Which Vehicles Get the Best Gas Mileage?

Gas costs money. Sure, you know this, but is mileage one of your top considerations when you’re looking at buying or leasing a new ride? It should be.

According to www.fueleconomy.gov, if you drive 15,000 miles in a year and pay an average fuel price of $2.50, choosing a 30 mpg vehicle will save you about $625 over a 20 mpg one.

If you plan to use it for five years, you’ll save $3,125. Add $3,125 to the cost of the 20 mpg vehicle. Doesn’t look quite as good now, does it? Let’s have a look at some alternatives.

Electric Car in Charging Station.

SMART fortwo

Anyone who gets a wave of satisfaction from a revving V8 may be tempted to let out a small chuckle when they pull up alongside a new SMART fortwo electric models. You’ve seen them – they’re the Micro Machines of the modern world. They look like someone cut off the front end of a minivan and turned it into a convertible.

You should know, though, that they’re the ones laughing as they zip past the gas station. A 2014 SMART fortwo electric car gets a combined 107 mpg. That’s right – 122 city, 93 highway.

Since it’s an electric vehicle, these numbers are derived from a conversion factor that translates the vehicle’s energy use to its equivalent in gasoline. This fact doesn’t make them any less impressive.

Using our earlier numbers, the economy of the SMART fortwo saves $1,525 per year over the 20 mpg vehicle, and $900 per year over the ‘efficient’ 30 mpg vehicle. You can do the five-year math on that one.

Let’s be realistic, a two-seater just isn’t practical for most people. This doesn’t mean you get to feel better about 20 mpg. In fact, there are larger, more practical options that can save you the same kind of money.

Kia Soul Electric

If you’re a family in need of a station wagon, it’s probably safe to assume that you do a good deal of daily driving. From schools and soccer fields to grocery stores and holidays with out-of-state family, you could save thousands with a 2015 Kia Soul Electric.

With ample room for four adults, or two adults and three smaller humans, and 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space that’s expandable to 61.3 with the seats down, it’s a small, affordable wagon with plenty of room for the family. It also gets a rather spectacular combined fuel economy of 105 mpg.

Compared to the combined 28 mpg of the 2015 Subaru Outback – one of the most popular wagons on the market – the Kia Soul Electric will save about $982 each year. That’s $4,911 for five years of new shoes, sporting equipment and a trip to Disney World. I’d say your kids will eventually thank you for buying this incredibly efficient wagon, but we both know that’s not true.

Toyota RAV4 EV

If you need the expanded people-moving capabilities of an SUV or a minivan, you’re not off the hook. Step back a model year and meet the 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV. It earns a combined rating of 76 mpg, and even though there isn’t a new model out this year, you’ll soon have other options. Tesla’s Model X electric SUV is due out at the end of 2015, and it won’t be the last of its kind to hit the market.

Just looking for a daily driver? When it comes to the small electric car market, your options are endless. The nimble Volkswagen e-Golf stands out with the zip of a chart-topping hot hatch and a combined 116 mpg, and the 2015 Ford Focus electric is a fan favorite when it comes to drivability, available features and, of course, fuel economy to the tune of 105 mpg.

Your Other Options

If you’ve got a bit more to spend, the BMW i3 BEV’s 124 combined mpg makes it the most efficient car out this year. I could mention the Tesla Model S AWD electric and its 100 mpg rating, but with owners like Jay Z rumored to be driving them, it doesn’t need any help from me.

All of that being said, making the jump to an all-electric vehicle can be daunting. It can be difficult to go cold turkey off the petrol, and that’s where hybrids come in. They’re not as insanely efficient as full-fledged EVs, but they’re a great way to wean yourself off the gas pump.

There are two basic flavors when it comes to hybrids.

Standard hybrids still rely on gasoline for the heavy lifting, but the combustion engine works in tandem with an electric motor that handles low-power driving. They juice themselves up with the help of regenerative brakes, so you don’t need to worry about plugs and chargers.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are just that – you need to plug them in. They’re powered by an electric motor that uses a combustion engine to extend its range. These are the more efficient hybrids, with models like the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in getting a combined 88 mpg while the Prius C standard hybrid averages 50. If you’re still calculating, that’s a difference of about $324 per year, or $1,619 over five.

At the end of the day, even the most economic gas-powered vehicles look like pits of oil and money when they’re held up to the efficiency of the latest electric and hybrid models. While a relatively efficient ride like the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI can garner up to 36 mpg, opting for the Jetta Hybrid’s 45 mpg will conserve $200 a year, and choosing the Plug-in Prius mentioned above bumps the extra dough to over $600.

If it’s worth the extra cash, by all means, buy a 20 mpg whip with racing stripes on the hood and fire spewing from the exhaust. I won’t just you, but your wallet might.

Your wallet thinks you should keep in mind that all of these numbers are based on an average of 15,000 miles per year and a fuel price of $2.50. Even a bump to 20,000 miles and $3.00 per gallon can drastically increase the numbers – and the potential savings – described here.

Your wallet thinks those numbers looked pretty dramatic to begin with. When you’re looking at new cars this year, trust your wallet.