Saving money still isn't one of them.
Date Posted 10-19-2006
With rising gas prices and attractive tax credits, many consumers feel they are making a frugal choice when they buy a hybrid car or SUV. Right? Well, not exactly. Sure, there are a lot of good reasons to buy a hybrid, such as reduced emissions and the conservation of limited oil reserves. However, from a strictly financial point of view it will take years before a hybrid will save a consumer enough money to pay for the added expense of buying one.
Edmunds has crunched the numbers, and has determined just how long it would take for buyers of new hybrids to break even (save enough money on gas to offset the additional expense of buying a hybrid). The results are surprising: Of vehicles that have an equivalent hybrid version, the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid has the earliest break-even point. However, it still takes 2.9 years to save an Escape Hybrid's owner enough money to break even when compared to the cost of a four-cylinder 2007 Escape XLT.
Other highlights show the Toyota Camry Hybrid takes 8.2 years to break even compared to the powerful six-cylinder Camry LE and 5.8 years with the loaded four-cylinder Camry XLE. The Lexus RX 400h takes a whopping 13.6 years to break even with the Lexus RX 350.
Calculations were based on Edmunds' True Market Value for each vehicle, 15,000 miles per year combined city and highway driving, the average national price of gas ($3 per gallon on August 14), rebates and 2006 federal tax credits. We sought the most equivalent model from within the carmakers' lineups. Where necessary, we added options, such as leather or a sunroof in the 2006 Toyota Highlander Limited, in order to make the hybrid-to-gas model comparison as close as possible.
What about the 2006 Toyota Prius? This category creator doesn't have an equivalent gas-only version, so we compared it to both the 2006 Toyota Corolla LE and the gas-only Camry LE.
This comparison skews the numbers dramatically: It takes the Prius a shocking 13.6 years to catch up with the Corolla. Comparing the Prius to the Camry LE, though, makes it a scene-stealer: only 2.1 years to break even, the shortest of any of our comparisons.
But beware: The numbers here include the Prius' gigantic $3,150 federal tax credit, which will drop to $1,575 in October, because the number of total Toyota hybrids sold has reached a 60,000-unit-per-manufacturer cap.Commuters who put an average 25,000 miles on their vehicle will find their break-even times dramatically shortened (see chart below); those who drive significantly less than 15,000 miles per year will find it takes even longer to reach the break-even point.
Of course, it's not all about how much gas money your fuel-efficient hybrid will save. The myriad reasons why people buy hybrids include a desire to lower emissions, fascination with whizbang technology, wanting to reduce foreign oil dependency, and prestige, among others. Before choosing, though, it's important to know the real costs of owning a hybrid, including any potential differences in insurance or repairs, by using our True Cost To Own calculator. Below is an at-a-glance chart which summarizes our findings based on vehicle purchases; leases weren't included because they don't qualify for federal tax credits. These specific numbers are good at the time of publication, but will change based on the fluctuating price of gas, sales and incentives.
Click here for more detail, including EPA mpg estimates, pricing and annual gas savings for all vehicles in the study.
Year/Make/Model Years to Break Even
2007 Saturn Vue vs.2007 Saturn Vue Greenline
2007 Ford Escape XLT vs. 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid
2007 Mercury Mariner vs. 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
2006 Honda Civic EX vs. 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid
2006 Honda Accord EX V6 vs. 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid
2006 Toyota Corolla LE vs. 2006 Toyota Prius
2007 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2006 Toyota Prius
2007 Toyota Camry XLE vs. 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2007 Toyota Camry LE V6 vs. 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2006 Toyota Highlander Limited vs. 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
2007 Lexus RX 350 vs .2006 Lexus RX 400h
2006 Lexus GS 430 vs .2007 Lexus GS 450h