Factory fuel economy packages, the special trims or option groups bundled with efficiency improving items such as low-rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic tweaks and electric power steering, cost the consumer a few hundred dollars (or more) at the time of purchase but don't seem to add any resale value down the road, says a recent report from Cars.com.
Consumers are lured to the packages by the promise of an extra mile or two per gallon. While that does deliver minor savings on the monthly fuel bill (about five bucks, for the typical 12,000-mile annual driver), it is often nearly a decade before the initial investment pays for itself. Plus, experts say owners shouldn't expect to benefit from any price premium on their eco-equipped models when it comes time to sell.
As it turns out, calculating precise resale values on these special models is complicated. Not only are they low volume, but few are sold as separate trims (exceptions include models such as Honda's Civic HF and the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, pictured above). This means they aren't always differentiated on resale projections. Even when they are, the news isn't always good. In one resale study, the 2010 Kia Forte with the fuel-economy package was listing for $238 less than its standard sibling.
Further reducing the appeal of the high-efficiency trims is advancing technology. In most cases, redesigned vehicles deliver better fuel economy than their predecessors. Experts suggest that consumers consider fuel economy packages like upgraded audio components and navigation systems – expensive in the showroom, but obsolete and of little additional value down the road.