This story is part of, CNET’s coverage of the impact of climate change on a range of financial issues.
Besides being one of the most expensive purchases you can make, a car is the one that will affect a household’s carbon footprint the most. It’s not just the cost of the car itself. The cost of fuel and greenhouse gases emitted over the life of the vehicle must also be taken into account.
We have compiled this list of the most efficient cars, with input from our colleagues on. We looked at the energy efficiency ratings released by the Environmental Protection Agency and used its efficiency conversion formula to see how electric vehicles stack up against their gasoline alternatives.
It should be noted up front that smaller cars are generally more efficient than larger ones, but we have included the trucks and SUVs that are the most fuel efficient in their class. And while hybrids and EVs tend to have higher sticker prices,available at the federal and state level can make them considerably more affordable. And that’s before the fuel costs drop.
The cars listed here are arranged in descending order of overall efficiency, with the top tier populated by electric vehicles. After that, we have plug-in hybrids, which can run on fuel or electricity. And then pure hybrids, which require both fuel and electricity.
All electric vehicles
2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus Range
Fuel economy: 150 mpg city, 133 mpg highway, 142 mpg combined
Vary: 263 mile battery only
The most efficient EV currently on sale by the biggest name in the game. But the Tesla is more than just a sleek, trendy design. It also has one of the longest ranges in its category.
Read more: Tesla Model 3 review
2021 Mini Cooper SE
Craig Cole / Roadshow
Fuel economy: 108 mpg city, 115 mpg highway, 100 mpg combined
Vary: 110 miles of battery only
The Mini Cooper SE is one of the most affordable electric vehicles on the market. It’s priced at $ 29,900 plus shipping, but if you factor in the full federal tax credit and potential state and regional incentives, you could own one for well under $ 20,000. There is a catch, of course: its scope is limited.
Read more: Mini Cooper SE review
Plug-in hybrid vehicles
Fuel economy: 92 mpg city, 79 mpg highway, 86 mpg combined
Vary: Battery only 126 miles, 200 miles total
To reassure buyers worried about its range, the 2021 BMW i3 offers an optional gasoline engine to provide additional range.
Read more: Summary of the 2021 BMW i3 with Range Extender
Toyota Prius Prime 2021
Fuel economy: 83 mpg city, 72 mpg highway, 78 mpg combined
Vary: Only 25 mile battery, 640 miles total
Among the most popular hybrids on the market, the mid-size plug-in Prius Prime is also the most efficient in its class.
Read more: Summary of the Toyota Prius Prime 2022
Fuel economy: 58 mpg city, 60 mpg highway, 59 mpg combined
Vary: 702 miles in total
The Hyundai Ioniq is available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicle versions. Each model is remarkably efficient, but the Ioniq Blue hybrid is the most affordable of the bunch.
Read more: 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Blue review
Andrew Krok / Roadshow
Fuel economy: 51 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, 52 mpg combined
Vary: 686 miles in total
The 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers impressive fuel efficiency as well as a 200 horsepower engine that gets you over 50 mpg.
Read more: 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review
Emme Hall / Roadshow
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, 27 mpg combined
Vary: 648 miles in total
Although the trucks offer much lower overall efficiency, the Silverado is one of the most fuel efficient pickups on the market.
Read more: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Review
2021 Tesla Model X Long Range Plus
Fuel economy: 109 mpg city, 101 mpg highway, 105 mpg combined
Vary: 371 miles battery only
Tesla’s expensive electric SUV is designed to impress, with a battery that accommodates a longer range than the competition.
Read more: Tesla Model X 2021 review
Emme Hall / Roadshow
Fuel economy: 35 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, 35 mpg combined
Vary: 598 miles in total
Even with all-wheel drive, this three-row family hauler is extremely economical, delivering fuel economy scores that surpassed those of compact cars just a few years ago.
Read more: 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective and independent reviews of our editors and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It was not supplied or ordered by a third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.