Most popular car among TerraPass web visitors: Prius by a mile

Written by michael


We’ve been doing some data-crunching on use of our carbon calculators and our sales figures. With over 500,000 footprints calculated, we found plenty of interesting nuggets to bundle together as the official “TerraPass Carbon Footprint Awareness Survey.” Some highlights:

Out of over 2,300 different vehicles searched for in the road calculator, the Toyota Prius was the most popular. It accounted for almost 4% of all road searches. In total, hybrids represented about 7% of all 2007 road searches, about ten times the share of hybrids among U.S. passenger cars. (According to Green Car Congress, nearly one million hybrids have been sold in the US, making hybrids about .7 % of the U.S. car fleet.)

New York City was the city with the most households to offset their home energy use, followed by San Francisco. When figures are adjusted to account for city size, however, a different picture emerges. On a per capita basis, Chapel Hill, N.C. had the highest home offset rate of any city. Four other college towns also made the top ten per capita: Santa Monica (#2), Palo Alto (#3), Berkeley (#4), and Pasadena (#7).

Denver was the most popular destination for green-minded fliers who offset their plane flights. Are skiers and snowboarders trying to protect their snow from climate change? The single most frequently offset round trip flight was Seattle to…Las Vegas. Rain-soaked northwesterners apparently like their sun and sin without the environmental guilt.

More detailed data follows. This probably goes without saying, but we’re not really claiming any statistical significance or grand meaning in these numbers. Just some fun stuff to chew over. Data collected from January 2007 to March 2008.

Top ten vehicles searched for on TerraPass

  1. Toyota Prius (3.8%)
  2. Honda Civic (3.5%)
  3. Honda Accord (2.8%)
  4. Toyota Camry (2.0%)
  5. Toyota Corolla (1.9%)
  6. Honda Civic Hybrid (1.1%)
  7. Volkswagen Jetta (1.1%)
  8. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD(0.8%)
  9. Subaru Forester AWD (0.8%)
  10. Hummer H3 4WD (0.8%)

(Notice that the Hummer sneaks onto the list at #10. We suspect people are trying to find the car with the worst mileage in our database. But the Hummer ain’t it. For that matter, the Prius isn’t the most efficient. What do you think are the best and worst vehicles sold in the last twenty years? Leave your guess in comments.)

Greenest Cities

As measured by Home TerraPasses purchased per capita.

  1. Chapel Hill, N.C.
  2. Santa Monica, CA
  3. Palo Alto, CA
  4. Berkeley, CA
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Pasadena, CA
  8. Arlington, VA
  9. Minneapolis , MN
  10. Oakland, CA

Greenest travel destinations, TerraPass-Expedia flight index

As measured by number of flights offset.

  1. Denver, CO
  2. Las Vegas, NV
  3. Portland, OR
  4. Chicago, IL
  5. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  6. Orlando, FL.
  7. Detroit, MI
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Albuquerque, NM
  10. Phoenix, AZ

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  1. Aaron A.

    I don’t know the historical data, but I know that super-luxury cars like Bentley and Aston Martin usually dominate the worst-mileage list. The worst I’ve ever heard of was the Lamborghini Murcielago, as driven by Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa. The Murcielago gets a measly eight city miles per gallon, two to three mpg’s less than the H2.
    The silver lining here is that super-luxury cars like the Murcielago are in short supply, and that most such vehicles spend their days primarily in a collector’s garage, not on the roads.
    — A.

  2. Chad

    Just a quick point. There is a good reason for a Terrapass user to NOT own a super efficient care like a Prius: already owning a functional vehicle.
    Each year you hold on to your current car, you save roughly $3000 according to Consumer Reports. Those fools who buy new cars every five years are throwing tons of cash down the toilet relative to those of us who hold them until they begin to fall apart. Those savings more than cover my Terrapass. It makes much more sense to hold on to my 10 year old S10 for a few more years and upgrade to a better vehicle then than it does to sell it now in order to save a few hundred gallons of gas.

