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How to buy an eco-friendly car

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 footprint. 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.

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.
  • Dealership financing. You can also find financing directly through the manufacturer’s dealership, often with rebates and offers like 0% financing. But you’ll have to be up for negotiating to get a good deal.
  • 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

Explore your options by minimum credit score, APR, loan term or requirements. Select the Go to site button for more information about a particular lender.

1 - 3 of 3
Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
No minimum credit score
3.9% to 27.9%
1 to 6 years
18+ years old, annual income of $4,000+, no active bankruptcies
Get pre-qualified for used car financing and receive competitive, personalized rates.
Monevo Auto Loans
3.99% to 35.99%
3 months to 12 years
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit. Car Loans
Starting at 2.15%
550+ credit score, no open bankruptcies, $24,000+ annual income, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.

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 makes a car eco-friendly?

A green car is a car that gets more miles to the gallon and emits fewer 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.

Compare hybrid vs. electric cars

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 other independent, unbiased articles about emissions and fuel economy on most new vehicles.

5 factors to consider when shopping for an eco-friendly vehicle

  1. Fuel efficiency. Ask how many miles per gallon (MPG) or equivalent (MPGe) when you buy a car. The higher the MPG, the more efficient it’ll be and the less you’ll spend on gas.
  2. Transmission. Manual transmission might be harder for Americans to drive, but it’s more eco-friendly than automatic.
  3. Suspensions. Cars with sport suspensions give you better control of the vehicle, meaning you won’t have to stop as much,
  4. Color. Lighter-colored cars keep things cool where it’s hot. Dark cars can keep in the heat in areas with a cooler climate.
  5. Reviews. Look at online forums to find out what customers’ experiences have been with the vehicle. If you spot too many red flags, consider another car.

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.

Compare 20+ electric vehicles on the market

What’s the most fuel-efficient car?

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is the most fuel-efficient car out there in 2019, According to the US Department of Energy. It earns the equivalent of 136 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), making it one of the best cars for the environment. Runners-up include the Tesla Model 3 series and the Hyundai Kona Electric.

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.

3 alternatives to buying an electric or hybrid car

  1. High MPG gas vehicles. While gas-powered vehicles won’t be as efficient as electric vehicles, finding one with a better fuel economy like the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, which gets you 40 MPG.
  2. Smaller cars. Smaller, two-door vehicles can sometimes get higher mileage than gas-guzzlers like SUVs.
  3. Biodiesel cars. Cars that run on animal fat and vegetable oil might smell like french fries, but they typically cost less than a Tesla or Prius.

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:

  1. Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Engines use the most fuel when starting up or accelerating. Try to limit rapid or erratic acceleration.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

More ways to cut back on your carbon footprint

If you can’t afford an electric car, consider these other choices for reducing how much you pollute when getting around:

  • Take public transportation. Taking the bus or train might not be the fastest way to get around, but you can spend that time catching up on reading, spacing out and otherwise not having to deal with traffic.
  • Ride a bike. If you live in a bike-friendly town, you might be able to even get around faster than you would with a car — especially during rush hour.
  • Avoid unnecessary flights. Air travel is one of the least efficient ways to get around. If you’re traveling nearby, consider taking the train, a bus or even driving.

Is an electric car truly emissions-free?

As far as actually emitting fumes, yes, an electric car is emissions-free. However, if coal-powered electricity is used to charge the car, then it is still responsible for carbon emissions. Electric cars can only be truly emissions-free if a renewable source of electricity is used to charge them.

In addition, the production of an electric car will consume more fossil fuels on average than a gas-powered vehicle. This may make some drivers wary, but this initial pollution is outweighed by the lowered lifetime emissions of an electric battery. Studies have found that electric cars produce 80% fewer emissions than equivalent gas-powered cars.

Overall, an electric car will still produce emissions. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! You’ll still be making huge strides in reducing your footprint size when you drive an electric vehicle.

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.

Frequently asked questions

What is MPGe?

MPGe stands for “miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent.” This term is used by the EPA and manufacturers to compare energy consumed by electric and hybrid vehicles with gas-powered vehicles.

Is a green car worth the investment?

It depends. If you’re able to handle the high purchase price, then you’ll likely be pleased with how far green cars have come in the past few decades. In addition, you’ll be making it easier for manufacturers to reinvest in the technology, lowering the price and making it more affordable for everyone down the road.

If you don’t think you can handle high monthly payments from a car loan, it might be best to hold off on such a large purchase and instead follow our green driving tips listed above.

Should I opt for hybrid or electric?

The choice really depends on how you plan to use your car. If you’re in an area that has plenty of charging stations and you drive short distances, an electric car is certainly a greener option than a hybrid. If you’re afraid you might run out of a charge on long drives or don’t have many charging stations in your area, a hybrid will be the better option for your needs.

What loan options do I for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV?

You could get Mitsubishi financing through its partner Ally Financial. But it might not be the cheapest option. You might want to explore getting an auto loan online or through a bank to finance a Mitsubishi.

Picture: Shutterstock

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