Car shoppers, already reeling from high gas prices, are finding little solace in the market for both new and used hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and full electric vehicles these days. Shortages, due to the ongoing microchip shortage, supply chain and transportation issues, and a series of unfortunate global events have both delayed some new-product introductions and caused dealers’ inventories to run razor-thin, prompting buyers to order new models from the factory for delivery at a some future date.
Worse, the ongoing supply and demand issues mean the chances of getting any kind of discount are slim at best, with many models now commanding in excess of their MSRPs.
And as it is, electrified and full-battery-powered rides are already priced higher than their conventionally powered counterparts to cover the added engineering and manufacturing cost. At that, many of today’s full-electric “Tesla fighters” come from luxury brands and carry super-premium prices that are beyond the reach of most consumers. Exceptions in this regard include more-affordable models like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV, the Nissan Leaf, and a few other models that are not as yet sold in all 50 states.
Fortunately, one-time federal tax incentives of around $4,500 to $7,500 on plug-in hybrids, based on battery size, and the full $7,500 on electric vehicles (with the exception of General Motors and Tesla models) can help soften the financial blow, provided one is able to claim the credit. State and local incentives may apply as well. Still, with inherently higher costs exacerbated by the demand-fueled runaway transaction prices, it can take an accountant’s eye to determine if a buyer is able to come out ahead solely on saving money at the pump.
What’s more, shoppers will find little solace shopping for used hybrids and EV, both in terms of their prices and availability. According to market monitoring performed by the car-search website iSeeCars.com, nine out of the 10-fastest-selling used cars in March—including every Tesla model—were electrified. The top model in this regard is the Tesla Model X, which took an average 28 days to turn over. Otherwise, 52 days to sell is the average among all pre-owned vehicles, and that’s higher than it was pre-pandemic. Here’s iSeeCars’ list of the used cars that are flying off dealers’ lots with abandon:
- Tesla Model X (28.0 days)
- Honda Insight (28.9 days)
- Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (29.4 days)
- Tesla Model Y (29.5 days)
- Toyota Prius Prime (32.8 days)
- Mazda3 Sedan (34.3 days)
- Tesla Model S (34.7 days)
- Tesla Model 3 (34.7 days)
- Chevrolet Volt (35.0 days)
- Ford Mustang Mach-E (35.1 days)
Note that coming in at number 10 on iSeeCars’ list of the vehicles flying off of used-car lots is already the new-for-2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Ford has already stopped taking orders on new 2022 versions due to production constraints undermining demand, but we found a few lightly used models already showing up for sale, with some obviously being offered by profiteers asking stratospheric prices. For example, among the few Mach-Es listed on Carfax for the Chicago area is a top GT trim with 30 miles on the odometer that’s priced at $83,000, which is roughly $14,000 higher than a similarly equipped new model’s MSRP.
But shelling out extravagant prices for a new hybrid or EV-powered vehicle is not the only way to save money at the pump, nor is it a particularly good one right now, as buyers already paying inflated prices could face a steep crash in resale values once the market stabilizes. Those concerned about beating today’s high gas prices can keep more cash in their pockets by correcting their wasteful driving habits. Here’s how:
Take it easy. The simplest way to squeeze more miles out of every gallon is to accelerate and decelerate smoothly. Avoid jackrabbit starts and sudden stops whenever possible, and stay within posted speed limits. Every five fewer mph cruising at highway speed reduces fuel consumption by seven percent. Use cruise control on the highway when conditions warrant it to stay at a constant speed and, thus, save fuel.
Keep to a schedule. Maintain a vehicle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to save gas and honor its warranty provisions. Modern cars don’t require major tune-ups, but simply changing a clogged air filter or worn spark plugs can help maintain maximum mileage. And be sure to bring the car in for service if the “check engine” light stays on, which indicates there’s a problem with the emissions system that’s likely affecting its fuel economy.
Avoid idling. One of the easiest ways to save gas is to simply turn off a car’s engine while waiting at a curb or sitting at an extended stoplight for more than 30 seconds. That’s because a vehicle gets the equivalent of zero mpg when at idle. Avoid running the engine to warm up the car before driving off, even in the winter; it’s unnecessary and it wastes fuel.
Manage inflation, the good kind. Having improperly inflated tires can adversely affect a car’s mileage and lead to uneven and/or premature wear. Air pressure varies by an average of one PSI (pounds per square inch) with every 10-degree (Fahrenheit) change in air temperature, so check the tires frequently using a good quality tire gauge. If your vehicle has a detailed tire-pressure monitor, so much the better. Keep the tires inflated to the recommended PSI level as indicated by a label inside the driver’s-side door.
Get an alignment. If you notice your car pulling to one side or the steering wheel is off-center, take the car in for a wheel alignment. Improper alignment not only causes excess wear on the tires, but it also forces the engine to work harder, which, in turn, reduces gas mileage.
Dump the junk in the trunk. Reducing a vehicle’s curb weight is the easiest way to improve its fuel economy. To that end, don’t treat a car as a rolling storage locker – carrying an additional 100 pounds of stowage can increase a vehicle’s energy consumption by one to two percent.
Stay sleek. Ensure your ride is as aerodynamic as it’s been engineered to maximize mileage. Keep the vehicle’s windows closed while driving at highway speeds to avoid added wind resistance that will cause a loss in fuel economy; open the vents to bring in outside air, but use the air conditioning sparingly as it causes to the engine to consume more gas. Also, remove a car or truck’s roof rack or other air-blocking accessories when not in use.
Consolidate. Bundle multiple errands into a single trip to both save time and gasoline. Several short trips taken on different days, each from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
Use navigation. Whether built into your vehicle’s dashboard or enabled via a smartphone, be sure to use GPS navigation when taking a road trip or venturing into territory that’s new to you to avoid getting lost and wasting fuel trying to get back on track.
And here’s one more way to save money at the gas station: Keep the cash you might otherwise spend on drinks, snacks and lottery tickets at the mini-mart in your wallet.