For all the talk of gasoline-electric hybrid cars and electric vehicles, the cheapest, easiest and most efficient way to cut your fuel bill is simply to downsize your ride.
That does not necessarily mean trading in your GMC Yukon Denali XL for a Toyota Yaris. Odds are, the person who's been driving the big, ritzy Yukon either needs something fairly large and fairly functional or craves the tall seating position and safety-in-size benefits of a larger vehicle. That means the logical downsize here is not to a Yaris or some other pint-sized runabout, but, say, a Toyota Venza car-based crossover.
Obviously, the Denali is bigger and more powerful, and its tow rating is twice that of the Venza. But the Venza is still a good-sized wagon with a 268-horsepower V-6 and all-wheel-drive. Consider the Venza an interim ride, the sort of vehicle that weans the owner off a gas-guzzler.
And if you move from the Denali to the Venza, and if you typically drive 20,000 km a year (split 55 per cent city driving/45 per cent highway), the annual fuel cost savings are huge: $1,188. If you hold on to a new vehicle for eight years, it all adds up to fuel savings worth $9,504 - until trade-in time arrives.
Oh, and did we mention that a loaded Venza ($32,250) costs $43,910 less than the Denali at $76,160? We tracked down fuel-savings figures using fuel consumption ratings and the online cost calculator provided by Natural Resources Canada at oee.nrcan.gc.ca; look under Transportation and the Tools section. According to the numbers there, the Venza is rated at 11.5 L/100 km city and 7.9 highway. That translates to 1,980 litres of fuel used per year.
The Denali? It is projected to slurp down 2,880 litres of premium fuel for an annual cost of $3,168. Yes, size matters, alright.
The massive Denali weighs in at 2,648 kg, while the Venza tips the scales at 1,835 kg. Oh, and under the Denali's hood is a 6.2-litre V-8 rated at 17.5 city/10.6 highway. That powerplant uses pricier premium fuel.
The downsizing strategy seems obvious. But tactically, how does an owner go about implementing this approach. Here's our Top Six Best Downsizing Moves.
Oh, and to give credit where it's due: We were inspired here by the work of David Kiley, a Bloomberg auto writer who's covered the auto industry for decades. Kiley knows his stuff. He's written several books about the car business, focusing on car companies such as Germany's Volkswagen AG and Japan's Nissan.
We think our suggestions here make sense overall. And they certainly make dollars and cents.
1. DOWNSIZE FROM A BIG MINIVAN TO A SMALL ONE - OR TO SOMETHING VERY CLOSE
The something-close would be a wagon like the Kia Rondo. This Kia does not have the sliding side doors, but the tall roof and big cargo area are very minivan-like. Also, the Rondo can be had with third-row seating, just like a minivan.
But among small minivans, we think the Mazda5 is the best alternative to the larger minivans out there, such as the Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna. The Mazda has three rows of seats, sliding doors on either side and, because an updated version is due by the end of the year - or early next - look for deals out there in the marketplace.
- Your old minivan: 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan
- Price range: $27,445-$32,695
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 12.6 city/8.4 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,140
- Your new downsized minivan: 2010 Mazda5
- Price range: $20,495-$25,495
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 9.6 city/7.0 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $1,680
- Annual fuel savings: $469
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $3,752
2. DOWNSIZE FROM A HEAVY, TRUCK-BASED SUV TO A LIGHTER, CAR-BASED CROSSOVER WAGON
The new era of SUVs is here and it's not dominated by passenger vehicles riding on pickup trucks mechanicals. It's all about cutting weight, without losing (most) functionality.
Buyers have all sorts of options here. One of Kiley's suggestions is a move from the Chevrolet Tahoe to a GMC Acadia. Kiley is correct to suggest that GM's full-size crossovers drive wonderfully and more smoothly than truck-based SUVs like the Tahoe. The Acadia is also quite capable of towing some fairly large rigs. Best of all, gassing up the Acadia is much less painful than a fill-up for the Tahoe.
