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Advice on purchasing more fuel efficient cars

We have a 2001 Dodge Caravan 120000 mi. and a ‘99 Jeep Cherokee with 95,000 mi. We would like to trade both in to get more fuel efficient models. Issues to deal with: We have the jeep because we occasionally trailer a motor boat (that is NOT green, but we live on a lake)& in the winter we use the jeep to get through deep snow when the road hasn’t been plowed. (Sometimes the snow is too deep for the minivan to get through.) We also really like the carrying capacity & flexibility of the mini van. Is there a vehicle which would have at least some of the carrying capacity of the minivan, would be able to tow a 19’ boat & get through the snow and be greener?? What kind of family hybrid car would you recommend to replace minivan?

I am not sure about the towing capacity but you could try the Ford Escape Hybrid, of the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid

It sounds to me like you’ve got what you need. The minivan’s the most fuel-efficient way to haul a lot of people and stuff and it sounds like you are actually someone who needs the SUV on occasion. More fuel efficient SUV’s don’t have the passenger or cargo capacity of the minivan or the towing capacity of the Jeep, and also will not do nearly as well in deep snow. If you do a lot of driving that doesn’t require the space of the van or the capability of the SUV, you might consider getting a small commuter car, but there is nothing that is going to haul a bunch of stuff and people any better than the minivan.

If I were in your position, I would be shopping at the Toyota dealer. They have several options that might fill your needs. Stick with the smaller engines. Be careful about towing with a hybrid. Watch the manufacturer ratings. My boss tows a trailer with his Highlander hybrid but it is a very small trailer.

The towing capacity of the Escape Hybrid is 1000 pounds.

You aren’t likely to find anything more fuel efficient that will have the same carrying and towing capacity as the van, but there are any number of smaller SUVs that will beat the Jeep and be able go in the snow. Look for the same or better ground clearance.

From a purely economic standpoint, you would be better off keeping what you have as long as they are in decent shape and are safe.

Be careful about towing with a hybrid.


In terms of utility and economy, keep what you have. Switching vehicles will set you back many thousands of dollars, and you will never recoup your money, or even a small fraction of it, in fuel savings. And there is nothing “green” about an unneeded vehicle replacement. You meet your goals best by maintaining the status quo.

My owner’s manual, '06 Escape hybrid, says NO towing with the hybrid. Due to the extra weight the gas engine would constantly be in the high rpm range using much more fuel and never enter it’s sleep mode.

That may be for the Escape. The Hylander Hybrid has a towing capacity of 3500 (Class II). Just because the Escape can’t tow doesn’t mean other Hybrids have the same short comings. I’ll agree that when towing gas mileage will suffer greatly. As it does with any vehicle when towing.

Steve is 100% correct. Unless you drive 50k miles/year and gas prices go up to $7/gal it’s just not worth it. You’ll be far better off financially keeping what you have.

I have a 2005 4runner. The new Highlander would be perfect for my needs. Much better gas mileage…The new 08 is almost the same size as my 4runner…The highlander can handle my towing needs. But it doesn’t make any sense to sell my 4runner to buy the new highlander. It would take me 15 years to make up the difference in money I spent for the highlander. So I’ll keep my 4runner for about 7 more years (should have over 300k miles then) and by then vehicles will get even better gas mileage (I HOPE).