Since the Honda Insight debuted in 1999 as the first hybrid vehicle sold in America, cars have zoomed forward in terms of eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency. Today, drivers have an entire fleet of green car choices ranging from biofuels and EVs to hybrids and gas-sipping vehicles.

Though hybrids and EVs offer superb gas mileage and little-to-no emissions, they tend to cost more to buy and insure. For instance, the Chevrolet Volt costs a cool $40,280 while the Hyundai Sonata hybrid costs $25,795 (its non-hybrid counterpart costs $19,395).

For those of us who are budget- and eco-conscious, conventional cars may provide the most attractive options. But where to begin?

To help you figure it all out, here are 3 tips on how to choose the greenest gas-powered cars.

Check the stats

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Vehicle Guide makes it easy to measure the eco factor of the model you have in mind. Using their online guide, you can check out its emissions (air pollution and greenhouse gases) and fuel-efficiencies of most vehicles from the last 11 years. And you can compare up to 3 vehicles side by side.

Considering a car that’s more than a decade old? You can check out the emissions data through the EPA’s Certified Test Result Report and find its fuel economy on

Look for green car manufacturing practices

While fuel-economy and emissions are 2 key factors in determining greenness, how a car is made influences its eco-friendliness as well. No one expects you to trace the origin of the car you have in mind back to its manufacturing plant (honest), but if you’re buying a brand new car, it never hurts to ask. In case you’re curious, GM, Subaru, and Ford have all implemented green manufacturing measures.

Once you’re ready to close the deal, check to see if the car you want uses any eco-friendly materials like soy-foam seats, hemp-based products, or parts made from recycled goods.

Think safety

Of course, no matter how green a vehicle might be, if it isn’t crashworthy, it probably isn’t your best bet. So check out the car’s crash test rating and its safety features before you buy. Check back next week for our post on the safest electric cars.

Related resources

Learn why hybrids cost more to insure
Check out Kelley Blue Book’s greenest cars of 2011
See the first-ever Green Car Olympics
Our list of Top 10 Green Cars

Getting there


about Anne

If variety is the spice of a copywriter’s life, then Anne’s career at Esurance was akin to sassafras. From 2010 to 2014, she added a touch of zest to topics ranging from cleaning with baking soda to becoming a first-time homeowner.