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Tips for buying a fuel-efficient vehicle

If you shop smart, you can save fuel – and money – for years to come. These tips will help you sort through the hundreds of vehicle models on the market so you can find the most fuel-efficient vehicle to meet your needs.

Buy the smallest vehicle

Generally, the smaller the vehicle, the less fuel it consumes and carbon dioxide it produces. Narrow your options to the smallest type of vehicle that meets your everyday needs and you’ll save money not only in the showroom, but also on the road.

Choose a vehicle with extra gears

Extra gears can do a better job of keeping the engine running at its most efficient level. To get the most gear ratios possible, consider a continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVTs use belts and pulleys to allow for an infinite number of gears.

Simplify your drivetrain

Front-wheel drive is the most efficient. All-wheel and four-wheel drive are the least fuel-efficient. But if you need it, choose a drivetrain that engages all four wheels only when required.

Buy less horsepower

Generally, the bigger the engine (that is, the greater the horsepower) the more fuel it consumes. Many vehicles come with various sizes of engine and you can save money by buying smaller.

Avoid unnecessary extras

Many extra features increase the amount of fuel a vehicle consumes by adding weight, increasing aerodynamic drag, or drawing extra power from the engine. Ask yourself whether the comfort or convenience these features provide is worth an ongoing increase in fuel costs.

Power windows, seats, mirrors and doors

The electricity drawn by power seats, windows, mirrors and door locks is not significant. Their added weight, however, is. Power seats can add between 40 and 60 kilograms to a 1,200-kilogram vehicle, resulting in a 2 to 3% increase in fuel consumption.

Remote car starter

Remote car starters encourage people to start their cars before they are ready to drive them. This wastes fuel.

Air conditioning

Air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by more than 20% under city-driving conditions. Look for a system with an “economy” mode to help minimize the impact of air conditioning use.

Permanent roof rack

Even empty, a permanent roof rack increases aerodynamic drag. By extension, it increases the amount of fuel a vehicle must burn to move.

Turbocharged engines

Downsizing to a smaller engine with a turbocharger can be more fuel-efficient. However, turbocharging a standard size engine to get more power may increase fuel costs rather than saving them.

Ask for fuel-efficient features

A number of inexpensive options can help you reduce fuel consumption:

Aluminum wheels

Aluminum wheels are lighter than regular wheels. As a result, a vehicle doesn’t need to use as much energy to move them.

Block heater

A block heater heats a vehicle’s engine block. This means you start a semi-warm engine and improve your vehicle’s overall winter fuel efficiency.

Cruise control

Cruise control helps keep a vehicle’s speed constant on the highway. This avoids unintended slowdowns and accelerations that increase the amount of fuel a vehicle uses.

Navigation system

Navigation systems show you the most direct route to your destination. That saves you from wasting fuel on detours.

Removable roof rack

Removable roof racks are more fuel-efficient than permanent ones, because you can remove them, and eliminate drag, when you’re not using them.


Open windows or sunroofs are more fuel-efficient than air conditioning at city speeds. But on highways, they increase drag and fuel consumption. Look for a sunroof that has a tilt function, which boosts ventilation without increasing drag.


Tachometers show engine speed. They let you know when to shift a manual transmission for the best fuel efficiency.

Tinted windows

Tinted glass blocks some of the sun's heat from getting into your vehicle. This keeps you cooler without airconditioning. You can install tinted glass on any vehicle, new or used.

Trip computer

Trip computers show the amount of fuel you use and challenge you to consume less.

Buying your first car – Video

Learn more about how to make one of the most important decisions of your life: choosing your first car.



Here it is. The big moment. One of the top three decisions you’ll make in your life. The “first car moment”.

Ahhh, the excitement! Ahhh, the temptation! Ehhh, the confusion!

Okay. Take a deeeeep breath. Let’s analyze this situation.

Buying your first car should be an interesting and rewarding experience, well, as rewarding as spending a bunch of money can be. And because it is such an important decision, it should be something you only do when you’ve really really done your homework.

So here are three things to consider.

First: analyze your driving lifestyle.

Who are you? Where do you live? What do you do?

How do you spend your time?

How many people and things will you carry along with you?

How much traveling will you do?

Answering these questions will give you a realistic idea of the size of vehicle you’re looking for. If you are all about the outdoors and sports and winter adventures with a pile of friends, then you might need a larger vehicle.

That’s a very different requirement from someone who takes public transit to work or school and does a minimal amount of driving and the odd trip out of town. Someone who’d be perfect candidate for a smaller vehicle that could handle you, your groceries and a pet.

Second: Analyze your choices

There’s more than one way to get from A to B, so choose the one that’s right for you. Today’s motive power choices include:

  • Hybrids that combine electric power with a gasoline or diesel engine, have low fuel consumption; these vehicles automatically shut off when you are idling and restart when you are ready to go, which adds to their efficiency. These vehicles are so smart that you never have to worry about the battery running out!
  • Diesel-powered vehicles typically get 30% more distance out of a tank of fuel compared to the same size gasoline vehicle.
  • Smaller conventional gasoline powered vehicles can be very fuel efficient; depending on your choice of engine and transmission. They’re capable of delivering amazing fuel economy.
  • 100% electric vehicles that need to be plugged in and recharged; these vehicles are suitable if you travel short distances and produce no exhaust emissions while on the road.

Whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle, look for choices that meet your everyday needs and use the least amount of fuel.

Avoid temptation. There are some thirsty, fuel-guzzling vehicles out there, and you’d be surprised to know that they’re not just large pickup trucks and large SUVs. Some high-performance cars use way more fuel than cars that give satisfying, if more moderate thrills.

Think light. Think small. Think efficient. And choose the vehicle that meets your everyday needs as opposed to buying something that you may need only once in a while.

Third: Finally, do a little math. Come on, don’t be afraid.

We want you to keep your money in your pocket, not in your fuel tank AND we want you to be very stingy when it comes to contributing CO2 emissions to our environment.

On every new vehicle you’ll find an EnerGuide label. Understand what those numbers mean, but most especially what they mean to you. If the highway consumption looks good and the city fuel consumption is not as spectacular, think about where you drive. Are you on the highway or in town? Where are you are more most likely to do your most driving?

For example, a vehicle which consumes 7 litres per 100 km uses half the fuel than a vehicle that consumes 14 litres per 100 km.

If your vehicle isn’t going to be new, you can still get estimated numbers on older vehicles from websites like , which will also give you annual fuel costs, which helps you when you’re budgeting.

So there it is. Buying a car made just a bit easier. Analyze your driving lifestyle, choose the vehicle and power that’s right for you, and do your math to figure out which choice uses the least fuel.

Environmental responsibility, and money in the bank. What a great combination.

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