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Posted: 1:23 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, 2012

Fuel-efficient cars becoming more of a no-brainer



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Ford C-Max hybrid minivan photo
Ford
Ford C-Max hybrid minivan

By Clark Howard


High gas prices got you down? Buying a very fuel-efficient vehicle is getting easier and easier.

The Mazda CX5 has technology called SkyActiv that uses a regular gas engine and improvements in how it fires and how the transmission works. They've created a small SUV that averages in the low 30s for miles per gallon with an automatic transmission. The street price is about $22,000.

Toyota, meanwhile, has announced they're bringing 21 new hybrids in to their lineup. The spread between hybrids and their gas engine equivalents is narrowing and the payback is becoming close to a no-brainer.

One thing that's not a no-brainer is something like I have, the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Electric vehicles have been ignored by the majority of American people, except for a very small segment of the population. As a result, Chevy has discounted the Volt by $10,000, according to TrueCar. That makes the price $30,000 instead of $40,000. Most people who have Volts buy gas about once every six weeks.

For the most part, the price of gas is out of our control. What you can do, when it's time, is replace your current vehicle with the most fuel-efficient choice you can afford. But don't dump your old gas guzzler before its day has come. Wait until it reaches the natural end of its life. Because the cost of depreciation is larger than the cost of fuel, particularly in a car's early days.