U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

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Saving Money and Fuel with a Click of a Mouse

January 18, 2012

By Patrick B. Davis, Vehicle Technologies program manager

On January 9, as I walked along the floor of the North American International Auto Show, I found myself continually taken with the variety of vehicles and technologies on display. It seems like there's a vehicle configuration for every segment of consumer these days. That level of choice can also be daunting. With so many options, it can be hard to decipher what car is right for you, or if there's a clear economic benefit in trading up to a new vehicle. Fortunately, DOE offers a number of tools that can help consumers save money and fuel, whether you're in the market for a new vehicle or trying to make the most of your current one.

FuelEconomy.gov, a partnership between the DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a great place to start. The site's recently updated Find-a-Car tool helps consumers find a fuel-efficient vehicle that meets their specific set of needs. Buyers can browse by model, class, price, or miles per gallon. The entry on each car shows the vehicle's annual fuel cost, fuel economy, amount of petroleum used, smog score, and safety ratings. Drivers can also compare up to four different cars side-by-side. There's even a mobile version so that car shoppers compare models as they browse the lot.

Once a driver has chosen a vehicle, he or she can find out its full lifetime cost on the Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicles Data Center's (AFDC) Vehicle Cost Calculator. After averaging in the driver's local gas prices, daily driving distance, and annual mileage, the calculator gives a cumulative cost of ownership that includes fuel, tires, maintenance, and loan payments. The Vehicle Cost Calculator also provides information on a vehicle's lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This calculation includes not only the tailpipe emissions but also emissions created in fuel production, whether the fuel is gasoline, electricity, or biofuels. Bar and line graphs for each result make it simple to compare different vehicles to one another. Read the full story on DOE's Energy Blog, and visit the FuelEconomy.gov website and Vehicle Cost Calculator Web page.

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Content Last Updated: 01/25/2010