In that case, you could save an average of $1,759 per year on fuel.

Of course, switching to nearly any hybrid model can equate to a lot of money saved on an annual basis. Even trading a 2017 Toyota Highlander, which can get up to 22 mpg, for a comparative new Highlander Hybrid can save you around $875, according to Consumer Reports. The good news is that most hybrid models only cost around $1,000 to $2,000 more than their conventional gas counterparts nowadays – a differential that can be made up easily with the savings that you’ll realize at the pump.

A plug-in hybrid vehicle can yield more savings at the gas station

A blue 2022 Toyota Prius Prime is parked.
A blue 2022 Toyota Prius Prime | Toyota

If you want even more gas savings, then a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can do the trick. A PHEV also links the gap between a hybrid and electric car by offering an all-electric range of up to around 22 to 45 miles before switching to the hybrid powertrain. But it’s important to note that a PHEV will achieve fewer miles per gallon than an equivalent hybrid-only model due to its larger, heavier battery.

For example, the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in can achieve up to 50 mpg in hybrid mode as compared to the 52 overall mpg that its Prius stablemate returns. However, if you’re able to charge the Prius Prime and take advantage of its 20 miles of all-electric range, then you’ll be able to effectively obtain up to 70 mpg in conjunction with the miles achieved with the gas/electric hybrid system.

As an added plus, PHEVs don’t require a long charging time as all-electric vehicles do. That same Prius Prime example only takes around 5.5 hours to charge with a 110-volt outlet (two hours with a 220-volt), while a Hyundai Kona Electric can take around nine hours to charge with a 240-volt outlet.

If you want the ultimate fuel savings, then buy an electric car

Convenient places to charge a Tesla on a date
Tesla electric vehicles are parked at the Tesla Supercharger station. | Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

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If you want the ultimate fuel savings at the pump, then don’t use any fuel at all and go with an electric vehicle. Fortunately, there are plenty of examples to choose from on the market today. Want something small and affordable? Check out a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Bolt. Want something more premium? Then a Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz EQS, or a Porsche Taycan can deliver the opulence you need.

But if you would rather have something in between, then EVs like the Ford Mustang Mach E, Volkswagen ID.4, or Tesla Model 3 could fit your budget even better. No matter which EV you choose, just make sure that you have a place to charge it overnight, preferably a garage space with a home charger. Also, if you can charge the car at your workplace, that would be an added plus.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of options on the new car market if you’re looking to save gas during these crazy high-priced times. Downsizing your car, switching to a newer model, or going with a PHEV or EV can bring some aid to your leaking wallet. Consumer Reports recommends doing your homework and seeing which option works best for you.