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Drive Greener: Tips for Buying Your First Eco-Friendly Car

Are you ready to make the switch from gas guzzler to something a little more efficient, such as a hybrid or electric vehicle? The U.S. Department of Energy reports that vehicles that rely on alternative fuels produce lower emissions than traditional models that rely on fossil fuels. Data also shows that these types of cars are more affordable. Saving money and helping the environment, why wouldn’t you opt to drive a more efficient vehicle?

eco-friendly car
Photo by shutterstock.

Turn over a new, greener leaf by trading in your conventional car and purchasing a model that benefits the environment. Here are a few tips on how to make the best choices when it comes to finding the perfect eco-friendly car.

Does It Qualify for a Tax Credit?

Driving an efficient vehicle can earn you a pretty hefty tax credit. Before you buy, do some research to make sure your model qualifies. In some cases, electric vehicles are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit is based on the capacity of the car’s battery, which is used to fuel the vehicle. Additionally, plug-in hybrid vehicles purchased during the year 2010 or later also qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. Drivers can claim the credit by filling out tax form 8936. The U.S. Department of Energy website has all the information you need to find out if the car you're interested in is eligible for the tax credit.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Conventional cars comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do hybrid and electric vehicles. However, the most popular styles of energy-efficient vehicles are often much smaller than fossil-fueled models. For example, hybrid sedans lose between three and five feet of cubic trunk space to accommodate the battery.

Although many of the eco-conscious vehicles on the market may be downsized, you don’t have to sacrifice space. Shop around and look for models, such as the 2015 Lexus RX Hybrid or the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, that offer the benefits of an energy-efficient vehicle and the space of a traditional SUV. Keep in mind a hybrid SUV may lose some storage space to fit the battery, but you'll have more room overall.

Make a Smart Choice

Dubbed the Energy Star of vehicles by DriveTime, SmartWay is an EPA certification that is awarded to cars and trucks that emit less tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gasses than other conventional vehicles. Since its development in 2004, the SmartWay program has eliminated 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

And the certification isn't just limited to consumer vehicles—the SmartWay program extends to freightliners, as well. Dealerships like DriveTime have an ongoing partnership with SmartWay. In fact, 20 percent of the DriveTime inventory is made up of SmartWay certified vehicles. Additionally, DriveTime was the first national dealership to brand eco-friendly cars with the SmartWay logo, which makes it easier for consumers to make a green choice. For more information, visit the DriveTime blog and check out their selection of eco-friendly cars.