The cars you see grabbing all the eco-friendly headlines tend to be hybrids. Cars like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius have so much mindshare that you'd think they had 50% of the market; in reality the hybrid segment is only about 3% of all new cars sold. What gives? It's simple: hybrids are really expensive and the payoff (the time it takes to recoup the downstroke of paying for all that hybrid technology) tends to be longer than most people are willing to wait.
Do the math: Hybrid cars start at about $20,000 at the low end (and top $100,000 -- we're serious -- for the lux-barge sedans from the Germans), making them the playground of the middle class only. Sure, $20,000 is lower than the average price for an American car sold in 2009, but it's not cheap.
Given that, what's a better option? It might offend Al Gore, but we'd recommend a simple alternative to the hybrid game: simple, small four-cylinder gas engines. As The Firm's Mitch McDeere said upon busting up Bendini, Lambert & Locke for mail fraud, "it's not sexy, but it's got teeth."
Let's take a look at the (non-hybrid) cars you'll be driving in the future that will get that new bogey: 40 MPG or more. They get great mileage and -- for the most part -- they're within everyone's budget.