"Will a hybrid save me money?" Wouldn't it be great if there was a definitive answer to that question? Unfortunately, and despite what a showroom salesman will tell you, there is no clear answer. Instead, each consumer must weigh the costs and benefits associated with the hybrid. No salesman can do that for you.
Admittingly, those who evaluate cars agree that hybrids aren't the right choice for everyone. There are traditional cars that cut fuel usage and are significantly better for the environment than the old "gas-guzzlers" of previous decades, and these may be the better choice for some consumers. However, if the advertised savings associated with hybrid cars is luring you to a dealer, educate yourself about the product before purchasing it.
A hybrid is a car that is fueled by both gas and electric. There are electric cars that run solely on electric plug-in mechanisms, and then there are gas/diesel powered cars that require traditional fuel for their power. Hybrids blend the two by using the battery on low power consumption modes and the gasoline engine when more power is needed. Higher speeds require higher power, therefore employing the gasoline engine. This fact becomes important for those drivers who travel many "highway miles" that won't utilize the battery power.
It's hard to state a general cost because like all cars there are options and features that greatly affect the car's price. However, a recent report from Liberty Mutual states that the average cost for a 2008 hybrid car is $2,000 more than the traditional vehicle.
One argument against the savings from a hybrid is repair cost. Because the hybrid car is still specialized, the repair shops tend to be specialized as well. Do some homework before buying and look at what repair shops will service a hybrid and what they charge for the service. Many owners are finding that their service and repairs are limited to dealers who charge more for labor as well as parts. This also poses a problem for consumers who travel away from home to purchase vehicles (because some areas are known to have higher costs for new cars).
It's too early to get good statistics on trade-in values of hybrids. However, the interest trends in hybrids indicate a strong trade-in value and slow depreciation for these models. That means that you have more time to recoup your initial investment and a greater return on it in the end, regardless of fuel consumption.
When a car costs nearly $2,000 more than another model, logic says that it must use $2,000 less in fuel to make it a valuable investment. How long will it take to save $2,000 worth of fuel by driving a hybrid? That depends on the mileage driven, the type of miles (see above), and the price of fuel. However, it could take as much as 8 years to show a savings that equals the initial investment of the car. Likewise, highway drivers won't reap the same benefits as those who drive local miles at slower speeds.
We bought a Prius in 2005 because we loved the car, not to save money. Saving money should not be the reason for buying a hybrid at this time. Sure, our gas costs have been drastically reduced, but we make a large payment every month that probably offsets any gain (although when gas was $4.00 a gallon, it was much better!)
The Prius is an awesome car. The seats fold down with access to a large packing area from the hatchback door. We were easily able to pack it for FIVE WEEKS of tent camping a couple of years ago and were not a bit crowded, could see out of every window, and got 45 to 50 miles average per gallon on a 3,000 mile trip. (A Prius LOVES the mountains and gets the best mileage there!)
We have never felt "crowded" inside the Prius. There is so much headroom, we have never had anyone in it who has had a problem with height. It is very comfortable and rides fine.
We'll have it paid off next February (2010) and will probably trade it in for another Prius when we are sure the 2011's are still rated as superior cars. We do have to travel 30 miles to our dealer so repairs are not easily made, but have only needed to replace the small battery that runs the computers so far, so it has not been a problem.
Just do not buy one to "save money" yet - buy one only because you LOVE the car!
My girlfriend got a one-year-old hybrid car for only $10,000 from the dealer. Best bargain I ever heard of! She asked to be on the waiting list, stated her price, and in only one month, the dealer called her back with the deal.
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