How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Car

Use this guide to find the best EV or hybrid eco-friendly car. Learn which car is right for you, research, and use online tools to choose the right model.
Written by Nicholas Wilson
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Eco-friendly cars are better for the environment, but a commitment to a more earth-friendly lifestyle isn't the only reason drivers are moving to this exciting new technology.
Electric and hybrid cars
can also mean getting a
federal tax credit
that could save you a lot of money. And–depending on the model of the car you choose–you could make gas station visits a thing of the past.
You don’t have to overpay just because you are aiming for a greener lifestyle. Just use the following guide as a way to help find the best eco-friendly car for you.
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Finding an EV or hybrid car

Know what type of car is best for you

Since there are two main options for buyers looking for eco-friendly cars, you need to determine which is best for your situation.
The first option is the all-electric vehicle, also known as an EV. These sorts of cars do not use gasoline at all and are powered entirely by an electric battery. This is ideal if your main priority is a reduction in emissions.
A downside, however, is that the amount of mileage you’ll get per charge is rather low (between 60-120 miles). The Tesla, the Hyundai Kona, and the Nissan Leaf are all popular electric car models.
The second option is a
hybrid vehicle
. These cars have an electric motor along with a gas engine. The upside of both gas and electric power is that there is a higher mileage threshold for the vehicle, meaning you can travel farther without needing a charge.
However, hybrid vehicles do have emissions. As a result, they are not as eco-friendly as an all-electric car. If you're wanting a hybrid vehicle, the
Toyota Prius
is the most popular hybrid.
Some other options include biodiesel and ethanol cars using alternative fuels such as vegetable oil and corn.
In the end, you should decide how you want to balance convenience, cost, emissions, and the availability of fuel sources. If you have to travel a long way for a charging station or have a longer commute generally, then you might want to consider a higher mileage car.
Key Takeaway When weighing the cost of a vehicle and its emissions, take into account how often you will be driving and the availability of different fuels in your area.

Research online

Once you have a sense of the type of car you want, do an online search for vehicles in that category.
One useful tool is the
Fuel Economy website
, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The "Find a Car" function allows you to search for specifically eco-friendly cars.
You can even search within the various subsets of eco-friendly cars. If you want a plug-in hybrid, for example, you can filter your results accordingly.

Narrow your search to a few models

The number of eco-friendly vehicles on the market has grown, so you should narrow down your options.
If you see a car that is particularly unattractive or you’ve heard bad things about it, then you can set that one aside. Settle on a few cars that you really like.
As you search for the type of car you want, save options that interest you. Even if you're not entirely sure, you'll want to come back to them.
You're then going to want to do more extensive research on the cars you selected.
This should involve looking into safety ratings, annual fuel costs, specifications, and customer reviews. For electron and hybrid cars specifically, you'll also want to look at the "range" of different car models (in other words, how far the car can travel on a single charge).
There are any number of online resources to help you with your search, such as
. You can use these to get a full picture of each car, both objectively in terms of its specs and subjectively in terms of how the owners like the car.

Decide on the car

By this point, you are probably equal parts excited and exhausted, so you should go ahead and make a decision on which car you want.
When you have taken all the relevant factors into account, including your wants and needs as well as your finances, you are in a place to decide on the best car for you.
If you are in the market for an eco-friendly car, then you should take the opportunity to determine if you are overpaying on
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