TrueCar Inc., an online automotive information and communications platform, today released a study which concludes, that depending on the vehicle you purchase, the hundreds of extra dollars paid for the premium fuel-boosting option could make financial sense or could prove to be a costly investment for minimal fuel economy gains.
The worst vehicle on its list is the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze ECO. It costs $20,982 compared to a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze 4dr Sedan LT w/1LT that costs $20,129 or $853 more than the comparably equipped model. (Delivery charge would be the same for both but there would be a difference in sales tax, too, that is not factored in.)
TrueCar factored in the fuel economy of the two models: the ECO gets a combined 30.6 mpg while the standard Cruze is 30.3 mpg. Guess what? Based on that miniscule fuel savings, current fuel prices, and the $853 price difference, it is going to take a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze owner 48 years to make up the price difference in fuel savings.
Chevrolet PR did not respond to a request for comment before this post was published. When and if it does, the comments will be posted.
The second worst offender on the list is the 2012 Ford Fiesta SE with SFE package. SFE stands for Super Fuel Economy, which seems like a bit of a joke because the fuel economy difference between the Fiesta SE with SFE and the Fiesta SE is three-tenths of a mile per gallon. It's going to take you 36 years to pay off the higher price of the SFE model ($16,075 vs. $15,464). Apparently, you're paying $611 for the three extra letters and some for the PowerShift automatic transmission, a rear spoiler, side air deflectors, underbody shields, lower grille blockers, low-rolling-resistance tires and cruise control.
The vehicle that provides the best option for a consumer is the Mazda3 Touring with SkyActiv, which is cheaper than its counterpart vehicle, providing the best value for a consumer with immediate savings while the Chevrolet Sonic took nearly three years to pay off the premium for the Ecotec version. The popular Ford F-150 with EcoBoost took less than five years to break-even.
“The price of gas has consumers thinking about fuel economy but there’s a financial investment involved with most of these fuel-saving packages,” said Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Market Intelligence at TrueCar.com, said in a news release announcing the study. “It’s important to compare the improvements in fuel economy and the extra costs of the package before purchasing a new vehicle.”
What's the lesson to take away from all of this? Don't fall for marketing hype. Investigate the savings offered and see if they really pay off. The simplest way to do that is to head to FuelEconomy.gov and do a side-by-side comparison of the models. Divide the differences in annual fuel cost by the price difference and that will tell you how many years it will take to pay off the difference.