The Most Fuel-Efficient Cars

Fuel-efficient cars are becoming exceedingly popular. Not just cars, but SUVs, trucks, and vans as well. There are even some diesel vehicles that are considered fuel-efficient too.

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UPDATED: Mar 14, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Mar 14, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • Fuel-efficient cars are increasing in popularity among American drivers today
  • There are many different options for the most fuel-efficient cars in every vehicle category
  • Our comprehensive list can help you decide which economical car is best for you

Interest in fuel efficiency has jumped in recent years, according to recent surveys, which estimate 40 percent of Americans are now considering buying an electric vehicle or a hybrid car. Technology is changing, which means the model of car you have can definitely impact how much you spend on gas. With the electric versions of favored cars more in style, it’s easy to avoid having to pay for premium fuel when you simply don’t need it anymore.

If you’re picking up on fuel efficiency trend for the first time, don’t buy a car without checking our list below.

What type of hybrid should you consider?

Hybrid cars are becoming the automobile of choice for many consumers when faced with rising fuel costs.

2012 Toyota Prius — Fuel Efficiency: 50 mpg combined

Although performance is slightly lacking, the 2012 Toyota Prius conserves fuel by only using the battery for initial acceleration and then adding the gas engine.

The base models come well equipped with Bluetooth and USB ports.

For a small car, the Toyota Prius is roomy and has a large storage area. It comes loaded with safety features, including seven airbags and a system that automatically applies the brakes and tightens the seatbelts in front-impact collisions.

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Are there fuel-efficient non-hybrids?

Hybrids can be expensive and difficult to maintain, leaving many consumers searching for an affordable and traditional option instead.

Smart Fortwo — Fuel Efficiency: 38 mpg combined

The Smart Fortwo is a stylish little vehicle designed to navigate dense urban streets. The Fortwo is the smallest car sold in the U.S.

Although it can be a somewhat slow ride down the highway, the Smart Fortwo is a perfect city commuter, getting 33 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway.

With a combined rating of 38 miles per gallon, the Fortwo is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle on the market.

Automatic Transmission

Nissan Leaf — Fuel Efficiency: 99 mpg combined

As the only all-electric vehicle choice on this list, the Nissan Leaf provides the ultimate eco-friendliness and the best mile-per-gallon equivalent rating.

Unfortunately, the Leaf’s 80-kilowatt electric motor and 24-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack provides a maximum range of just 73 miles.

Therefore, this otherwise versatile, comfortable, and well-equipped vehicle is only reliable for short commutes. The 220-volt home charger is a must-have accessory, even if it comes with a steep $2,200 price tag. Before deciding to purchase this vehicle, be sure to check all there is to know about the car insurance cost for Nissan Leaf and other car insurance for hybrid cars.

Manual Transmission

For drivers who only trust themselves to ensure their fuel economy, vehicles with manual transmissions may be the way to go.

2012 Honda CR-Z — Fuel Efficiency: 34 mpg combined

The Honda CR-Z comes standard with:

  • Cruise control
  • 122 horse-power
  • 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • 100.8-volt battery pack

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the CR-Z 4 out of 5 for safety, performing well in rollover situations but less well in side crashes.

The CR-Z accelerates from 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds and comes with a variety of options, including several colors and XM Radio package.

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Consider An SUV

Stringent government standards have forced SUV manufacturers to drastically increase the fuel economy of the vehicles they produce.

Ford Escape Hybrid — Fuel Efficiency: 32 mpg combined

The 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid holds the title as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class.

The Ford Escape Hybrid is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and can comfortably seat up to five passengers as well as 66.4 cubic feet of cargo.

The Ford Escape Hybrid has received very good customer and safety reviews.

The customer reviews mention this vehicle has a strong engine, a comfortable interior, handles well, and is pleasant to drive.

Are you after a used car?

Used vehicles are an excellent option to obtain a vehicle with the best gas mileage without having to combat the sticker shock associated with many economical vehicle choices.

