Fuel Efficiency is Found in Some Surprising Places

It's gotten to the point where it's painful to take a trip to the gas station. Gas prices are so high these days that even carpooling with my husband is expensive. We've even been driving across state lines to buy gas in Indiana where the prices are around 50 cents per gallon cheaper than they are in Chicago. These prices have led many to invest in hybrid cars, electric cars, or even to stop driving completely in favor of biking and public transportation. Biking isn't always practical, and public transportation is nonexistent in many parts of the world. So, I've decided to do a little digging and compile a list of cars that can help you out at the gas pump, along with some other cars that aren't as efficient as you might think.

The Winners

Many of the vehicles on the fuel-efficient list are vehicles you would expect to find there, such as the Toyota Prius Hybrid, but others might be rather surprising. To compile my list, I spoke with friends and family and spent a lot of time on the U.S. Department of Energy website listing fuel economy, both as reported by the manufacturers and as reported by test subjects. Here are some of the cars and SUVs that top the chart for fuel economy.

Of course, there are electric cars, such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Ford Focus BEV FWD, the BMW Active E, and the Nissan Leaf, but those cars are only practical if you have a power source for recharging. It's perfect if you own a house and can take advantage of one of the electric companies offering lower rates for power used over night as you charge the car. In my neighborhood, though, few people have garages, and even fewer have garages with electricity. My house, which was built in the 1890s, doesn't even have any outlets outside of the house, so for me, an electric car just isn't an option right now.

The surprise winner of the non-electric, fuel-efficient award goes to:
The 2000 Honda Insight, a 3 cylinder, manual transmission car running off of regular gasoline.
Gas mileage: 49 city, 61 highway, with drivers reporting an average of 62.9 miles per gallon. Amazing!
Cost: Because this car is 12 years old, you can pick one up for around $6,000 at a dealership, or for around $4,000 from a private party. The 2001 through 2006 models all have similar gas mileage, though the 2000 model is the best.

2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid
Gas mileage: 51 to 53 city, and 48 to 46 highway, with test drivers reporting 50.9 to 52.8 miles per gallon. Surprisingly, the 1.8L engine has higher gas mileage reported by the test-drivers than the 1.5L engine.
Cost: A new Prius will set you back $19,500 to $29,990.

2004-2009 Toyota Prius, non-hybrid vehicle
Gas mileage: 48 city, 45 highway, with drivers reporting 46.2 to 48.9 miles per gallon in actual driving situations.
Cost for this vehicle varies depending on the year and the number of miles. Visit Kelly Blue Book for vehicle pricing before buying.

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid
Gas mileage: 44 miles per gallon city and highway, with actual drivers reporting 47.6 miles per gallon.
Cost: A new Civic will cost you around $24,000.

Lexus CT 200h
Gas mileage: 43 city and 40 highway. Unfortunately, I was unable to find reliable user-reported miles per gallon for this car.
Cost: A new CT 200h costs between $29,120 and $31,750.

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
Gas mileage: 43 city and 39 highway with drivers reporting 40.3 miles per gallon on average.
Cost: The base model starts at $25,900.

The highest ranking SUV in terms of fuel economy was the:
Ford Escape Hybrid with Front Wheel Drive
Gas mileage: 34 city and 31 highway, with actual drivers reporting an average of 37.2 miles per gallon.
Cost: A new Escape Hybrid retails anywhere from $30,570 to $33,080.

Another surprise is the 2001 Saturn, either the SC or SL version, with a manual, 5-speed transmission.
Gas mileage: Reported gas mileage is 25 city and 36 highway, but I know several people with this vehicle who report getting 37 to 41 mpg on their daily commutes (half highway and half city driving), and 36 miles per gallon when driving with the air conditioning on full blast.
Cost: According to Kelly Blue Book, you could expect to spend anywhere from $1,600 to $3,500 depending on the condition, the mileage, and whether you purchase it from a dealer or a private party.

The Losers

During my search, I came across some vehicles with surprisingly bad gas mileage. Here are some of the losers in the fuel-efficiency game. Some of them were quite shocking.

2011 and 2012 Saab, including the 9-5 sedan and both the 9-3 sedan and convertible
Gas mileage: When run on regular gasoline, these cars get 20 miles per gallon city and 33 highway, but when run on E85, their mileage drops to a horrific 15 city and 23 highway.
Cost: Depending on the model, you could expect to spend between $28,900 and $46,080 on a 2011 or 2012 Saab.

1997 Toyota Avalon
Gas mileage: 18 city and 28 highway, with drivers reporting an average of 24.7 miles per gallon.
Cost will vary depending on the number of miles on the vehicle and the condition.

2008 Ford Taurus, 3.5L automatic
Gas mileage: A sorry 18 miles per gallon city and 28 highway with drivers reporting an average of 23.2 miles per gallon.

2003-2004 Honda Accord, both manual and automatic
Gas mileage: 18 city, 27 highway with drivers reporting 25.2 to 27.7 miles per gallon in actual use.

2011-2012 Honda Odyssey, 3.5L Automatic
Gas mileage: 18 city and 27 highway with actual drivers reporting 20 to 20.6 miles per gallon.

2012 Honda Pilot, 2-wheel drive, 3.5L
Gas mileage: 18 city and 25 highway with actual drivers reporting a sorry 17 miles per gallon on average.

2004-2006 Toyota Highlander, 2.4L
Gas mileage: 18 city and 23 highway.

2010 Toyota 4Runner 2-wheel drive, 4.0L
Gas mileage: 17 city, 23 highway, with actual drivers reporting an average of 17 miles per gallon.

Of course, there are many more sports cars and large trucks with terrible gas mileage, but the point of this exercise is to point out several things. Just because it's a Toyota or a Honda, don't assume that the gas mileage will be amazing. Some models do perform very well on a limited amount of fuel, but others are what I like to call gas guzzlers. Do some digging on the sites I provided because you might be able to find a car like the 2001 Saturn SL or the Honda Insight that will cost you only a few thousand dollars, but save you thousands in trips to the pump.

I hope this post helps you become an informed consumer and brings us one step closer to a greener tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

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