Does a New High Gas Mileage Vehicle Make Sense?

Are you thinking about replacing your gas guzzler with a fuel-efficient vehicle that gets more miles per gallon (MPG)? Not sure how much money you can expect to save every week, month, or year? MPGomatic to the rescue!

Cost justifying the purchase of a high gas mileage vehicle starts with some basic numbers. Thankfully, it isn’t a complicated process. You’ll begin by comparing the real-world gas mileage of your existing vehicle with the official government estimates for the new vehicle(s) that you have in mind.
2012 Ford C-Max Hybrid - 3/4 front view

When you use our Gas Mileage Calculator, you needn’t be an expert in advanced mathematics. All that’s required is the following information:

  • MPGs of your present vehicle
  • MPGs of the new vehicle
  • Number of miles traveled per year
  • Average cost of a gallon of fuel in your area.

I received a note last month from one of our readers that was in the midst of this process. His family puts 30,000 miles per year on a large traditional SUV that averages 16 miles per gallon, overall. With that many miles driven and that level of fuel-efficiency, the cost-justification is clear cut. These folks were looking to downsize into a crossover and were considering something along the lines of a Honda CR-V and didn’t have an overwhelming need for all-wheel-drive (AWD). While the CR-V is a solid choice, it isn’t the highest-MPG small crossover. That honor currently goes to the manual-equipped 2013 Mazda CX-5.

If we use $4.00 per gallon as the average price of fuel with 30,000 miles driven, that big old traditional 16-MPG SUV is gobbling up $7,500 per year at the pump. At an average of 29 MPG combined, the Mazda CX-5 would use $4,140 of gasoline, for a savings of $3,360 per year. While that’s quite impressive, things can get ever better.

If the family was willing to consider the high-MPG 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (rather than a traditional crossover), those savings would go substantially higher. The C-Max Hybrid is rated at 47 MPG combined, with a starting price of $25,200. Over 30,000 miles, the C-Max’s gasoline costs would be $2,550 … a savings of $4,950 per year.

This would save $412.50 each month. If the old SUV fetched a trade-in value of $3000, the monthly loan amount on the base model, without any options, taxes, or added costs would be approximately $400 per month at 3 percent interest.

In effect, the fuel cost savings from trading in that gas guzzler would make the loan payments, with no additional money down. While you wouldn’t be driving for free, you’d be covered by that new car warranty (until exhausted) and free of the worry over repair costs on old paint. (If you’ve ever had to drop thousands of dollars replacing a transmission, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

When folks argue against our nation’s new fuel efficiency standards, which target a CAFE average of 54.5 MPG by 2025, I have to wonder if they’ve taken sufficient time to do the math. High-MPG cars don’t just make sense … they make dollars and sense.

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