Navigating Sustainable Driving: Buy Green, Save Green


Can buying green vehicles save you money on car insurance?

scenic drive

Sure, we’ve all heard that sustainable driving has its perks—and maybe it’s even a little trendy. But did you know that sales in electric cars have climbed 35 percent in the last year—and 40 percent for hybrids? Let’s take a closer look at the fuel-efficient playing field, the arguments for buying green, and how it can help you save on car insurance.

Advances in technology have made fuel-efficient driving a tangible and relatively wallet-friendly way to reduce your carbon footprint. But, is it really worth it to trade in your gas-guzzler? Flex-fuel, hybrid, electric—how do you navigate all of the options offered today?

The Sustainable Fuels

A recent survey found that 69 percent of Americans purchase green products, so car companies have responded with a vast array of eco-friendly ways to get around town. But what’s the difference? What’s the best choice for you? Turns out, there are a mind-boggling number of options. To name a few: battery electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen internal combustion engine, compressed natural gas, ethanol (flex-fuel), and biodiesel. Phew! That’s a lot to digest. To break down the list, we investigated the top three selling types of cars that are not only better on the environment, but also easy on your wallet—and your car insurance bill.

  • Battery Electric | These guys are equipped with an electric motor instead of a gasoline engine. They run entirely on electricity stored in batteries that you can charge-up at a local station. Does range anxiety have you concerned with scarce changing opportunities? According to Gizmodo, the US was reported to have 20,138 public charging stations last year, with California taking the lead.
  • Hybrid Electric | Also known as an “HEV,” this duo-fuel vehicle runs on an internal combustion engine with a battery and electric motor. If you’re looking for the power of a conventional vehicle while still staying friendly to Mother Earth, look no further than an HEV. The hybrid electric comes with a variety of options including the choice between a mild hybrid (powered with electricity and gas) or full hybrid.
  • Plug-in Hybrid | The plug-in hybrids contain a larger, more advanced battery. This allows the vehicle to be plugged in and recharged, in addition to the possibility of refueling with gasoline. The Chicago Tribune reports that plug-ins (along with their battery electric brothers) have risen a whopping 26 percent in US sales this year.
Electric cars can take anywhere from 4-8 hours to charge, depending on the make.

The SAVINGS

Okay, so now we have a few tangible options. Is it worth it to move forward with a fuel-efficient vehicle? It’s no secret that these earth-friendly transporters can be pricey. But if you do find a vehicle that fits your preferences and your budget, turns out there are some interesting perks involved:

Car insurance companies often issue discounts for owning hybrid or electric cars. US News & World Report reports that some agencies “have a dedicated hybrid car insurance division which provides discounts up to 10 perfect simply based on the vehicle.”

A few companies that offer discounts:

  • Farmers: Farmer’s offers the following explanation of their green savings on their website: “Vehicles eligible for an insurance discount are dedicated fuel vehicles designed to use an alternative fuel as defined in the Federal Energy Policy Act (“EPact”) of 1992 or an electric and gasoline hybrid vehicle. Qualified vehicles include hybrid, electric, natural gas, methane and propane.”
  • Allstate: Allstate offers a 10 percent Economy Car discount for driving green.
  • Travelers:  Travelers also automatically offers up to a 10 percent discount to drivers of hybrid vehicles through its special program, the Hybrid Travellers policy.

Don’t see your company listed here? Call your insurance provider to see if they might be able to offer an additional discount.

In addition, many green initiatives are lobbying for tax credits for efficient vehicle ownership, some of which have already passed. You can find out what incentives are offered in your area at DriveClean.gov with this incentive calculator. According to US News, a couple other fun perks for driving green include free HOV passes, and sometimes even special parking passes.

The Future

With our ever-changing technology landscape, driving green should only become more affordable and mainstream. You can already drive green in style, as more and more luxury car companies make the switch. Tesla, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz are all dropping new (and semi-affordable) fuel-efficient vehicles next year.

We’ve all heard of cars that run on vegetable oil and grass, but some alternative fuels are already being mass-produced. A couple of seriously unexpected fuels currently being tested? Salt-water fuel, and tomato skin fuel.

And, perhaps the most anticipated new car tech, the self-driving car, will also be contributing to the fuel-efficient push. How, exactly? In addition to having fuel-efficient engines, they will find more efficient routes that expend less fuel in any given commute. They will also reduce idling, such as stopping at red lights, as they will all be able to avoid one another en route. It has also been speculated that self-driving cars could help to avoid collisions—which could mean less claims, and possibly lower car insurance rates. And, these self-driving cars may not be far off, either. Google hopes to introduce its self-driving car to the market in 2025, while other innovators like Nissan estimates their option will be available by 2020.

Making the switch to a fuel efficient vehicle may be a tricky one, but it might just be worth the search. With this exciting future in sustainable driving, and even some savings to be had – will you drive green?