Bigger is better.

That has long been the mantra of many American car and truck buyers, so it’s not really a surprise that low gasoline prices have sparked a return to those old buying habits. At $2 or less a gallon, the price of fuel has seemingly become a minor factor in the recent rush to large sport-utility vehicles and full-size pickup trucks.

But, could many of these buyers be making a big mistake?

Have they forgotten that gasoline is a fickle commodity and could easily return with little warning to the bad old days of $4 a gallon or more? Do they really believe that prices will remain stable throughout the years it will take them to pay off their loans? In fact, careful observers may have already noted that gasoline prices have begun to climb again, up 30 cents or more per gallon from their surprising lows.

Has it slipped their minds that fuel consumption is more than a matter of money? Big heavy vehicles require powerful engines and they guzzle gasoline and spew pollution into the air at a rate far greater than smaller vehicles.

Perhaps, perhaps not, but for those of you who haven’t already thrown caution to the winds, there is a way to find the best vehicle within your budget that combines your desires and your needs.

It’s a website called fueleconomy.gov,and it is operated by the U.S.Department of Energy. First-time users may find the wealth of information a bit daunting, but a few minutes exploring the site will get a user to the information desired.

For starters, it contains the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimated fuel mileage on all cars and light trucks dating from the newest models all the way back to 1984. Looking for a used car or truck? This site can help you.

Yes, fuel mileage estimates are available in various places, including vehiclehistory.com, but the government site goes way beyond those figures to help you buy the right car, to help you drive more efficiently, to help you calculate your personal fuel mileage, to help you determine if it makes sense to buy a hybrid car,/ You can even find tips on keeping your car in good operating condition.

There’s even more, with information on where to find the cheapest gasoline in your area, how to plan trips or combine trips to avoid unnecessary use of your vehicle, and how to improve fuel economy in cold and hot weather. There are also discussions on alternative fuels such as natural gas and hydrogen, and you can even get help on selecting the right octane for your gasoline-powered car.

Looking for the most efficient cars and trucks? The site has lists waiting for you. How about the most popular cars and trucks? Yep, you can find them, too.

Let’s say you want to compare up to 4 new vehicles that you might be considering. This feature not only tells you the EPA average city/ highway/ combined mileage figures. It also lists the average fuel mileage obtained by actual owners.

In addition –based on 15,000 miles a year, 45 percent highway driving and 55 percent in the city– it will tell you how much fuel will cost per year at current prices and how much it will cost to fill the tank.

If you are considering a hybrid, it will tell you how much less you will spend on fuel compared to a similar vehicle with a conventional gasoline engine. It will also tell you how long it will take for the fuel-cost savings to match the extra cost of
the hybrid vehicle.

Of course, that is not the whole story. It does not take into account such factors as insurance, maintenance and depreciation, which can vary widely from place to place. It also does not take into account the environmentally sensitive buyer who feels a responsibility to reducing pollutants entering the atmosphere and will pay more for the privilege.

But, it does provide one important piece of information in the car-buying decision.

If you are looking for a government rebate of up to $7,500 for your car purchase, you must buy a plug-in hybrid or an electrically powered vehicle. To find out the exact amounts, you need to visit the plug-in hybrid or electrical-vehicle section of the site and call up ”tax incentives.” Regular hybrids no longer qualify for rebates.

Buying the right car can be a time-consuming process with lots of research required. You can arm yourself with interesting and important information by visiting fueleconomy.gov.

After all, next to buying a home, a car purchase is the second largest expense for many families.

Pocket

Free Vin Lookup

Vin Lookup

The Vehicle Identification Number is located in many different places on a car. It is very common to appear on the dashboard and/or in the drivers side door sticker. You can do a free VIN look up to check vehicle problems on the button above.