Top 10 Pickup Trucks for Fuel Economy

No organization tests every vehicle's fuel economy in real-world driving. The challenge of obtaining every vehicle early in the model year, then driving them all over a specific route under identical conditions, is insurmountable. Therefore, we have to rely on Environmental Protection Agency estimates. While you can't expect your vehicle to get the exact mpg figures supplied by the EPA, mileage estimates do let you compare vehicles. Top 10: Most Fuel-Efficient Pickup Trucks for 2005
According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the following pickup trucks are likely to deliver the best gas mileage. They're listed in order of anticipated fuel economy (city), starting with the most miserly.
Vehicle NameMPG (City/Hwy)*List Price
Ford Ranger  24/29$14,425 - $26,465
Mazda B2300  24/29$15,340
Nissan Frontier  22/25$15,500 - $26,750
Subaru Baja  21/28$22,195 - $24,195
Chevrolet Colorado  21/27$15,095 - $28,550
GMC Canyon  21/27$15,425 - $28,385
Toyota Tacoma  21/26$13,415 - $25,250
Mazda B3000  18/23$18,890 - $21,280
Toyota Tundra  18/22$16,055 - $33,175
Chevrolet Silverado18/21$18,190 - $41,345

*EPA estimates represent the highest rating for each model. Fuel economy will vary according to a vehicle's engine, transmission, drivetrain and trim level.

Source: 2005 Model Year Fuel Economy Guide, published by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Estimates: A Flawed but Helpful Yardstick in Comparing Vehicles

Because the EPA's primary concern is emissions, its fuel-economy estimates are secondary. All are based on simulated driving. Professional drivers operate tested vehicles in identical patterns under controlled laboratory conditions, with the tires rolling on a dynamometer. The EPA explains that the test simulates road and aerodynamic forces, but the vehicles are never driven on an actual road.

Fuel-Efficiency Factors
The following factors determine, in part, whether your vehicle is a gas sipper or guzzler.
Vehicle weight
Vehicle aerodynamics
Driveline (2WD vs. 4WD)
Engine cylinder count and size
Manual vs. automatic transmission
Driving habits

Two tests are conducted — one for city driving and a second for highway operation. The city test simulates an 11-mile urban stop-and-go loop, with an average speed of 20 mph and a short stretch of simulated freeway driving. The trip lasts 31 minutes and has 23 stops, and 18 percent of the time is spent idling. The highway simulation is a 10-mile trip at an average speed of 48 mph, with no stops and little idling.

Fuel-economy estimates are actually calculated from the emissions generated during these tests. Adjustments are made before coming up with final figures, based on studies showing that real drivers achieve 90 percent of the EPA's city estimate and 78 percent of its highway estimate.

The added weight of a trailer in tow can reduce your pickup truck's fuel economy.

The added weight of a trailer in tow can reduce your pickup truck's fuel economy.

Critics charge that in real-world driving, vehicles get far fewer miles per gallon than the simulations suggest. That may be because the test has not changed in the past three decades. Most people use air conditioning today, but that's not accounted for in the simulation. Also, traffic congestion is much greater now than it was in the 1970s.

Owners of hybrid-powered vehicles may also observe lower real-world fuel economy than the EPA's estimates. Automotive News reports that the EPA is determining if it should modify its test conditions for hybrids in order to better align its estimates with observed fuel economy.

How You Drive Affects Fuel Usage

Some people complain that they can't obtain EPA estimates with their vehicles. However, in addition to possible test flaws, a close look at their driving habits may explain why. If you stomp on the gas pedal when starting off from a stoplight, drive at excessive speeds on the highway or run with underinflated tires, your mileage is sure to be considerably lower than the estimate suggests. Running the air conditioner also consumes quite a bit of extra fuel.

Extra weight, like a full load of passengers or cargo, makes engines guzzle more gasoline than if only one or two occupants were inside. Hilly terrain and cold-weather driving also cut into gas mileage.

Detailed information on EPA testing can be found at and The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives air pollution and greenhouse gas scores for many vehicles.

Posted on 3/9/05