10 Tips on Buying Fuel Efficient Car for Women

I am back in NY but my mind is still in Detroit. “Huh, in Detroit?”, you might say? I know. It’s been so long since my last post that you forgot why I was going, right? I was in Detroit at a North American International Auto Show (#NAIAS) last week. And no, I didn’t go to the auto show to shop for a car. I’m a smart shopper but not that smart. Or rich. And yes, I learned why I should care more about how to get from “point A to point B”, which is basically what my feelings were towards cars, up until this trip. Just get me there and don’t ask me how. Yup. That was me. Not a big frill kinda gal.

ecokaren's #FordNAIAS creds

So before I tell you how to buy your next fuel efficient car, as this post’s title suggests,  I’ll share what I learned about cars and American history first.

Ford Motor Co. and American History

I was invited by Ford Motor Co. to attend #FordNAIAS digital summit as one of 150 online influencers. Ford flew me along with six other Green Sisterhood Network bloggers (more on what that is later. I promise), to teach us what makes Ford, well, Ford.

And they did a fantastic job in educating me, not just about cars, but about American history. I learned more American history at the Henry Ford Museum than in high school (or was it because I was sleeping in class half the time?) Frankly, I don’t know if  Ford Motor Co. wanted us to learn what they did in the past or where they are going in the future. But while meandering this crazy large cavernous building filled with over one million pieces of our history, this A.D.D. mind was awestruck at how our country was, and still is, No. 1 in the world in so many ways. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Co., played a vital role in getting us there by being the one who revolutionized and reshaped the manufacturing industry. Henry Ford had a vision of making affordable cars while paying decent wages to auto workers. And in order to reach his goal, he had to make more cars and faster. So he invented a manufacturing process, an assembly line method for mass production of cars, a technology which helped reshaped other manufacturing sectors. This invention literally cut down automobile production from 700 minutes to a mere 93 minutes in 1903. That’s a lot of cars!

at Ford Museum

His dream of making affordable cars so everyone can own cars became a reality due to this manufacturing advancement and innovation. If you go to Henry Ford Museum, you’ll see inventions and artifacts that depict the American history including trains, plains, cars, every day items such as appliances and even furniture. These artifacts tell the story of how America grew up, using Ford’s ingenuity.

Now, having learned the rich history of American auto industry, I couldn’t help but to feel proud of American cars. Call me sappy, call me weepy but how can you NOT feel proud of the technology behind the automobile industry? And we invented it! I only wished I had learned about Ford before we purchased our Diesel vehicle. I could be driving the cool blue Hybrid Fusion above right now had I know about it when we were shopping for our fuel efficient car last year. Which leads me to my ‘real’ topic on how to buy a  car.

Ok, I’m not an expert on this topic, as a car aficionado might be, but these are lessons I learned when we purchased our car so take it with a grain so salt if you want. But I think you’d agree that these key factors are important to  consider, for a woman or a man, before handing over the check to a dealer.

How to buy your next fuel efficient car

As you might have experienced, buying a car can be stressful, especially for women. We have different needs than men and most often times, finding that ‘perfect’ car for us can be as elusive as finding that perfect purse. Ok, that’s dumbing it down quite a bit but the analogy is not too far from the truth as my car shopping experience last year was just as hard as finding the perfect purse. Kudos do you if you have your perfect purse. I’ll call you later to find out what  your secret is.

But seriously, I find cars are essentially made with men’s body type in mind and not ours. I find most seats uncomfortable and ends of the hood or the trunk not too obvious, making me ‘guess’ when I back up or park. And most hybrids with a battery in the trunk has a hatchback so the rear window is smaller for me to see through. Additionally, I had to evaluate what type of a driver I am before determining what type of fuel efficient car was best for me. Man, did I find myself under the microscope for that one. My hubby will tell you I have a lead foot (Yes, I’d like to take E. to school on time and I know every speed trap on the way to school so what’s the problem?) and I follow cars too closely (So what if I just ‘tapped’ the girl in front who had no balls to just ‘go’  instead of slamming on the breaks after she started to scoot into the intersection? In my defense, she profusely apologized for stopping suddenly after she made the decision to move.) But in all honesty, I am an excellent driver and have no problem competing with NYC cabbies in the streets of Manhattan. Ask my pal Anna Hackman.

So if you are a woman how do you decipher what to look for in a car, fuel efficient or not?

By the way, if I learned one thing from my trip to Detroit, – ok, one more thing – is that all car makers have at least one type of fuel efficient car in their fleet. So I’m happy to report that fuel efficiency is where the auto industry is headed.

Ford Focus

Image by Nature Mom

Here are  ten tips women (or men) should consider when buying a car, fuel efficient or not.

