Despite today's low fuel prices, consumers continue to rate fuel economy as one of their top criteria when shopping for a new car. That's likely because they understand that gas prices can change quickly, and more efficient vehicles provide protection against future fluctuations.
The folks at the advocacy group Consumers Union feel the same, and today, they've published a report showing that new federal fuel economy goals for 2025 will save consumers up to $8,000 over the life of their vehicles.
The goals in question have been set by the Environmental Protection Agency and establish a fleet-wide target of 54.5 mpg for automakers doing business in the U.S. Standards are lower for larger vehicles like trucks.
That might seem like a tall order, given that 2025 is just nine years away. But remember that the EPA's targets are based on corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, which is slightly higher than "real world" economy. A recent report shows that U.S. cars are typically meeting or exceeding CAFE goals, though pickups and SUVs aren't faring as well.
If all goes as planned over the next decade, Consumers Union says that the cost of owning an maintaining a vehicle will be much cheaper for those who purchase 2025 and later model-year vehicles. Even as cars become more tech-heavy, which will add to upfront costs, owners will save roughly $3,000 per car and $4,200 per truck over the lives of their vehicles due to lower gas prices. (Note: savings are calculated in 2013 dollars.)
The group notes, however, that its estimates may be conservative. If fuel prices rise more steeply and technology costs continue to drop, savings will increase: "Under the most favorable assumptions considered--high gas prices and low technology costs—net savings are $5,700 per car and $8,000 per truck."
Furthermore, because most shoppers finance their new rides, Consumers Union says that savings will become apparent fairly quickly, and will accelerate after loans are paid off.
You can download a copy of the report here.
Caveat: Consumers Union is an advocacy group and a division of Consumer Reports. Though the group is officially non-partisan, it's devoted to promoting consumer-protection legislation. That doesn't necessarily cast doubt on the group's findings or projections; it's only to say that Consumers Union has an interest in encouraging particular types of laws regulations.