  3. James

    To all my friends: buying less gasoline not only saves you money, it puts less money in the hands of oil companies. Oil companies are environmental nightmares. They are the reason we are fighting these wars. If everyone drove a prius, not only would our carbon footprint go down, but the terrorists would have less ammo.
    Fight terrorism, drive a prius! 🙂

  4. Pat Cummings

    Not only is driving a Prius a great environmental choice, it also makes you look great! My friend James drives a Prius and ever since his purchase, I have had a crazy man crush on him. He just looks so hot in his Prius. He makes me feel fantastic!

  5. kim

    We just traded in a 97 Jeep Cherokee, got 15 mpg, for a ’08 Prius, which gets 45 mpg. The difference in the gas savings is paying half the car loan. I know it’s better to keep a car on the road, but this one was no longer safe, seriously falling apart. Our other car is a 97 Saturn wagon. With 205,000 miles on it, still gets almost 30mpg. I can’t justify trading it in now. I’ll just keep waiting for my dream car – an electric convertible!

  6. Nan

    Thanks Chad – I agree wholeheartedly with your comment re: not trading in a functional vehicle for a “greener” car. We own only one car – a 2002 Subaru wagon. We drive in the Rocky mountains in the winter a lot, and feel much safer in this AWD vehicle than in our old 1992 Honda Civic (which was also getting very noisy and uncomfortable). I figure we are already WAY ahead of the game simply by not owning a second vehicle – even if I do use the Subaru to drive around town a lot – and a) don’t want a non-AWD car as our only vehicle, and b) think it would be silly to sell our perfectly functional vehicle for a hybrid just to make an environmental statement – our Subaru would still be out there, driven by someone else, and we would just be adding yet another vehicle to the road. I think the same argument goes for home appliances. I do not want to purchase new “green” dishwasher, clothes washer, frig, etc., when my old ones are reasonably functional – those old ones are not going to disappear into thin air. They will still be out there – either used by someone else or taking up space in a landfill. I think it is probably the “greener” option to hang onto them until new ones are actually needed.

  7. dan

    We traded in a 97 mountaineer that was falling apart (it’s a ford, what did we expect) for our 07 prius. the mountaineer got 17-18 mpg, my prius averages 48. I’ve got 63 on one tank. I bought this car to reduce my footprint, not to “pay for the gas savings” I may never recoup the extra money we paid for this car in gas savings, but that’s not why I bought it. In TN, our electric rates are low, so my solar panel’s will take about 40 years to pay for themselves. I buy these things to try to undo the harm I’ve done to my childs planet.

  8. J-bird

    Hang on, so if I read the article’s comment “For that matter, the Prius isn’t the most efficient.”, then WHICH comparative car IS the most efficient? and WHY is everybody so up on the Prius if it’s not even the most efficient vehicle… hello….

  9. kim

    Dan, no, we didn’t buy the car because of the gas savings, that was a side-benefit. The Jeep was falling apart, like your mountaineer, and we needed a replacement. We’ll recoup the extra money in 3 years, but that’s not the point. We took off the road a gas-guzzler, falling apart, that we know no one is driving, and replaced it with something getting 3 times better milage, and safer to boot. Our solar panels will be paid for by themselves in 7 more years. It’s fun watching the meter run backwards.

  10. kt

    “WHICH comparative car IS the most efficient? and WHY is everybody so up on the Prius if it

  11. clayton

    Kim, Your comment ‘we took off the road a gas-guzzler’ caught my eye, and not merely because of its grammar. It refers us back to the fact that aging vehicles do not guzzle alone, they must be operated; guzzling is the responsibility of the operator, not the vehicle. Very little of the mileage discussion above addresses the options of driving way less, or not at all, through change of lifestyle. Maybe you should take yourself off the road too (I commute by bike most days). In the end, old gas guzzlers don’t just come off the road, or fade way, they require more energy to recycle, and generate solid waste. I often think we should be more like Cuba, sharing rides and continually repairing 50 year old vehicles when we must drive.

