Studies: Hybrids Don’t Save All The Green

Prices at the pump are soaring out of control and, like the last big gas price boom of 2008, the steep figures are steering people to consider a new hybrid or electric vehicle in order to save money. According to a couple of online car publications, you might want to hold off on that new purchase. Reports from two websites indicate that while hybrids, electric and diesel vehicles will help save the earth, they don’t necessarily save you money in the long term.

A recent report by Edmunds.com digs into the value proposition of hybrid vehicles and points to factors like higher sticker prices and expired federal tax credits, which significantly increase an owner’s initial investment. They go on to point out that, in most cases, a hybrid or electric vehicle will take six or more years of gas-sipping for its fuel-cost savings to catch up with its sale price.

Toyota UK Prius 10th Anniversary

image via Toyota

Cars.com has come to a similar conclusion, citing simple economics as the influencing factor: “Rarely does bad mileage justify shelling out for a new car,” said Cars.com senior editor and green automotive technology expert Joe Wiesenfelder.  “Bear in mind when considering the economics that the trade-in value of any guzzler plummets at times of high gas prices, while transaction prices for efficient cars skyrocket. If the equation makes no sense based on sticker prices, then it definitely falls apart based on transaction prices.”

It’s not all bad news though, folks.  Some diesel vehicles like the Audi A3 TDI and the Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetech showed that their fuel-cost savings had them breaking even with their sticker price in just a couple of years. Purely electric vehicles also show some promise due to utility-subsidized charger installations and some federal incentives.

Still, Wiesenfelder thinks a new purchase motivated purely by outrageous gas prices just doesn’t make sense:  “Buying a Leaf or Volt now is no more logical – and probably less – due to the market realities,” he said. “The new compacts like the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are a better choice in the long run due to lower price and respectable mileage.”

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