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Extension > Environment > Energy efficiency and renewable energy > Should I buy an alternative vehicle?

Should I buy an alternative vehicle?

By Douglas G. Tiffany, University of Minnesota Extension educator
Revised 2011

There are many factors to consider when buying a new car: price, miles per gallon, environmental impact, maintenance costs, interior space, ride, personal taste and more. The availability of hybrids, electrics, and other alternative vehicles can complicate this decision even further for many people.

An Excel spreadsheet was developed to help you organize your thinking as you consider the purchase of an alternative or conventional vehicle. Car purchase decisions are highly personal, and there are no absolute answers to be determined from using this tool. In the end, you may have excellent reasons for choosing a car which will cost you more; however, this tool should help you perform analysis to support your decision.

How it works

  1. Enter information in the yellow cells for each type of vehicle you are considering. For vehicle types you do not wish to consider, leave the columns of yellow cells blank. As you enter the key figures for each type of car, results are shown in the graph at the right.
  2. The tool calculates differences in costs of ownership and operation and differences in greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Experiment with various scenarios and see how the graph responds. For example, note the effect of higher gasoline prices and miles driven per year on the costs of ownership and operation of the various vehicles.

Alternative vehicle decision tool (823 K XLS)—Learn more about key input factors below.

Input factors

Listed below are the cells (shaded yellow) in which you can enter data. Default values currently populate the yellow-shaded cells.

Car pricing and performance assumptions

Gasoline price and discount rate assumptions

Ready to get started? Download the tool. (823 K XLS)

More information

What do my results mean?

Videos: How it works, Determining costs and environmental performance of conventional and alternative vehicles

More on energy tax credits

Still have questions? Contact Extension educator Douglas Tiffany at or 612-625-6715.

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