  12. kim

    We drive to get to work and back. We car-pool. There is no mass-transit available for either of us. We combine trips for the least number of miles per week. How lucky for you to be able to bike to work. How thoughtful of you to not pick on me for my grammar.

  13. anthony

    I’d bet the most efficient car is the Honda Civic GX… But my old Honda Civic VX should really be brought back.. even by revised EPA estimates it got 39city, 49hwy… amazing.. seated 4, airbags and a blast to drive. One can only wish..

  14. Howie

    The reasonable way to replace your vehicle is to do so when it makes economic sense. THEN buy that Prius and keep it for at least 200,000 miles. Self-motivation should rule this decision, not peer pressure No one should be pushed to trade in their Hummer. How else could we identify those of us who have no clue?

  15. Adam Stein

    Wow, people nailed this a lot more easily than I thought they would. The least efficient car (at least in our database, which we get from the EPA), is the Lamborghini Countach, which gets 6 miles to the gallon in the city, 9 on the highway. But the Murcielago is a good enough guess to claim the (nonexistent) prize.
    And, yes, the Honda Insight clocks over 60 mpg on the highway. As noted, these early hybrids were never very popular, but they did get great mileage.
    (A side note — as noted above, there are good arguments for hanging onto a car that still has life in it. I think the logic is a lot shakier for a refrigerator, though. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but old fridges can be truly awful for the environment, and it very well could be the case that, both environmentally and economically, the landfill is the best home for an old clunker.)

  16. Jim

    I own a 1995 Accord that gets 32 mpg (I know!). It also has 220,000 miles on it and runs fine.
    I did the math and figured I would save around $75 a month in gas if I upgraded to a Prius that got 50 mpg. I know the cost difference doesn’t justify the upgrade from an economic standpoint, but I do have an obligation to soften my oil footprint any way I can so the cost would be worth it to me.
    If I Terrapass and hold on to my old Honda is this a good move environmentally? Also, what is the environmental cost/impact of buying a new car which was produced using petroleum for shipping, manufacturing, etc.?
    Is there a formula one can use? At some point the environmental cost-benifit line must converge.
    Jim in Oracle, Arizona

  17. Jim

    Clayton No. 11,
    I agree with you that we SHOULD drive less and ride bikes more (and good for you for doing so). However, if we are waiting for us humans to change our behavior/lifestyle on a massive scale…well..we are in for a long, long road of disappointment.
    When legislation is put in place that requires higher MPG standards then automakers will meet the demand. And we, as consumers, will be just as happy driving to work in a 50 mpg hybrid as a 20 mpg “gas guzzler” (and probably more happy when we open up our gas credit card statement).

  18. Philippe

    I would find such stats more interesting if they were combining off sets from other vendors such as The folks at TerraPass probably know their “competitors”. How about getting together once a year to massage their data in common and spit more significant results?

  19. Lorell

    I’ve owned a Chevy Sprint – 1 liter, 3 cyl. engine, 55 mpg – for 18 years. It has 362000 kms. and since the transmission was going, I bought the next vehicle in that class – a Chev Aveo – 1.6 liter 4 cyl which costs me almost twice as much in gas. I’m not impressed and am considering having my old car refurbished – rebuilt engine and new transmission. I think the 3 cyl engine was fazed out because it was too efficient.

  20. Lorell

    I’ve owned a Chevy Sprint – 1 liter, 3 cyl. engine, 55 mpg – for 18 years. It has 362000 kms. and since the transmission was going, I bought the next vehicle in that class – a Chev Aveo – 1.6 liter 4 cyl which costs me almost twice as much in gas. I’m not impressed and am considering having my old car refurbished – rebuilt engine and new transmission. I think the 3 cyl engine was fazed out because it was too efficient.

