Green car buying guide 2018: Costs, models, loan options |
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How to buy an eco-friendly car

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A buying guide to purchase your first hybrid or electric car.

These green cars offer a reliable alternative to traditional gas guzzlers that rely on fossil fuels and can cut your carbon foot print. And thanks to the ever-increasing demand for green cars, you likely won’t be stuck with the first car you find. But watch out — it might get expensive. Car Loans Car Loans

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    What makes a car eco-friendly?

    A green car is a car that that gets more miles to the gallon and emits less pollutants than a conventional gas or diesel vehicle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Many states and counties in the US have minimum emissions requirements, but green cars exceed the minimum threshold or cut exhaust emissions entirely. To do this, they either use electric or hybrid systems.

    How can I finance an eco-friendly vehicle?

    If you’ve decided on going green but aren’t sure how you can finance your car purchase, you have options.

    • Car loan. Green cars are like any other car, and you’ll likely qualify for a car loan from a lender. The benefit? Some banks and credit unions offer interest rate discounts for green car purchases.
    • Home equity loan. If you’ve built up enough equity in your home, you could use that money to finance your green car.
    • Personal loan. A personal loan can be used for just about anything. So if you have good credit, you may be able to finance your car without using it as collateral.

    Browse financing options for an eco-friendly car

    Rates last updated December 15th, 2018

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    Name Product Product Description Min. Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements Car Loans
    Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
    Varies by lender
    Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
    Auto Credit Express Car Loans
    Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
    Typically 3 to 6 years
    Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
    LightStream Auto Loans
    Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
    Good to excellent credit
    Flexible terms
    Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
    RateGenius Auto Loan Refinance
    Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
    Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles and is no older than 8 years, loan balance is between $10,000 and $100,000, debt-to-income ratio is less than 50%
    LendingClub Auto Refinancing
    Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
    Fair or better credit
    Minimum of 2 years
    Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
    MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
    A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
    1–6 years
    Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
    LendingTree Auto Loans
    Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
    Good to excellent credit
    Typically 1 to 7 years
    Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    How much do green cars cost?

    Green cars are more expensive than gas vehicles. An electric hatchback may sell for $40,000, and mid-size sedan hybrids go for around $30,000. Comparable gas models for both might cost as low as $20,000. Here are a few top fully electric and hybrid models.

    ModelHybrid/ElectricStarting priceMPGe
    BMW i3Electric$44,450118 MPGe
    A3 Sportback e-tronHybrid39,50083 MPGe
    Kia Soul EVElectric$33,950111 MPGe
    Ford Focus ElectricElectric$29,120118 MPGe
    Chrysler Pacifica HybridHybrid$39,99584 MPGe
    Chevrolet VoltHybrid$34,095106 MPGe
    Ford C-MAXHybrid$24,12038 MPGe

    What are the benefits of an eco-friendly vehicle?

    Eco-friendly vehicles have a range of benefits for both the owner and the community. Here are some reasons to drive a green car:

    • Fewer emissions. Green cars have low-exhaust emissions, reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.
    • No- or low-gas costs. While hybrids require gas, they consume much less than regular cars. Electric cars don’t use any gas but do require electricity to recharge.
    • Cleaner cities. Car emissions are a major contributor to poor air quality in cities. By driving a vehicle with low emissions, you won’t contribute to the smog in your area.
    • Less noise. Electric engines are quieter than gas engines. This reduces the amount of road noise in cities.
    • Tax credit. When you buy a hybrid or electric car, you could be eligible for a tax credit through your state or the federal government .
    • Increasing consumer demand. By generating demand for electric vehicles, you’re helping improve the technology and bring down the price. Doing so makes them more attractive to others, creating a cycle of benefits for everyone.

    If you’re buying a fully electric car, then your vehicle won’t produce any emissions. The benefits with hybrids may not be as clear if the manufacturer reports fuel economy that’s unattainable in your situation.

    Research prospective cars before you commit to buying one by looking at user reviews and and other independent, unbiased articles about emissions and fuel economy on most new vehicles.

    A few hybrid and electric cars to consider

    Here are some of the most eco-friendly cars found on the road across the states:

    • Toyota Prius. An early hybrid and perhaps one of the more common green cars. They come as a medium sedan or hatchback and are similar to a Toyota Corolla.
    • Nissan Leaf. A fully electric hatchback with a small solar panel for internal accessories. It can do a partial recharge in 30 minutes from specific quick-charge points.
    • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. This one is for the whole family. A hybrid SUV which has been reported to get up to 74 MPG from its electric and gas engines.
    • Ford C-Max Energi. One of the cheaper hybrids, the rear seat battery may make it cramped for your passengers. However, its performance makes up for it if you only have occasional guests.
    • BMWi3. A fully electric hatch for city drivers who appreciate luxury German engineering.
    • Tesla Model S. Tesla only makes electric cars. They aren’t cheap, but they’re designed to perform like a sports car. If you want to drive an uncommon car, the Model S should put you in the spotlight.

    What's the most fuel-efficient car?

    According to the US Department of Energy, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is the most fuel-efficient car out there in 2018. It earns the equivalent of 136 miles to the gallon.

    The least efficient car out there? The Bugatti Citron. This car only gets you 11 miles to the gallon.

    What to watch out for

    • The cost. Green cars are much more expensive than a comparable gas vehicle. Even considering the savings on gas, oil and maintenance, it would take a few years to offset the upfront expense.
    • The limited driving range. Range refers to how far the vehicle can travel before it needs to refuel. Compared to gas vehicles, electric cars have a very restricted range.
    • Limited chances to power up. Not all gas stations have recharge stations, such as your home or a public recharge station.
    • It’s a new technology. Green car technology is still developing and still working out the kinks.

    4 tips for fuel-efficient driving

    Even if you can’t afford to buy a new car right now, you can substantially reduce your vehicle’s emissions just by changing your behavior. Here are some handy green driving tips:

    • Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Engines use the most fuel when starting up or accelerating. Try to limit rapid or erratic acceleration.
    • Anticipate traffic conditions. The most efficient way to drive is to maintain a fairly constant speed. Rapid slowing and accelerating wastes fuel. Anticipate the conditions ahead to minimize the amount you need to slow down or speed up. And of course, don’t be afraid to use cruise control on the highway.
    • Remove unnecessary equipment. Extra weight and accessories decrease the efficiency of your vehicle. Roof racks cause drag and tools add extra weight. If you don’t regularly use or need them, take them off.
    • Maintain your vehicle. Basic maintenance such as checking tire air levels and engine oil is an easy way to keep your car running efficiently. Performing routine services will also help identify problems to keep your vehicle operating optimally.

    Bottom line

    Green cars are becoming increasingly viable for those living in cities. If you’re concerned about your vehicle’s carbon emissions and its effect on the environment, then consider an eco-friendly alternative. Be aware of the additional upfront cost and limitations before you commit, and compare your financing options when you’re ready to buy.

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