Will Going Eco Really Save You Any Money?

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

The short answer:

No. No, it won’t.

The longer answer:

Unless you have up to 40 years to wait for your investment to pay off.

The full answer:

Keep reading for all the juicy details.

Eco versions of certain car models are all the rage right now.

Take, for example, the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, the Ford Focus SE with the SFE package and the Honda Civic HF. Each offers more miles per gallon than the standard models by using things like special low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic features on the body. Each costs more, too, ranging anywhere from $500 to $800 more than the base models.

That doesn’t sound like much, but according to Consumer Reports, the cars save only $20 to $145 per year on fuel costs. Do the math, and it could take up to 40 years to make up the difference on a Cruze Eco, which carries an $800 premium but saves only $20 per year.

Buyers would be better off spending 10 grand on an older Civic found in CarGurus’ used listings.

I’ve long been suspicious of special “eco-branded” vehicles. It started with hybrids, where the often-huge price premium never translated into saving money on gas. The theory behind an eco model makes a lot of sense, but they need to carry a price at or below that of a standard model. Doing that would prove to buyers that automakers care about them and their money. Putting a price premium on the models translates, in my humble opinion, to a marketing gimmick intended only to pad the bottom line of dealers and automakers. It sure doesn’t do consumers any good.

Want to save money? Search the used listings and buy a good used car with a 4-cylinder engine. Even better, pay with cash, eliminate a car payment and save money at the pump.

Would you pay the extra money to buy an “eco” version of a new car? Would you consider one if it cost less than the base model?

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Chevrolet Cruze
Used Ford Focus
Used Honda Civic

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  1. Randy
    June 5th, 2012 at 17:29 | #1

    With people spending many thousands of dollars on dubious electronics and unneeded frills like leather seating and oversized wheels, what’s wrong with spending a few bucks to reduce fuel consumption and emissions? Not everyone is a self-absorbed big spender who delights in overconsumption.
    As for hybrid models, so far our new Prius C is averating 57mpg and the fuel savings in using the car for our short trips is now paying the entire fuel bill for my larger vehicles, which don’t get anywhere near that kind of mileage. If I take the large vehicles out of the equation, the Prius fuel savings pay for half its cost, making it cheaper to drive than that used Civic. (which I wouldn’t consider buying in the first place.)

  2. Jim Redd
    June 5th, 2012 at 14:03 | #2

    At first, I thought eco models made a lot of sense. And they probably still do, because those premiums can usually be negotiated away. Not so much on hybrids, but on the cars mentioned here I think negotiation would solve the price premium problem really fast.

  1. June 6th, 2012 at 05:00 | #1