Transportation

Car Shopping Tips

Greener car, greener planet, more green in your wallet.

After a house, it’s your biggest purchase, and it keeps costing you money in gas and maintenance. Today, your choices aren’t just about horsepower and number of seats and styling — it’s also about how much gas your car drinks and how much pollution it spews out. So like Henry Ford, we recommend this choice: buy your car in whatever color you want, as long as it’s green. Lots of standard vehicles today deliver fuel economy in the mid- and high-thirties. Hybrids push it further. And your choices for plug-in electrics and alternative fuel vehicles keep growing.

It’s great fun and very exciting to shop for a new car. And it’s easier to pick out the green ones when you consult the EPA Green Vehicle Guide.

Is a hybrid really that much better?

If you think better gas mileage, lower fuel costs and lower emissions means better, yes. And most major car companies now offer hybrid models, so it’s easy to find a hybrid vehicle to suit your family’s needs.
 

But aren’t hybrids a lot more expensive? I’d have to save a lot of gas to make up the difference in purchase price!

You can get great data on FuelEconomy.gov if you want to compare specific cars. Put in the gas-only car you’re considering, along with the hybrid, and you’ll see the difference in fuel cost over time — so you’ll know when you’ll break even (when the premium cost for the hybrid is paid for with fuel savings), and then after that, it’s pure savings with the hybrid.

In general terms, though, the cost premium for a hybrid was $4,325 in 2014. The premiums ranged from as low as $90 to as high as $7000. The math looks like this: say you’re comparing a hybrid electric vehicle (like a Prius, which gets 51 city/48 highway) and a gas-only sedan (like a Camry, which gets 25 city/35 highway). Let’s assume the Prius gets 50 mpg on average and the sedan 28. At $3.00 per gallon, the HEV, or hybrid electric vehicle, costs $0.06 per mile to operate (excluding maintenance costs) and the sedan costs $0.11 per mile to operate. So at a savings of $0.05 per mile in fuel costs (assuming gas prices are constant), you’d have to drive over 86,500 miles for the additional cost of the car to pay for itself (assuming the additional cost is $4,325). Ultimately, it depends on how long you plan to have the car and whether you think gas prices will increase or remain at the current level. Also consider that tax credits may help you offset the additional cost of a hybrid vehicle.
 

What about the batteries in hybrids? Don’t they eventually need to be replaced, and isn’t that super-expensive?

Many hybrid batteries come with an 8 to 10 year (or 150,000-200,000 mile) warranty when the car is bought. Car dealers like Toyota say that the batteries in hybrids are designed to last for the lifetime of the car. They claim that some of their first generation Prius’ are still on the road with over 200,000 miles on it.

If the battery does need replacing however, the cost can range from $2500- $3500 depending on the model of the care.

In terms of reliability, cars vary depending on the brand you are buying.  To ensure you are getting a hybrid with a good battery, it is best to look into each car separately.
 

Are all green cars hybrids?

No, a hybrid is a specific kind of gasoline-electric drivetrain. When determining if a car is green, the EPA considers fuel economy, pollution controls and the car’s greenhouse gas score (fuel emissions). Many gasoline-only cars get high ratings in all of these categories.
 

There are some great new electric cars on the market. Are there any charging stations in or around Montgomery County?

Sure are! PlugShare offers a map identifying the charging stations found throughout the country – zoom in to look for the ones in Montgomery County.

You can also click here to view maps for charging stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton.
 

What about biodiesel? Can I get it anywhere in Montgomery County?

There aren’t any biodiesel vendors in Montgomery County — yet.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a biodiesel station locator.
 

What about a compressed natural gas/CNG vehicle? Is there any place to fill it up in Montgomery County?

The County has a filling station for its buses and fleet, and county residents can use these stations for CNG and E-85 fuel types. The station is located at the Gaithersburg Service Park at 16700 Crabbs Branch Way, Rockville, MD 20855 . Click here for details.

For other CNG locations in the area, try CNGprices.com.

(2) Comments

  1. Cisco ASA Oct 05, 2012

    Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article.

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