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5 really cost-effective fuel savers

Surprisingly, some fuel efficient vehicles aren't the most economical choices out there. Here are some that are.

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CNNMoney.com asked analysts at Intellichoice.com, a Website that specializes in tracking auto ownership costs, to find the the most fuel-efficient vehicles in various classes, then figure out which of those are really the most cost-effective once total value and ownership costs are factored in.

Only cars that delivered at least 10% better fuel economy than the average vehicle in their class were considered. In some categories, only one vehicle delivered that kind of fuel economy advantage. (For instance, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid among mid-sized SUVs and the Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon Hybrid among full-sized SUVS.) The five vehicles featured here represent categories where there was a choice of fuel-efficiency stand-outs.

Instead of just comparing ownership costs directly, which would always favor the cheapest car, IntelliChoice.com scores vehicles based on computed "expected ownership costs" for a given type of vehicle at that price, then compares those scores. That keeps the playing field even since, to be fair, someone who pays $50,000 for a new car instead of $20,000 is getting something -- features, quality,comfort and performance, for instance -- for that money. Any measure of "cost effectiveness" has to take that added value into account

In the end, the most fuel-efficient car isn't always the most cost effective to own. But in many cases, it actually is, as rising gas prices have made fuel costs a bigger factor in auto ownership.

NEXT: Midsized car: Toyota Prius
Last updated August 25 2008: 3:01 PM ET
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