  21. Monty

    For what it is worth, the experts say 10% of the energy used in a car in it’s average 14 year lifespan is used in manufacturing. Therefore, if you are going to improve your gas mileage by more than 10%, then it is worth considering swapping the car. Keep in mind that just because you are getting rid of it does not mean someone is not increasing their own gas mileage by moving to your old one, so it could be a win-win situation.
    Personally, I am not all that impressed with Prius gas mileage and am waiting on a 100% electric car.
    @Lorell: Yes, I owned a Chevy Sprint and got 55mpg+, and that is part of the reason the Prius does not impress me. Why it is that our fuel efficiency numbers are so low despite a decade of improve efficiency is beyond me. (Actually, I know the reasons, I just do not like them.)

  22. sparkler

    Hi, from kiwi land, New Zealand.I read the blog and postings with interest. Why do some people think that driving a Prius make you a saint? This week, on our tv, we had an episode from Boston Legal where they outlined all the energy the Prius takes to make, ending up with all the goods shipped out of the US to Japan coming back in the shape of the car. The blonde attorney argued whether it really was so virtuous. Here in NZ, a council compared over a ten year life the Prius with a Daihatsu Sirion (the car our car share company Cityhop uses) and other fuel efficient cars and the Sirion came out more environmentally friendly. Sorry I can’t give you all the detail but the primary reason was the consideration of the whole life of the cars and the replacement and disposal issues with the Prius battery. Is the Prius really that environmentally friendly or the showman’s green car?

  23. a Bicyclist

    Yes the Honda Insight is the best mpg, it is a good commuter-pod for those who can’t bike to work or vanpool or bus.
    Since my company moved offices to a more suitable part of town with side streets on a grid pattern, I took up biking and bus to work the past 3 years and love it. 9 miles round trip is just right, and no health club dues are needed. Too many people assume things are fixed such as housing location, we need to be more creative to live sustainably.
    My little Honda (with non-rusting aluminum body) will last a long time and it is great driving one with light carbon footprint to cover the miles. The Insight also worked well for a 1100 mile round trip to east coast for me and my dad, we got 64 mpg total average then. Maybe someday I’ll be able to convert it to full electric as battery technology evolves. Meanwhile, I’m not “waiting for the magic silver bullet”– I drive it!
    Those who think it’s only about saving the money on fuel, have not thought through the environmental problems of “externalities”, the carbon is not fully priced and Terrapass makes it a bargain to offset what is left after conserving and reducing. Thanks Terrapass!

  24. Les Brinsfield

    If almost a million is .7 percent, then we have about 140 million cars. So if we save a gallon of gas a day per car, we get the exacta: we green up by 1/8 of gas consumption and we save nearly 3 million barrels of oil per day which eliminates the need for mideast oil and all the crap that comes with it. Ain’t that a pip?
    This would be a 3% decrease in worldwide demand for crude. Wonder what that would do for cost given a 2% increase in demand from 2006 to 2007 yielded a 57% higher cost.

  25. mike jacobs


  26. Reed Evans

    Well, if you’re talking great cars, don’t forget all of the electric cars on the road in the late 90’s in CA that were shredded by their own makers. Check out “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and see the “Green” car company Toyota and all of the others crushing their own GREEN super vehicles into instant trash. Meanwhile, my ’91 super Honda Accord died last July and I switched to biking and public transport with 5 hours a month ($50 only) in a car-share Zip Car to take my 80 year old mom and 89 year old aunt shopping! My thunder thighs are gone without health club fees, my savings are growing, and I have time to read a lot more! My water bottle is a stainless steel REI mug which doubles for a coffee mug, so plastic and paper cups are out of my life (even on airplanes where THEY STILL AREN’T recycling those plastic cups!!!) AND my CHICO shopping bag fits neatly into my 2″ cell phone compartment in my mini-purse so that I NEVER use a plastic OR a paper shopping bag. I stuff in my Chico bag a couple of plastic fruit and veggie bags that I recycle over and over for stuff that leaks and I just let the veggies and fruits otherwise go in the bag unencumbered by a plastic sheath (the way they grow on trees). Air travel is covered by Terra pass and life is sweet! And, ain’t I lucky, finally got a few “renewable energy” and “corporate responsibility” marketing consulting jobs, so I’m starting on my way to being a part of the solution! BTW, all of the your posts are inspiring!