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While hybrids have gotten most of the attention from American drivers looking for better fuel economy in the last few years, they are far from the only solution and very likely not even the best solution especially if you spend any significant amount driving on the highway. Hybrids are generally not cheap and often fall outside of the budget of most lower income drivers. There are plenty of used small cars that can achieve real world mileage comparable to or better than hybrids.

A writer for the Economist found that after moving from England to Texas a few years ago, hybrids were in short supply so he checked out used cars instead. A 2001 Honda Civic turned up with 35,000 miles and a $10,800 price tag. It was immediately getting 30/34mpg city/highway and after some basic maintenance like new filters the highway mileage jumped to 40mpg even at 78mph on Texas highways. Just having a lighter, smaller engined car combined with regular maintenance can give you pretty much the same real world mileage as a hybrid.

[Source: The Economist via Autoblog]


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      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a 95 Honda Civic VX, with 280,000 miles and still get 45 to 54 miles to the gallon. When we bought it we got on the average 62mpg, and on some trips over 70. As the guy with the 92 VX, what has been going on for the last 12 to 15 years. You all want to call these new cars progress, I'm not that sure about that.
      • 7 Years Ago
      all of you are comparing hybrids of today that have atleast 110 hp to gasoline cars that usually have less than 100hp. Also, the gas cars (Honda Civic VX) you are comparing are much smaller than today's hybrids: Prius, Civic ect. are much larger.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hi. i have a 92 civic vx hatch. mixed unconservative driving gets me in the 45mpg range, with generally 49-57 highway, depending on conditions. if i drive 55 on the highway i still get around 60mpg, and this is a car that has 175K miles on it. i am firmly with the "what have we really done in the last fifteen years" crowd. we should have reasonably priced 80-100mpg cars available by now. hybrids are way out of my price range. my girlfriend has a '99 diesel suburban (6.5 litre turbo diesel!) which we're converting to waste veggie oil. the mileage will be still around 20mpg in summer, but minimal pollution and almost free fuel. the conversion will cost around $1500.

      as far as horsepower goes, the vtec in my civic gives me plenty of juice above 3500 rpms.

      i heard that certain tires improve mpg by 5-10%. anyone know about that?
      • 7 Years Ago
      But what about emissions??
      • 6 Years Ago
      For lower-income folks, used is so much smarter. I am driving a '92 Civic VX that I bought used in 2000 for $2000.00. This car has 250,000 miles on it now, still gets 45/55 mpg and is still in excellent mechanical condition, with very little repair costs over the years. I can't imagine a better value. I just wish Honda had continued making these cars so there would still be used models on the market with around 100,000 miles on them (and plenty to go) at really reasonable prices.

      Hybrid, Volt, what have you. No one I know can afford them. What am I going to be able to buy for a few thousand in a year or two when this car is finally claimed by rust?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The reason that the VX cars and the lean burn cars Honda made went away for the 96 model year was a change in the emissions laws, first year for OBD II. Correct me if I'm wrong but that is what I have always understood. The lean burn brings the wrong mix of gasses to the cat which then cannot fully convert them. That said I have always wanted to just reburn the ECU, for lean burn, in any of my cars in order to get the MPG up to what these older cars could maintain.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wish that honda would bring back the HX models. The idea was great, lean burn engine, lightweight rims with narrower efficient tires. Plus it was one of the cheapest models to boot. But no-one ever knew about it, and that was back when I was paying 86 cents for a gallon. I think it would be a hit nowadays, but I think that it may be embarrassing to see a regular civic get the same mileage as the hybrid for $8K less. Hence, they killed the HX and hoped everyone would forget about it by the time they introduced thier higher-margin hybrid models.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is a good idea for someone who needs a cheap commuter car. Keep in mind however, that it doesn't necessarily prevent energy from being used to make a new car: the seller may be buying a new car to replace it.

      Also keep in mind, you never SAVE money by buying any kind of car (hybrid or Hummer, new or used, fuel miser or fuel glugger) since they are all money holes. However, if you were going to buy a car anyway, you can save money on fuel and/or purchase price by looking at a hybrid and/or used car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (basically the same body as the above-mentioned car) and routinely get 45 mpg in the winter and summer and 55 mpg in spring and fall. The regular Civic certainly is an efficient car, but the hybrid is markedly more efficient and I would dispute that it's not worth the extra cost.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yes the cars of today have better safety equipment and lower emmisions, but there are many dimensions to environmental impact, and on a cost basis alone, hybrids don't make a very convincing case for many people based on their travel patterns and annual mileage.

      I miss my 1983 Civic 1300FE, the mileage champ of its day. City was mid-low 40's, and Highway easily 50+. That was such a good combination of fun to drive, quality, longevity, and economy. No car I've had since it has come remotely close to being as all-around good as that car was.
      • 7 Years Ago
      See, I'm all for this. It's better for the environment overall to lessen the demand for new vehicles (their production negates their lower emissions, plus they contain so much future unrecyclable waste) and buy a good fuel efficient used car instead.

      Makes financial sense too; get a 2-3 year old car and someone else has taken the huge initial depreciation hit.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have a 95 BMW 325i Convertible with 120k miles on it and have converted it to run on E85 (considerably better than premium [105 octane] and much cheaper too) and I get 26 combined highway and city. If i go 65 on highway i get 32 mpg. Car has a bit more pep and runs smoother now too.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yeah I have a '02 Hyundai Elantra and peaked at 36mpg on a long drive @85mph. City still sucks, in the low 20s esp with the AC on, which often is a must to keep the windows from fogging.
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