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The Best Cars for the Environment

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If you’re really into buying local and living green, you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle when it comes to choosing a car. Of the 12 Greenest Vehicles of 2014, none of them are from U.S.-based automakers.

The rankings system from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) gives the highest scores for environmental friendly vehicles to nine cars from Japanese manufacturers and three from German companies. (On the flip side, five of the worst cars for the environment are from U.S.-based manufacturers. Yikes.)

Cars for Earth Lovers

Of course, someone looking at the Dodge Ram (worst vehicle on the list) probably isn’t going to be attracted to a teeny Smart Car (best), nor would they be able to serve the same purpose. But assuming you’re not shopping for a huge truck or flashy sports car (champions of poor fuel economy), and you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, these 12 cars highlighted by the ACEEE’s Green Book are worth a look.

The ACEEE considered a lot of data in determining its vehicle Green Scores, which fall on a scale of 0 to 100, but the main focus was on fuel economy and emissions tests reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. The score also takes into account pollution from vehicle manufacturing and factors in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe took the top spot with a Green Score of 59. Most people are familiar with the miles-per-gallon measurement of fuel economy, the frame of reference for energy efficiency, but the fuel economy for electric vehicles is measured in miles per kilowatt-hour. A gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kWh, making the Smart Electric Drive’s city fuel economy of 3.61 miles per kWh roughly equal to 122 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent).

12. Volkwagen Jetta Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 42 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

11. Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Convertible/Coupe
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg-city, 38 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

10. Honda Insight
Fuel Economy: 41 mpg-city, 44 mpg-highway
Green Score: 53

9. Honda Civic Natural Gas
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg-city, 38 mpg-highway
Green Score: 54

8. Mitsubishi Mirage
Fuel Economy: 37 mpg-city, 44 mpg-highway
Green Score: 54

7. Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 3.9 mpkWh/51 mpg-city, 3.0 mpkWh/49 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

6. Lexus CT 200H
Fuel Economy: 51 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

5. Honda Civic Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg-city, 47 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

4. Toyota Prius
Fuel Economy: 51 mpg-city, 48 mpg-highway
Green Score: 55

3. Nissan Leaf
Fuel Economy: 126 mpge-city, 101 mpge-highway
Green Score: 55

2. Toyota Prius C
Fuel Economy: 53 mpg-city, 46 mpg-highway
Green Score: 57

1. Mercedes-Benz Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe
Fuel Economy: 122 mpge-city, 93 mpge-highway
Green Score: 59

Given the new technology and fuel savings, it’s no surprise that these vehicles will be more expensive than their less fuel-efficient counterparts. If you plan to finance a new vehicle,  you should have an idea of your credit standing and know whether or not you have a shot at affordable auto financing. So check your credit scores and carry on toward your green ride. You can see two of your credit scores for free once a month at Credit.com, plus get a personalized plan for building your credit.

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