Buying A Car: Fuel Efficiency Checklist

John F. Kennedy Lincoln Continental
Most of us don’t have the cash or conscience to ignore fuel efficiency when buying a car.  Shopping strictly by miles per gallon is admirable, but shortsighted.  Take these considerations into account as well, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy long-term ownership and savings.

Lifestyle.  Automakers are quick to tout the higher of the EPA city/highway mileage numbers, and with the general exception of hybrids, highway figures tend to be higher.  Getting 40 mpg on the open road is great, but what if the bulk of your driving is stop-and-go city traffic?  Also, be honest with yourself.  Are you comfortable in the car?  Will it meet your needs for passengers and cargo?

Integration.  If you’re considering an electric or even a plug-in hybrid, make sure you have consistent access to power.  You can’t quite hog public charge stations for extended periods.  What might sound like a no-brainer to read has brought uh-oh moments to a few apartment and condo dwellers who either spaced it out or weren’t 100 percent certain of outlet availability on a dedicated circuit at home.  Another consideration for homeowners would be installing a 240-volt charging station in the garage.

Features.  Buying a fuel-efficient car might find you surrounded by absence or inclusion of different features than you’ve had before.  Even with a conventional gas engine under the hood, the car could employ subtle but noticeable regenerative braking.  The engine may shut down when you come to a stop.  High-efficiency models sometimes eschew weighty, power-hungry options.  Some cars’ best mileage comes by driving in the more restrictive Eco mode.  For normal driving, none of these features are terribly intrusive, but there’s always a period of getting accustomed, assuming you’re willing to accept.

Geography.  Let’s say you’re considering a diesel.  It’s a given that you won’t fill up as often, but is there a station with diesel reasonably close to home or at least on your commute?  And while we don’t want to stir the range-anxiety pot, you will want to make sure that electric car is still feasible when extreme weather impacts its range.  In case service is needed, make sure a dealer or qualified technician is in your area.    

Do your part.  Sure, the car you’re considering is capable of great fuel efficiency, but are you?  No matter what you buy, you will have to drive economically to achieve the advertised mileage or your Volt will be about as efficient as a Viper.
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