When the Colonial Pipeline shut down in May due to a cyberattack, the resulting fuel shortage left thousands of filling stations in the Southeast without gasoline. As a result, many people in that part of the country began hoarding gas—and fuel prices started to spike across the country. During the height of the calamity, the average price of gas was the highest it had been in six years, at more than $3 per gallon.
While the Colonial Pipeline incident was undoubtedly disruptive, it wasn’t nearly as problematic as the energy crisis of the 1970s. During that period, there were two major disruptions in petroleum supply (one in 1973 and another in 1979) that led to a short-term fuel shortage, resulting in panic buying and long lines at filling stations.
In other words: Fuel supply problems and subsequent panic buying are nothing new. The United States has faced fuel-related crises before and will again in the future.
If you want to be prepared for the next shortage—or you simply want a car that gets unbelievably good fuel economy—you’ll want to consider checking out some of the ultra-efficient vehicles on this list.
10 of the Best Vehicles to Own During a Fuel Shortage
Thanks to electrification and other advancements in automotive technology, there are many fuel-efficient vehicles available to purchase both new and used. Let’s take a look at 10 economical choices that could come in handy during a fuel shortage.
Note: The fuel economy ratings in this article are estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Real-world results may vary. A combined gas/electricity rating is noted for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
2000 Honda Insight
(49/61/53 city/highway/combined MPG)
Hybrid vehicles are extremely efficient because they use one or more electric motors to aid a traditional internal combustion engine. The 2000 Honda Insight was the first mass-produced hybrid offered in the United States.
An advanced powertrain—consisting of a three-cylinder engine, nickel-metal hydride battery, and brushless electric motor—made the original Insight a breakthrough vehicle for its time. Although the EPA gives the car a combined fuel economy rating of 53 MPG, many drivers claim to get an average of nearly 72 MPG.
2016-2021 Toyota Prius
(54/50/52 city/highway/combined MPG)
Like the Insight, the Toyota Prius, which first debuted in 2001, was one of the first hybrids available in the United States. To this day, the Prius is still the most well-known hybrid on the road.
Unsurprisingly, the Prius is also extremely fuel-efficient—the latest model has an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 52 MPG.
2017-2021 Toyota Prius Prime
(83/72/78 city/highway/combined MPG)
The Prius Prime is one of the most efficient plug-in hybrids, boasting an EPA-rated combined fuel economy rating of 78 MPG. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, such as the Prime, add a level of efficiency beyond that of a traditional hybrid.
While a traditional hybrid must rely on an internal combustion engine to charge its high-voltage battery, a plug-in hybrid has the option to plug into an electrical outlet to charge. That gives plug-in hybrids the ability to travel solely on electricity for a short distance.
2018-2021 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in
(78/74/76 city/highway/combined MPG)
The Hyundai Ioniq is another extremely fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid. According to the EPA, the Ioniq can squeeze an average of 76 MPG from its powertrain, consisting of an electric motor, a lithium-ion-polymer battery, and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
2019 Chevrolet Volt
(85/74/79 city/highway/combined MPG)
When the Chevrolet Volt was first introduced in 2011, General Motors touted it as the company’s first mass-produced electric vehicle.
But in reality, the Volt is a series hybrid that uses a gasoline engine as a generator to charge its high-voltage battery. The difference between the Volt and many other hybrids is that the Volt’s engine only acts as a generator and never directly powers the vehicle.
Still, despite the misunderstandings over the years, the Volt has proven to be an extremely fuel-efficient vehicle. During the Volt’s last year of production in 2019, the EPA awarded the car an estimated combined fuel economy rating of 79 MPG.
2020-2021 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid
(75/58/66 city/highway/combined MPG)
Some drivers want the versatility of an SUV and the fuel economy of a plug-in hybrid. Ford responded by creating the Escape Hybrid Plug-in. The hyper-efficient SUV pairs a 2.5L four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery to achieve an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 66 mpg (when fitted with front-wheel drive).
2014-2017 BMW i3 Range Extender
(97/79/88 city/highway/combined MPG)
One often overlooked fuel sipper is the BMW i3 Range Extender (REX) model. Unlike the rest of the i3 lineup, which is purely electric, the Range Extender model has a 650-cc gasoline engine onboard. The engine acts solely as a generator to charge the high-voltage battery.
When fitted with the range extender setup, the i3 earns an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 88 MPG.
2020-2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
(35/34/35 city/highway/combined MPG)
Most of the vehicles that get exceptional fuel economy are relatively small. But some drivers who want great gas mileage also need the capability of a mid-size SUV—and that’s where the Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in.
Despite weighing well over 4,000 pounds, the Highlander Hybrid is able to attain an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 35 mpg (when fitted with front-wheel drive). The midsize SUV achieves this feat with an advanced powertrain that combines two electric motors with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine.
2020-2021 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
(23/33/26 city/highway/combined MPG)
What if you need a pickup truck but are also concerned with fuel economy? In the past, full-size trucks weren’t known for being fuel-efficient. But nowadays, technology has advanced to the point that even large pickups can achieve impressive fuel economy ratings.
2021 Tesla Model 3
(150/133/142 city/highway/combined MPGe)
Want to skip the gas station altogether? Then consider choosing an electric vehicle (EV) for your next car. According to the Federal Website for Fuel Economy, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (with rear-wheel drive) is the most efficient 2021 model year vehicle, managing a remarkable EPA-estimated 142 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). The all-electric sedan can also travel up to 263 miles on a single charge.
How to Improve Your Existing Vehicle’s Fuel Economy
If you’d prefer to improve your existing vehicle’s fuel economy instead of buying something new, there are some tips and tricks to help you squeeze every last gallon out of your gas tank. Check out our article on fuel economy hacks to learn more.