Gas gaugeEnlarge Photo
And it's working, too: The average gas mileage of new cars sold has never been higher.
Take the mid-size Chevrolet Malibu sedan, for instance.
In 2004, the best combined gas-mileage rating for any model of Malibu was 25 mpg. Now, the highest-rated 2014 Chevrolet Malibu gets 29 mpg--with or without the Eco mild-hybrid option.
And gas-mileage ratings for pretty much all new vehicles will continue to go slightly higher every year for the next decade.
That means that every new car you buy in the future will be more fuel-efficient than a similar car today (not to mention safer and most likely with more standard features).
'Hybrids Can Save You Money' screenshot from FuelEconomy.gov websiteEnlarge Photo
(4) EPA ratings and real-world results are two different things.
Your mileage may vary, and it usually does. But the differences between EPA-rated gas mileage and real-world results varies a lot across manufacturers.
Comparing real-world mileage for Ford, Honda, and Toyota cars, we found Honda to do better than its EPA combined ratings, Toyota to be slightly lower--and Ford to be significantly worse in its latest 2013 hybrids and EcoBoost models.
To save yourself money, compare the real-world results for cars you're considering to their EPA ratings on both Fuelly and the "Our Users' Average MPG" link for each model on the EPA's FuelEconomy.gov site.
If a car you're thinking of buying is delivering real-world mileage that's 20 percent lower than its EPA combined rating, that's another 25 percent added to your fuel costs each year.
At 15,000 miles a year, if a car is rated at 30 mpg combined but only gets 24 mpg (using $4-per-gallon gasoline), that's an extra $1,000 you'll pay every two years.
Polar Charging Post and Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
(5) Plug-in electric cars are much, much cheaper to run per mile.
Do you know what you pay per kilowatt-hour? Most people don't, but the U.S. average is around 12 cents.
Most plug-in electric cars get 3 to 4 miles per kWh, depending on speed and driving style, when they're running all-electric.
So driving 100 miles on grid electricity might cost you around $4--whereas in a 25-mpg car using $4-per-gallon gasoline, that would cost you $16.
See the advantage?
Sure, plug-in cars are pricier today--but they're way cheaper to run. Do the math for yourself, and see if you could save enough gasoline to offset the higher price.
It doesn't work for many people today, but it does for some--especially if they have workplace charging as well as overnight charging at home.
Electric cars are also nicer to drive, most owners say.
The costs of electric cars will fall over the next decade and beyond, meaning that you should at least consider an electric alternative each time you buy a new car.