  1. Do your research. Think about what car model and options you want and how much you’re willing to spend. Most of the time, it’s the “man of the house” who does the research and then, asks the woman for her opinion on “fluffy” stuff, like the color or the interior finish. Don’t lie. Yours does it too. But you know there are issues like mileage, performance, gas vs. hybrid vs. electric, and yes – men perceive things differently than women  so do the research along with your husband so you can compare notes when making your final decision.
  2. Check the internet for forums and reviews on car prices and features. While you should take these discussions with a grain of salt, it can be informative. One thing you can take advantage of is finding information on what the driver’s experiences were like for certain models. I’m not sure if men are willing to read through pages of people chatting about their experiences in forums. Men might just peruse dealer’s sites and auto magazines for specifications and prices.
  3. Get your haggling hat on and plan on negotiating on price. Depending on the season and time of the month (just like females, ahem), dealers may be willing to bargain on their profit margin. That means, they might go lower from their manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) or even invoice price. The good news is, prices for electric vehicles (EV’s) are coming down. You’ll find EV’s as cheap as under $20,000. Of course, there are Teslas of the world but that’s not my world. But if you are, you should still be able to negotiate the bottom line, depending on the time of the month or season. And I truly believe, “we” are good at it.
  4. Have your financing ready. Just like buying a house, your ability to pay may be a factor in the dealer’s calculations regardless of whether you pay cash or finance your car. This is true for men too, of course, but insist on getting the financing ready, even if your hubby thinks it won’t be a problem to get financing. Guys can be macho like that. We, on the other hand, may have to dot the ‘i’ and cross the ‘t’.
  5. Compromise on features. I know there are certain features that you can’t live without in a car. But if you can forego a feature that you think you can’t live without, you might be able to drive a car out of the dealer’s lot much cheaper than if you order it. Is heated seat really important? Is GPS really important? If you are the sole driver, is programmable seat position that important? If you buy an available car from the dealer’s stock, they will be a lot more negotiable than if they have to order it. When we bought our car, we made the mistake of wanting a black color and had to wait for a month. Fortunately, we didn’t have to pay extra but we had to rent a car while we waited.
  6. Your driving style matters. What is your driving style? Are you a fast driver with a lead foot? Do you use your car for mostly “drop off’s” and “pick up’s” locally? Do you drive in traffic most of the time or do you drive mostly on highways. Your choice of car model will depend on what you will be using your car for. Electric cars are best for in town driving and not for long distance or highway driving. Hybrids are great if you do some highway driving since when you are low on charge, gasoline kicks in and you are still able to go for miles.
  7. What region do you live in? Are there charging stations along the highways and roads that you travel on? Are there special rebate programs from your company for driving a fuel efficient car? Are there special parking spaces for electric cars to charge? There are apps for finding nearest charging stations at rest stops in some regions. Also, depending on the state, you can receive up to $2,500 from your state in tax rebate for driving an EV, in addition to up to $7,500 from the federal government.
  8. What’s the battery life? Find out what the battery life is and how much does it cost to replace it. What’s the battery made of? I had questions about EMF on these car batteries and Ford assured me that they are safe. If not, the electrical control system for the car would be in jeopardy. I guess that makes sense, for now.
  9. Miles Per Gallon. Fuel efficiency should be on the top of the list but most car makers advancing towards the new 2025 mandate for 54.5 mpg so you’ll find even the gasoline cars are getting more fuel efficient, like Ford trucks that use eco-boost engines. And as I stated above, most car makers are making some types of fuel efficient cars.  You just have to decide if you are going to be able to use a full electric plug in or need a hybrid or a diesel.
  10. TEST DRIVE the car. Many times, if you have to. I can’t stress this enough. And even if one car’s engine is another car’s body, test drive both. Grab your purse that you usually use. Find out where you are going to put it when you are driving. Find out if it has bluetooth – by far, one of the most important feature in a car these days. Find out where the sunglasses compartment is. Find out if it has a garage door opener. Find out if the backseat folds down for you to be able to access the trunk. Is there a AC adapter? DC plug in the back? AC and heating vents in the back? Are there voice activated commands available? Make a list of things that  bugs you about your current car and see if how the new car compares.

There are more factors to consider than this list, like what your cargo needs are (will your baby’s car seat AND a toddler’s seat fit in the back? Will they obscure your view when driving?) and how many passengers do you usually haul in your car. And there are others. But when you are buying a car, the first and foremost, in my opinion, is its safety features, emission and gas mileage.  And there are many MANY types fuel efficiency models to consider, depending on these factors.

Ford Model T

What car did I buy?

My husband always drove a company car so he didn’t have a ‘saying’ in what he drove.  Coincidentally, his company-issued-car-of-choice was Ford’s Explorer in the 80’s and his latest car was Ford’s Taurus. Maybe Ford psychically knew that we were, at one point or another, a Ford family when it invited me? I dunno. But when he left that company last year, we had to buy a new car for the first time in years. So off we went car shopping. We assumed Ford’s cars didn’t have great gas mileage (the three cars he drove didn’t.) so we didn’t even look at Fusion. Duh.

We would both be driving the new car so I had a lot of input in decision making process. After weeks of analysis and numerous spreadsheets later, we ended up buying a VW Passat TDI (clean diesel) for it’s price (under $30,000), fuel efficiency (living in my area with very HIGH utility bills and no charging stations nearby, EV’s were out. VW gets mid 40’s to high 40’s when he drives to work, 40 miles each way on the highway so we’ve been happy with its fuel efficiency aspect) and its interior size (it seats 5 adults comfortably with a huge trunk space.)

But had I known about Ford’s Fusion Hybrid, I might be driving a totally different car right now and hubby would drive our old car. :) I’m waiting for Ford rep to contact me so I can test drive one. I’ll let  you know if we sell our old car to upgrade to a better car this year.

Meanwhile, for the next post, I will review some of the coolest cars I saw in Detroit, Ford and others. Will have lots of pictures – one of them with Ford CEO Allan Mulally! YES, I sure did ask him to pose with me! – and a video of him answering my question. Until then, check here for The Most Fuel Efficient Cars 2013 by Consumer Reports  to give you a preview on how all the fuel efficient cars were rated this year.

Oh, by the way, hubby was totally J.E.A.L.O.U.S. <- understatement of the century – that *I* got invited to go to Detroit. He was grumbling something like, ‘What do you know about cars?’ Regardless to say, I didn’t call him the whole time I was there (I was having too  much fun) except to tell him my arrival time when returning home. And then I sent him to a wrong terminal for pick up but that’s another story.

What types of things did you consider when buying your car?

Disclaimer:  Ford paid for my air travel and accommodations to attend the NAIAS show and their factory.  All opinions are my own.