Clark Howard: Efficient cars cut price at the pump

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Three new developments in the car world promise cheap rides in the near future.

First up, the Tata Nano that sells for less than $3,000 in India will be coming to the United States with an increased price tag. For the U.S. market, it will be designed to be a cheap urban runabout that costs less than $8,000 and should be in production by 2015.

The increased cost includes the expense of making government-required safety and emissions tweaks.

At $8,000, it will be the cheapest car sold in America, competing mainly with used cars and motorcycles. Of course, nobody’s yet sure if Americans will turn their noses up at the Nano, or if it will create a new car class.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lincoln’s new MKZ comes in a hybrid version that’s priced at no mark-up from the gas engine version. Both versions cost $36,000 so that means no additional payback period buying the hybrid versus the gas engine.

Ford sure is causing heartache for Toyota. Its Lincoln gets better fuel economy than a Lexus hybrid — and it’s cheaper.

Also, Ford’s new C-Max Energi has excited a lot of people. It’s a hybrid minivan that drives the first 20 miles each day as an electric car and then becomes a gas/electric hybrid until the next charge.

The Energi comes in two flavors: hybrid for $25,000 or a plug-in hybrid for $29,000 ($33,000 minus $4,000 in federal tax credits).

The plug-in hybrid just earned an EPA rating of 100 mpg. By contrast, the typical car today gets about 22 mpg. Expressed in today’s gas prices, getting 100 miles per gallon would be like paying 70 cents a gallon at the pump.

Meanwhile, the hybrid gets 47 mpg, which is the equivalent of $1.75 at today’s gas prices.

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website. And get more savings tips from Clark’s previous blog posts.

– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

4 comments Add your comment

Nelson Martin

November 1st, 2012
5:58 am

I’ve never seen, heard what the cost of charging a hybrid’s cost difference makes. Although you save at the pump, what price will be paid for charging and the average saving for electric over gas?

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November 1st, 2012
10:08 am

Never really have understood the “I’m gonna save money by buying a new, gas sipping, car” mentality. I bought a 1995 Olds 5 years ago for 1,800. Put about 1500 in it over the years to keep it on the road. Even though it averages 22ish mpg I am still saving tons of money over any new car. Gas just doesn’t cost enough to truly save. If you are buying a new car anyway thats all fine and well. If you want to save money… bottom line, you should buy used, very, very used. Just like the thought it will save the environment, well I can tell you making a gigantic battery is not especially green. Reusing my old vehicle however is very green.

mystery poster

November 1st, 2012
10:15 am

I’m always amazed at people who buy these cars and then complain about the price of gas. A relative of mine bought a luxury sedan (Lexus) and then complains about the price of a fill up because it takes premium gas. If you knew that, why did you buy it?

One time when gas was nearing $4, I saw a woman with a huge SUV parked on the side of the road. She was holding a sign (panhandling) that said she didn’t have gas money to get home. Well DUH! I wanted to shout out the window, “Well, I guess you should have bought a more economical car, then” but I restrained myself.

Can you tell you hit a sore spot?