Report Finds Huge Differences In Fuel Efficiency Within Vehicle Class

According to a Consumer Federation of America (CFA) analysis of EPA mileage ratings for 2006 vehicles, huge differences were found in fuel efficiency within vehicle classes.

"Fuel efficiency varies by at least 100 percent in most car classes," said Jack Gillis, CFA's director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book. "These differences mean that a car buyer's best defense against rising gas prices is to shop carefully within the class of car they are considering. Consumers can save hundreds of dollars a year by simply buying a higher rated subcompact, SUV or minivan. And our nation can dramatically reduce our dependency on foreign oil at the same time," he added.

Among the findings released on Feb. 27:

  • There is a huge range in fuel economy performance within vehicle size classes.
  • Among the relatively few hybrid vehicles, fuel efficiency varies widely: the Chevy Silverado (pickup) gets only 18 mpg (Poor) while the Honda Insight (two seater) gets 56 mpg (Excellent).
  • Consumers can save nearly $2,000 in fuel costs by choosing the most fuel efficient vehicle in their preferred size class.

"Personal fuel efficiency increases of 5 to 10 miles per gallon are possible with off-the-shelf technology and without changing classes of cars. If consumers bought the most efficient auto within the class, as opposed to the least efficient, they would consume much less gasoline," said Dr. Mark Cooper, CFA's director of research.

In order to heighten consumer awareness of vehicle fuel efficiency and to motivate changes in both purchase behavior and manufacturer production, CFA has developed a Mileage Rating Scale (MRS).

"By helping consumers to quickly identify which new or used vehicles are Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor, in terms of gas mileage, the Mileage Rating Scale enables them to make more informed vehicle purchases," said Gillis. "Just as we saw with safety ratings, when consumers are able to easily compare performance, they quickly vote with their dollars. And smart manufacturers respond by providing the choices consumers want. They have the technology to make even their largest cars get 30 miles per gallon at a minimum," said Gillis.

In comparing new vehicles, CFA analysis used EPA's combined fuel economy average of both city (55 percent) and highway (45 percent) driving of the more popular cars and trucks on the market, including the most often purchased vehicles and excluding the rarely purchased high priced luxury vehicles. Of the vehicles with more than 150,000 sales per year the range between the best and worst is dramatic. The most fuel efficient includes the Honda Insight 56 miles per gallon (mpg) (Excellent), Toyota Prius, 55 mpg (Excellent), and VW Golf and Beetle, 40 mpg (Excellent). The least fuel efficient include versions of the Dodge Ram 1500 10 mpg (Poor), Jeep Grand Cherokee 13 mpg (Poor), and Mercedes Benz G Class 13 mpg (Poor).

For additional information on the analysis, contact CFA at http://www.consumerfed.org.

CFA's recommended 12 simple fuel savings tips can be accessed at http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/Gas_Saving_Tips_Release_122705.pdf.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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