- Your old truck-based SUV: 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe
- Price range: $49,290-$71,610
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 14.4 city/9.5 highway (AWD, 5.3-litre V-8)
- Annual fuel cost: $2,440
- Your new downsized crossover wagon: 2010 GMC Acadia AWD
- Price range: $37,930-$49,185
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 13.1 city/8.8 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,220
- Annual fuel savings: $220
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $1,760
3. DOWNSIZE FROM A BIG, V-8-POWERED SEDAN TO A MID-SIZE HYBRID SEDAN
In fairness, there are not a lot of new, medium-priced, V-8 sedans out there. You might have something quite aged, however, such as a retired Ford Crown Victoria. Or you might be driving a Chrysler 300 or a Dodge Charger.
The move to a hybrid sedan with almost much room and vastly better fuel economy is easy. For instance, Nissan makes the Altima hybrid and Toyota makes the Camry hybrid. We'll vote for the Camry hybrid.
- Your old big, V-8-powered sedan: 2010 Chrysler 300C
- Price: $46,745
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 13.5 city/8.0 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,220
- Your new mid-size hybrid sedan: 2010 Toyota Camry hybrid
- Price: $31,310
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 5.7 city/5.7 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $1,140
- Annual fuel savings: $1,080
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $8,640
4. DOWNSIZE FROM A BIGGER PREMIUM SEDAN TO MODEST PREMIUM HATCHBACK
Big, beautiful luxury sedans are wonderful to drive, but with their V-8 engines (or bigger) they do swallow fuel at an alarming rate. If it's true that the new luxury standard is "green" luxury, then it might make sense to make the move to something smaller from a premium auto maker.
The 7-Series BMW is a wonderful machine, but costs about three times as much as a very safe and perfectly functional Mercedes-Benz B200 Turbo. In a crowded city, this downsizing move makes sense for loads of buyers - in European cities, of course. On a long drive, almost nothing beats the Bimmer. But that little Benz will fit into the smallest parking stall downtown.
- Your big, old premium sedan: 2010 BMW 750i
- Price: $105,200
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 14.4 city/9.1 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,640
- Your new, premium hatchback: 2010 Mercedes-Benz B200 Turbo
- Price: $32,400
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 10.2 city/6.9 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $1,940
- Annual fuel savings: $748
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $5,984
5. DOWNSIZE FROM A FANCY CONVERTIBLE TO A REAL ROADSTER THAT WON'T LEAVE OIL IN YOUR DRIVEWAY
Oh, the Jag is a sexy ride. You pay for it, though - including at the pump. If you want the open-air feeling of freedom that comes with a sharp convertible, why not go the full roadster route. The Mazda MX-5 (Miata) is as close to riding a motorcycle that you'll find a passenger car. And not only is it affordable, it's easy on the gas.
- Your old fancy convertible: 2010 Jaguar XKR convertible
- Price: $114,000
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 14.1 city/9.1 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,300
- Your new roadster with a cloth top: 2010 Mazda MX-5 GS
- Price: $33,495
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 9.7 city/7.1 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $1,870
- Annual fuel savings: $430
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $3,440
6. DOWNSIZE FROM A BIG PICKUP TO A SMALL ONE
There are serious pickup owners who need their trucks for hauling and towing. They work the job site, roll around with hay bales on the ranch and they are very serious users. This is the pickup owner who can't compromise with a smaller truck.
Then we have the suburban pickup owner who brings home plants from the garden centre and trips off to the dump once or twice a month. This owner can quite happily get along with a compact or mid-size pickup. There is money to be saved by going this route.
- Your old big pickup: 2010 Ford F-150 SuperCab
- Price: $31,299
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 14.4 city/9.8 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $2,440
- Your new small pickup: 2010 Chevrolet Colorado
- Z85 LT extended cab
- Price: $25,930
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 11. 4 city/7.8 highway
- Annual fuel cost: $1,960
- Annual fuel savings: $480
- Total fuel savings over eight years: $3,840