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With gas prices hovering around record highs, many new-car shoppers may be thinking "green" this St. Patrick's Day by looking at hybrid or alternate-fuel vehicles. The editors at Cars.com, the premier online resource for buying and selling new and used cars, have compiled a list of 10 ways drivers can Go Green this spring, helping both the environment and their wallets.
"Not only is driving green good for the environment," said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com, "it can help you save a little green in the process. If you expand your definition of a ‘green' car beyond just hybrid and electric vehicles, you can easily recognize some of the benefits of being more ‘green' behind the wheel."
1. Labels don't guarantee results: Do you want to buy a hybrid or just burn less fuel? The hybrid badge doesn't guarantee better mileage than a similar non-hybrid car.
2. Keep your eye on the green: A hybrid may produce less pollution, but any economic benefits may not be delivered for years. Expect to pay more for an alternative-fuel vehicle, and don't assume you'll earn back the investment.
3. Consider a conventional vehicle: If you want to save fuel, and especially money, look no further than a newer gas-powered car. Mileage in new cars has increased substantially in the past few years, with no performance trade-offs and no premium pricing.
4. Now probably isn't the time: Nothing inspires motorists to buy efficient cars more than high gas prices -- and no circumstance makes it a worse time. Anyone who's in the market should consider efficiency, but it might be financially counterproductive to dump a thirstier car you've paid off just to save money with each fill-up.
5. Don't count on public infrastructure: Don't rely on public infrastructure for electric-vehicle charging. Quick chargers are practically nonexistent, and they take at least 30 minutes for a full charge. If you can't easily charge at home and/or work, these and natural-gas cars likely won't serve you well.
6. Clean diesels are truly clean: Diesels used to justify their dirtiness (sort of) with greater efficiency. Thanks to cleaner fuel and new technology in the cars, diesel-powered vehicles are now as clean as their gasoline counterparts, and they can deliver substantially better mileage.
7. There's another kind of gas: Check out natural-gas vehicles. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fuel for any car with a tailpipe, and in some regions it costs half as much as gasoline on a per-mile basis.
8. There are hybrid pickup trucks: Hybrids are supposed to be more efficient, yet hybrid pickup trucks seem incongruous to many people. If someone's going to buy a pickup, why shouldn't it be an efficient one? The Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid are rated as high as 20/23 mpg city/highway, which might seem low but is a healthy increase over their gas-only counterparts.
9. Tax credits aren't cash rebates: There's discussion in Washington, D.C., about changing federal green-car tax credits into point-of-sale rebates. Currently, the credits favor higher-income buyers. In the case of electric cars, leasing might be an attractive alternative because the $7,500 tax credit lowers the lease payments regardless of your income.
10. Buy recycled: Roughly 80 percent of junked vehicles, by weight, are recycled -- and some are designed with conservation and even compostability in mind. Ford Motor Co. is among the brands leading the charge, using soy-based foam in the seat cushions of many cars, as well as recycled-yarn fabrics and plastic reinforced with wheat straw.
"Our overall advice is to consider a ‘green' car if you're currently in the market, but recognize that ‘green' doesn't always mean hybrid or electric,' said Wiesenfelder. "If you're not currently in the market for a new car, making the switch to ‘green' probably won't help you save much green in the long run."
Cars.com was recently named the "Best Overall Customer Experience" by Keynote Systems, the leader in internet and mobile cloud marketing. Cars.com is an online destination for car shoppers that offers information from consumers and experts to help buyers formulate opinions on what to buy, where to buy and how much to pay for a car. With price listings, side-by-side comparison tools, photo galleries, videos, unbiased editorial content and a large selection of new- and used-car inventory, Cars.com puts millions of car buyers in control of their shopping process with the information they need to make confident buying decisions.
Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures LLC, which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).