Get in gear for better gas mileage this spring with eco-friendly tires

With warmer weather working its way across the country, people’s attention is again turning to the environment and spring and summer driving. And as fuel prices continue to climb, gas mileage needs to be a consideration, as much for budgetary reasons as environmental impact.

American drivers who think they’re priced out of better gas mileage by the cost of hybrid vehicles can find another way of squeezing a few more miles out of each gallon. Tires that roll more easily over roadways are an eco-friendly and cost-effective way of improving mileage.

Americans have a pretty rosy view of hybrid vehicles, with 47 percent interested in buying one for the better fuel economy and the environmental benefits. Yet for all of the interest in hybrid vehicles, the Hankook Quarterly Index of driving habits found that only 3 percent of respondents actually own one. More than half of consumers – 55 percent – are daunted by the higher price of hybrid vehicles compared to conventional all-gasoline cars. The difference in MSRP between a conventional car and its eco-friendly hybrid sibling can be anywhere from $ 4,000 to $ 10,000.

The premium price for hybrids doesn’t appear likely to change in the near future. The vehicle pricing guide Kelly Blue Book reported in March that used hybrid prices rise with gas prices, and that the cost of used hybrids could repeat 2011’s 20 percent jump.

Eco-friendly tires, like Hankook‘s upcoming enfren eco, offer a cost-effective solution. They reduce rolling resistance and therefore fuel consumption, and can cut a driver’s gas consumption at the same price as standard tires. Sixty-eight percent of the drivers who said they were interested in eco-friendly tires would buy them for the better gas mileage, while 21 percent would do it to help the environment.

The Index also uncovered a range of interesting views on eco-friendly tires, among them:

* Of the respondents that drive weekly, 5 percent already own eco-friendly tires and 56 percent would consider buying them.

* Women (38 percent) are much more likely to be unsure whether they would purchase this type of product than the men surveyed.

* Respondents under 35 years (65 percent) are much more likely than those over 55 years (47 percent) to be open to considering purchasing eco-friendly tires.

One note for practical-minded folks looking ahead to the coming months: While most people wouldn’t expect to receive tires for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, almost half (42 percent) surveyed say they wouldn’t mind getting them as a gift this year. But even if the mom or dad in your life wouldn’t oppose the gesture, make sure the backup plan involves flowers or golf.