The state could save up to $1 million over the next three years if it gets rid of cars that employees do not need, according to a legislative audit.

In a report given to lawmakers Monday, auditors determined 78 of the more than 800 cars in two state agencies could be eliminated. The report also said the state should buy more compact, fuel-efficient cars and should more closely watch employees who are allowed to commute from home to work in state cars.Leaders from the departments of transportation and administrative services, the two agencies that were scrutinized, said they would follow recommendations in the report.

However, Administrative Services Director Carolyn Lloyd questioned whether the state would save much money by having fewer cars. If the fleet were smaller, each car would be driven more and the state would have to replace its cars more often, she said. The report studied the state's central motor pool, a division of administrative services.

Legislative Auditor John Schaff said the report's conclusions are conservative.

"We believe the savings in investments could be much more than $1 million," he said, adding he believes some state employees drive vehicles for no apparent reason other than to run up enough miles to justify the need for the car.

The state replaces its cars after three years and 50,000 miles, quicker than any of seven other Western states surveyed, the report said.

Auditors said they used conservative standards by which to judge the fleets. To be judged unnecessary in the report, a state car had to be driven an average of less than 1,000 miles per month and less than 50 percent of the time it was available.

Using that standard, the report determined, there are 44 unnecessary cars in the motor pool and 34 unneeded cars in the Department of Transportation.

Auditors said administrative services should be more strict about which employees it allows to take cars home. Of 44 employees with commuting privileges studied in the report, 16 drove fewer than 1,000 business miles each month and six drove fewer than 600 miles.

State officials said some employees are given cars because they may have to respond quickly to emergencies. For many, those emergencies are rare but critical.

However, auditors said Arizona's Department of Transportation allows only its maintenance supervisor to commute. The rest must drive to the office to pick up a state car before responding to an emergency.

"Arizona reports they have had no problem with response time using this procedure," the audit said. "In addition, they indicated that they have saved a great deal of money without sacrificing their effectiveness by not allowing many positions commute privileges."