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eco-friendly car guide

Reducing your carbon footprint (or carbon tread mark) has never been easier. As a proud green car insurance company, we put this little guide together to break down the different families of eco-friendly rides.

Environmentally friendly cars

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Because of federal regulations, growing climate concerns, and ever-increasing fuel prices, car manufacturers are building more eco-friendly cars. While the complex battery or electric motor can make a car cost more initially, the investment can pay off through lower gas consumption. Federal tax incentives may also be available to help new buyers justify the initial expense.

As a prospective green car buyer, the question is: which type is right for you?

Hybrid vehicles: up to the equivalent of 95 mpg

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) combine traditional gasoline power with battery-and-electric motors. This combo cuts smog production and other harmful emissions while boosting fuel economy. Beneath the broad hybrid umbrella, you have a few different options.

Full hybrids

These cars can run on battery alone, on gas alone, or on both at the same time. Popular types include the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Mild hybrids

With these wheels, the electric motor can kick in when you're idle or coasting, although you'll mostly be running on gas. A mild hybrid has a smaller battery than a full hybrid, and the electric motor is unable to propel the car on its own. Some mild hybrids you might see around town include the Chevy Malibu Eco and the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist.

Plug-in hybrids

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are similar to standard hybrids, but they come with a bigger battery that is easily recharged by plugging it in. You can recharge the battery through an electrical outlet or through a dedicated charging station, which are popping up in parking garages and the occasional public parking lot. Popular models include the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

Electric vehicles: up to the equivalent of 112 mpg

Electric vehicles (EVs) don't use gasoline at all. Like plug-in vehicles, EVs can be charged at home and at public recharging stations. One popular model is the Nissan LEAF.

Diesel cars and trucks: up to 35 mpg

Another way you can help the environment is by switching to a diesel-engine car.

According to FuelEconomy.gov, diesel engines are 30-35 percent more fuel efficient and powerful than gas guzzlers of the same size. Volkswagen and Audi manufacture several diesel models that get up to 35 mpg.

Biofuel and flex-fuel vehicles

The car industry is starting to tap into the potential of biofuels, which are derived through organic or waste material instead of through fossil fuels. Biofuels are nifty because they're renewable and can reduce greenhouse gases.

The 2 major types of biofuel include:

  • Ethanol — made from corn and other materials from the plant kingdom (found in E85 and E10)
  • Biodiesel — made from soybeans, vegetable oil, animal fat, and other recycled greases

If you do opt for a biofuel vehicle, you can locate fueling stations through the U.S. Department of Energy's alternative fueling station locator.

Flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) run on a blend of up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). There were more than 200 flex-fuel vehicles on the market in 2012, including Buicks, Chevys, Fords, and even Bentleys.

Eco-friendly cars and your car insurance premiums

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Eco-friendly cars may cost a tad more to insure than standard gas-engine vehicles, particularly if you have comprehensive and collision coverages on your policy. This is because hybrids, for now, tend to cost more than their gasoline counterparts because of the complex, specialized parts and technology. And as a result, they often cost more to fix. Your insurer may take the higher cost of repair claims into account when calculating your premium.

To learn more about how eco-friendly cars might affect your car insurance rate, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262) anytime, day or night.

Or if you want to shop for a new policy to insure that shiny, green new ride, start your free quote here.

Related links

IIHS Top Safety Picks
Safe for the environment doesn't necessarily translate to safe for you, the driver. Check out how the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grades the safety of the latest models.

Compare fuel economy
The Department of Energy makes it easy to compare cars side by side.

Why hybrids sometimes cost more to insure
Find out the top 4 reasons why hybrids could cost more to insure on the Esurance blog.