Fuel-Efficient Car

Did you know that an average driver will save more than $4,000 over five years in fuel savings by upgrading from an average car to a hybrid or electric vehicle, and reduce their carbon pollution by over three tons a year?

While hybrids and electric vehicles typically cost more than their gas counterparts, there are currently federal tax credits for up to $7,500 for those who purchase these vehicles. NYSERDA also offers a rebate of up to $2,000. These incentives combined with the fuel savings can make up for the additional cost, and end up saving you money in the long run.

So if you can’t go car-free by walking and biking, riding the bus, carpooling, or Carsharing, the best thing you can do is drive an efficient vehicle. Read on to learn how.

How to choose

Fueleconomy.gov is an excellent place to learn about high-mileage vehicles, including all-electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-ins. There you can compare models, calculate fuel savings, and learn how to drive more efficiently. NYSERDA also has a calculator to help you compare potential savings.

Click on the image for a larger version

where to buy

  • For used cars, there are many local dealers that can help you find a fuel-efficient model that works for you. There are a number of online marketplaces, including Craigslist where you can look.

  • For new cars, you can check out our one local dealer, Maguire, which carries several models of all-electric vehicles, as well as a number of plug-in hybrids and hybrids.

Learn about EV Tompkins, an initiative to double the number of electric vehicles in Tompkins County by the end of 2019.

Daria with her husband, Hector. "It feels good to go to the gas station every week and a half, instead of every three days."  (Image: Karim Beers)

Daria with her husband, Hector. "It feels good to go to the gas station every week and a half, instead of every three days." (Image: Karim Beers)

When Wilseyville resident Daria Benites needed to buy a new car she looked to her younger sister for advice. Her sister owned a Prius, and she convinced Daria to buy one. Daria enjoys the fuel savings from her daily 30 mile commute to her job at the hospital: “It feels good to go to the gas station every week and a half, instead of every three days.” Since Daria first upgraded to a fuel-efficient vehicle, she has been able to save over $1,000 a year on gas alone, and has been able to reduce her carbon emissions by about three tons. Daria also mentions feeling safer than in other cars, and drives on the snowy winter roads without a problem. She is planning on getting her son a similar car for his graduation gift from Ithaca College, a gift that will help him keep both his gas costs and emissions down. (interview by Hollis Malkowski)

Read a story about Ithaca resident Lester Sowell, a manager at a local car dealership, and his surprising choice of vehicle in this blog article.


While everyone who drives should consider upgrading their vehicle to cut down on fuel use, people who drive a lot (say, over 15,000 miles a year) and those who are in the market for a new vehicle are the best candidates for a fuel-efficient car.

  • If you mostly use your car for local trips, commutes and errands, then an electric vehicle will work for you.

  • If you regularly need your car for trips over 100 miles, then you may want to consider a plug-in hybrid.


  1. What's the difference between a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and an all electric vehicle? A hybrid contains an internal combustion motor (run on gasoline or diesel) and an electric motor powered by a battery. The battery charges automatically during normal car use and does not require being plugged in. A plug-in hybrid, however, does require plugging in the vehicle to charge the battery. An all-electric vehicle only has an electric battery and thus requires no fuel. It must be charged regularly.

  2. How long does it take to charge an EV's battery? It really depends. Between 1-20 hours, depending on the outlet and the model of the car. Read more in this article by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

  3. Where can I charge my electric vehicle? A map of charging stations can be found here and here.

  4. How much does it cost to charge an EV? On average, EV batteries can power a car for 100 miles with 30 kWh of electricity. At 11 cents a kWh, that's $3.30 for 100 miles.

  5. Since electricity is made from coal, etc, aren’t cars that run on electricity just as polluting as gas-powered ones? No. Plug-in cars reduce greenhouse gas emissions and most other pollutants compared with other vehicle types. Read a summary of studies here [pdf].

  6. Even if I don't buy a fuel-efficient vehicle, are there things I can do to improve my gas mileage? Absolutely. Regular gas or diesel models can get you mileage over 40 miles per gallon, especially if you use smart-driving techniques.

Read more FAQs here.