Toyota Prius (2004-2007) — Fuel Efficiency: 44 mpg combined

The Toyota Prius created during 2004 – 2007 boasts supreme fuel efficiency. This particular vehicle has an electric-dominant hybrid power train and features the ability to run via gas or electric.

This Prius demonstrates supreme performance, especially considering the car’s frugality on fuel consumption.

The car has a stylish interior and an excessive amount of cargo space. This car has a hatchback body style and enhanced regenerative braking.

Some consumers have stated that the cons of this particular vehicle include lack of headroom in the rear of the vehicle, the car controls, and the lack of rear visibility.

Can you have a diesel that is affordable?

Some of the most well-respected car manufacturers in the world have released diesel versions of their best-selling models.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI — Fuel Efficiency: 36 mpg combined

Beauty and power are the signature attributes of the diesel-powered Jetta.

This fuel-efficient vehicle’s 2.0-liter engine has eight valves and four cylinders. All of the conveniences afforded in the gasoline version of this popular car have been built into the diesel models.

With 115 horsepower and 125 pounds/foot of torque, the diesel Jetta provides consistent power that drivers rely on in traffic.

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What type of truck makes the list?

With rising gas prices and concerns about the environment, this truck will provide you with a great way to use less fuel which can help you save money and be more eco-friendly.

Ford Ranger 2WD — Fuel Efficiency: 24 mpg combined

The new Ford Ranger 2WD offers a fantastic 24 mpg combined with a 2.3L 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.

The Ford Ranger has been recognized as one of the most fuel-efficient small trucks in the United States and has a suggested 2012 MSRP of $18,160.

The truck includes a 20-gallon fuel tank which gives you the ability to go up to 430 miles on a single tank of gas.

Should you consider a minivan?

Fuel-efficient minivans are in particularly high demand.

Ford Transit Connect — Fuel Efficiency: 23 mpg combined

The Ford Transit Connect has comfortable space for parties up to six or seven, and possible seating for as many as a dozen passengers if bulk travel is in mind.

The vehicle’s maximum payload tops out at about 1600 pounds.

A 4-Speed automatic transmission assists in comfortable cruising. The entire vehicle is about 83 inches wide, 79 inches tall, and 180 inches deep.

Do any vans make the list?

Cargo vans are essential work machines either for those who carry small groups of passengers or for those who need versatile hauling capacity.

Ford Econoline Cargo Van — Fuel Efficiency: 13 mpg combined

The Ford Econoline Cargo Van hasn’t updated its interior much since 1997, but its engine is modern.

Ford updated the brake, suspension, and steering in 2008. The heavy-duty E250 and E350 offer either 236 or 275 cubic feet versus the standard length of the base E-150.

The standard passenger doors are the old barn-style swinging doors. Engine options include a standard 4.6 L V8 on the E-150 and E-250 or a 5.4L V8 on the E-350 Super Duty.

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What type of luxury car should you consider?

Automakers responsible for these sleek and stylish automobiles know how important fuel efficiency is to consumers.

Lexus CT 200h — Fuel Efficiency: 41 mpg combined

The 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium 4-door hatchback is available in eight exterior and five interior colors.

Enjoy the 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder (hybrid) engine that produces 95g of CO2 emissions and its variable transmission for a smooth highway driving experience.

This Lexus also comes with an eight-way power driver’s seat, and both front bucket seats include Lexus’ multi-level heating system. Features like the stylish rear spoiler, alloy wheels, and front-wheel drive only enhance this luxury car.

Are there old cars on the market that make the list?

There are many older cars that rival comparable new cars for fuel efficiency.

2000 Honda Insight

Market Value in Fair Condition: $4,700
Fuel Efficiency: 55 mpg combined

The Insight was the first-ever gas-electric hybrid vehicle available to American drivers.

It is the oldest and the most fuel-efficient vehicle on our list.

The Insight can, under the right conditions, drive up to 70 miles on a single gallon of gas.

The heart of the Insight’s hybrid drive train is a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor, which assists the gas engine when the driver accelerates.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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