Buying a Green Car

The age-old adage to ‘Know Thyself’ holds true in the quest for fuel-efficient cars. Here are some tips for buying a green car that’s right for you.


| GUIDE TO GREEN CARS, Summer 2012



Honda CR Z Hybrid

2011 Honda CR-Z EX in Silver


PHOTO: TRANSTOCK

Before you start the process of shopping for a green car — and enter the Byzantine world of car dealerships, option packages and price haggling — it’s a good idea to know what sort of buyer you are. This awareness can focus your research, narrow your options and help you choose the best green car for your needs.

What’s Your Green Profile?

Are you a deep greenie? In this camp are those who point to petroleum’s vicious environmental impacts — pollution and climate change — as well as the massive economic and military expense of oil dependency and say, “That’s enough.” For deep-green buyers, the only choice is a green vehicle that, to the greatest degree possible, removes petroleum from the transportation picture. Any sacrifices regarding consumer choice in brand, size or fueling options are considered, if at all, as minor inconveniences. The cutting edge green vehicles in this category — such as pure electric cars — don’t provide much leverage when it comes to deal-making or leapfrogging waiting lists, but for these buyers, the excitement of helping pave the way to a greener future is worth the price.

But maybe you’re a light-green buyer. Light greenies share many of the environmental and social concerns of their counterparts on the deep-green end, but they apply somewhat more flexible standards. They usually opt for the most fuel efficient vehicle — but one that conforms to an existing set of preferences regarding vehicle size, brand, technology or level of performance. The light-green camp starts the purchase process like any other consumer: Which automaker am I comfortable with? Which model has the most attractive styling? How many horsepower, seats or cup holders do I need? Where can I get a good deal? Folks in this category — whether buying a hybrid, clean diesel or high-mpg internal combustion gas car — go through the same process as any car buyer.

Tips for Buying a Car

Common-sense approaches apply for all shoppers: The chief strategy is to right-size your vehicle and its powertrain. While most of the headlines about green cars focus on exotic technology — such as lithium-ion batteries, biofuel-producing algae or hydrogen fuel cells — simply choosing a green car that meets, but does not exceed, your routine needs for space and power is vital. It’s much easier to find a fuel-efficient sedan or compact than a full-size SUV or pickup truck. Definitely buy what you need for transporting your family or performing the regular duties of a truck, but if you choose more passenger space, power or functionality than you really need, you’re already a big step behind on your journey to the most cost-effective ride.

Today’s small cars are no longer econo-boxes. Many are loaded with creature comforts, high-tech entertainment systems and desirable driving features. Even the smallest sedans are anything but Spartan. The small SUV, commonly called a “crossover,” is the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. car market. An easy green step is to swap out a boat-sized SUV for a crossover. Besides being lighter on the environment, the trade will help you avoid sky-high spending at the gas pump.

Once you’ve chosen the type of car you want — such as compact, hatchback, sedan, crossover, SUV or truck — then you can turn your attention to which technology or fuel gives you the best environmental bang for the buck.





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