Buying used cars may not be best way to combat rising cost of fuel

March 5, 2012 12:00 AM

Many drivers respond to sharp increases in gas prices by trading in their cars for more fuel-efficient options, but this may not be the best decision. The demand for used fuel-efficient cars drives up their cost, so consumers who switch could wind up spending more to replace their car than they would pay for increased fuel costs.

"The best advice for shoppers is to get ahead of the cycle by buying soon, when they will find the best deals on small, fuel-efficient used cars," said Langley Steinert, founder and CEO of CarGurus. "Alternatively, consumers should consider waiting until the fall and winter months when there is typically less price volatility in the used car marketplace."

Those who hold off on purchasing their next cars can take steps to improve the fuel efficiency of their current rides. Getting regular car maintenance, oil changes and a tire alignment can improve a vehicle's fuel economy. Altering driving behaviors may be helpful as well. Shutting off the engine instead of idling can save as much as a quarter gallon per hour. Observing the speed limit and accelerating and braking modestly may help reduce fuel consumption as well.

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