Fuel-efficient cars increasing in popularity as gas prices rise

David Ranucci

Tracy Wallach, Kent city councilwoman and lecturer in mathematical sciences, stands by her Smart Fortwo outside of the Main Street Continental Grill across from White Hall. “I love it,” she says, noting it is surprisingly roomy and there is a two- year wa

Credit: DKS Editors

As demand, speculation and global tensions continue to drive up the price of oil, fuel-efficient cars are becoming more and more appealing to drivers.

However, for many drivers, going out and buying that new hybrid car may not be as cost-effective as it first appears to be.

David Christopher, owner of Christopher’s Car Care in Tallmadge, said to look at how much more is spent on the hybrid and the costs associated with owning it, such as replacing the battery, versus how much could potentially be saved on gas.

If a hybrid will break the budget but gas guzzling sport utility vehicles cost too much to drive, there are many used cars out there that are more fuel-efficient.

The 1998 Toyota Tercel gets 32 miles per gallon in the city and 39 miles per gallon on the highway. It costs less than $5,000 when in excellent condition.

Christopher, who’s been a mechanic for 45 years, said the best thing to do when looking for a car, new or used, is to go out and do homework. He advised people to shop around and find the best car for the best price.

“Nobody’s car is better than anyone else’s car when it’s properly maintained,” he said. “You have go with, ‘What fits my needs?'”

Fuel-efficient driving habits

Even with gas-guzzling cars there are simple things you can do, or not do, to save on gas. Keep in mind these tips apply to all cars, regardless of how efficient or inefficient they are.


&bull Take care of your vehicle. Maintain your tire pressure and change the oil and the filters regularly.

&bull Keep your rotations per minute low. The lower your engine’s RPM, the less fuel it burns. This can be much easier to do if you drive a manual but is also possible to do with an automatic.

&bull Travel lightly. Do not carry more than you need to in your car. The more weight you carry, the less fuel-efficient your car is.

&bull Avoid stop-and-go traffic. If you can find a route that has light traffic and fewer stops, you will accelerate less often, which means less fuel will be used up.

&bull Plan ahead. If you have a list of things you need to get done, plan your route and get them all done at once. The more trips you take, the more gas you burn.

&bull Use the air conditioning wisely. When driving through the city at lower speeds, the air conditioner will decrease fuel efficiency. The hotter it is, the more power the air conditioner uses, so it is better to roll the windows down.

&bull When driving on the highway it is best to keep the windows up. Rolling the windows down at highway speeds creates enough air resistance to drop fuel efficiency more than using air conditioning would.


&bull Don’t accelerate too quickly. This burns up extra fuel and is especially wasteful when you’re likely to stop again soon.

&bull Don’t speed excessively. Most cars are most efficient when traveling under 60 mph. Driving fast may be fun and save time, but it can cause up to a 17 percent loss in fuel efficiency.

&bull Do not use high-octane gas if your car doesn’t require it. It costs more, and your car is not supposed to run on it unless specifically instructed.

&bull Don’t let your car idle for too long. If you know you won’t be moving for a while, just turn your car off. Starting your engine uses the same amount of gas as approximately 30 seconds of running while idling.

&bull Don’t put things that create drag on your car if you don’t need them. Things like bike racks and roof-mounted storage create more air resistance and make your car less fuel-efficient.

&bull Don’t drive if you don’t have to. If your destination is within walking or biking distance or is on a public transportation route, consider leaving your vehicle at home.

Sources: David Christopher, Popular Mechanics magazine, www.slate.com,


Contact transportation reporter David Ranucci at

[email protected].