Make Your Next Vehicle an Efficient Car

Imagine saving 50% on your annual gasoline costs. And imagine getting a check in the mail for doing it.

There’s no need to imagine, because thanks to efficient new cars and the Government of Canada, you can get both.

There’s never been a better time to choose a fuel efficient car. Sure, there are the proverbial ‘sticks’: rising gas prices are putting a pinch on every driver’s wallet, and our planet is sending us signals that we need to burn less oil. But there are two great ‘carrots’ out there too.

The first is this: there many excellent cars available that combine key features like roominess, comfort and safety with great fuel economy. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. Consider, for example, the Toyota Prius. Of over 1000 vehicle models available in Canada today, the Prius is tops: it gets an amazing 24 km/litre or 69 miles/gallon. That’s like driving from Saint John to Miramichi and back for $24 at today’s fuel prices. (Compare that to about $70 consumed by a Jeep Liberty for the same trip.) More amazing is the fact that the Prius isn’t shoebox sized – it actually seats 4 or 5 people comfortably.

What’s the secret? The Prius is a “hybrid”, powered by a gas engine and a battery. It’s an incredibly efficient combination. The battery is charged by the engine and by the motion of the car when the brakes are applied. The car runs on the engine, the battery or both, depending on the driving situation. My sister has owned a Prius for 3 years, and she loves it.

Other great hybrid choices include the Honda Civic hybrid, the Toyota Camry hybrid and the Nissan Altima hybrid – the second, third and fourth most efficient vehicles you can buy in Canada. Hybrids are pretty high-tech, so they do cost more. But there are some excellent non-hybrids available too: the Toyota Yaris and the Toyota Corolla are among the best.

It’s easy to check out the mileage of any make or model of car. Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca, provides reliable gas mileage ratings for every model sold in Canada since 1995. Some 2008 models are already listed. So you can identify a short list of efficient vehicles that meet your needs before you ever set foot in a dealer’s showroom.

Then there’s that second carrot, a cash rebate from the federal government. Under the new ecoAUTO Rebate Program, you can get a check for up to $2000 when you buy or lease any qualified efficient vehicle. Every car mentioned above is eligible for a rebate. You can see the full list and the rebate amount for each model at Transport Canada’s website, www.tc.gc.ca/programs/environment/ecotransport.

And if you need one more reason to choose an efficient vehicle, here it is: the federal budget that brought us the ecoAUTO rebates a few months ago also slapped a “green levy” onto the least efficient vehicles. Buyers of gas guzzlers – and that includes most SUVs – can now expect to pay an extra $1000-4000 for the privilege of driving a leader-of-the-pack polluter.

One last thought: it seems that we Canadians have slipped into the habit of buying vehicles that meet our greatest need rather than our typical need. It’s hard not to notice all those cargoless pickup trucks, all those polished SUVs and all those empty minivans on our roads. Maybe it would make more sense to buy to our typical need, and then rent for those occasional times when we really need that kind of capacity.

Thinking of a new vehicle? Think efficient – for a check in the mail and more money in your pocket.

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Carl Duivenvoorden is one of two Atlantic Canadians trained by Al Gore to deliver live presentations of “An Inconvenient Truth”. He lives in Upper Kingsclear, and can be reached via his website, www.changeyourcorner.com.

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Or phone Carl at 506. 363. 8117 (in Kingsclear, New Brunswick).