Fill 'er up

Consumer Reports isn't wearing quite as rosy a pair of sunglass as the federal government is about the savings prospects for US drivers once stricter fuel economy standards take effect in model year 2017. Still, the publication says drivers will save a few thousand dollars worth of gas during the lifetime of their vehicles.

CR, in a 27-page report that can be viewed here (PDF), estimates that drivers will save about $4,600 with the recently adopted Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in place. CR basically figured that the average cost of a new car would rise about $2,000 but fuel use would drop enough to save $7,300 during the car's lifetime (higher taxes and maintenance will eat up the $700 difference between the gross savings of $5,300 and the stated figure of $4,600). The publication also took note of additional benefits like a lower dependence on foreign oil and the multiplier effect of needing less money for fuel and having more to spend on other goods and services.

So, how do the feds see the situation? Last year, when the new CAFE standards were made official, the federal government estimated that new standards – which have to ramp up starting with model year 2017 and get to a 54.5 miles per gallon average in 2025 (with a real-world average that will be closer to 40 mpg) – would save the typical new car owner $8,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicle. Trouble is, that number didn't factor in the higher costs of producing (and buying) the more fuel-efficient vehicles.