How much will I save if I buy a more fuel efficient car?



With gas prices soaring and hybrid vehicles capturing everyone’s attention, it’s time to take a look at the economics of fuel economy.

The following is a hypothetical scenario with which to illustrate how gas mileage affects what you pay at the pump. We’ll say the average driver puts 12,000 miles on a car annually, and that gasoline costs $5 a gallon at the pump. Obviously, miles driven and pump prices will vary, so you can plug in their own numbers for a more accurate analysis. We’ll start with a car that gets 15 MPG and end with one that gets 60MPG. Currently, these numbers reasonably reflect the low end and the high end of the fuel economy we expect to see on the cars we work on.

Formula: (annual miles driven) divided by (MPG) multiplied by (cost of a gallon of gas)
15 MPG = $4000

20 MPG = $3000

25 MPG = $2400

30 MPG = $2000

35 MPG = $1714

40 MPG = $1500

45 MPG = $1333

50 MPG = $1200

55 MPG = $1090

60 MPG = $1000

At the extremes, there is $3000 to be saved per year, or $250 per month. However, most people will not be switching from a 15MPH hog to 60MPH Gen1 Insight, so let’s look at a more realistic comparison. Let’s compare a Prius to a Corolla. The size, seating capacity, and driving experience are all very similar. The yearly savings if you choose the Prius will be $735, or $61 per month. This is not as exciting as saving an extra $3000 per year, but it’s better than a poke in the eye.


However, saving money is not the only benefit of buying a more fuel efficient car! The yearly difference in CO2 emissions is substantial. If you choose the Prius you’ll emit 1.3 million grams less CO2. That’s a 38% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the Corolla.

If you’d like to compare fuel economy and CO2 emission between the cars you are considering, check out this site. The link leads to  where you’ll be able to find reliable information to make an informed decision when choosing your next car. Your tax dollars at work!

The objective of this article is not to provide a definitive conclusion on the true value of a hybrid, so we will wrap it up by pointing out the other factors that should be considered:


  1. Initial cost of vehicle purchase
  2. Preventative maintenance costs
  3. High mileage wear and tear repair costs
  4. The reduction in other emissions like HC, CO2, and NOx that hybrid vehicles offer
  5. How much car you need. Most people are attracted to hybrids because they don’t have to compromise size and power for fuel economy.


The final point to make is that there is a basic assumption that the choice of a car purchase may have a significant impact on the environment. Yet, the inherent problem is that in our society we expect to have individual, personal transportation, and our infrastructure is laid out such that the average person is lucky to work NEXT to the city in which they live, let alone within 20 miles of it, not to mention all of the extra-curricular driving we do. So, at the root, hybrid cars are actually just a technological fix for a social problem. For the environment to survive, we need to think about working closer to home, controlling sprawl, and, simply put, making urban planning and infrastructure a priority for ourselves and our politicians.