Take a look: somebody has ranked hybrid cars, based on how much money they save you. Your best hybrid buys, in order, are…drumroll please…
- The Toyota Prius,
- The Saturn Vue, and
- The Honda Civic.
Unfortunately, the ranking methods aren’t completely spelled out. But as far as I can tell, the author compares the price difference between a hybrid car and its non-hybrid mate, and compares the extra cost of the hybrid engine with the money drivers save on fuel. These 3 come up as the best hybrid buys.
Of course, the Prius (unlike most other cars of its ilk) was built as a hybrid from the ground up, so it doesn’t have a non-hybrid version. But it still won top honors. Here’s what they say about the Prius:
After seven years on the market, the Prius is still the best hybrid for people who just plain want to burn less gas. It’s arguably also the best for people who hope to save money in the long run. Built from scratch as a hybrid, it maximizes interior space and offers a roomy cargo hatch, whereas hybrid sedans tend to diminish trunk space and/or eliminate folding backseats. There is no gas-only version, but there doesn’t have to be. It’s both the most efficient and most affordable hybrid out there.
Sleuthing around a bit, I took a look at #2, the Saturn Vue Green Line, to see how its cost savings racked up, compared with the non-hybrid Vue.
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- The conventional Vue lists for $21,875, and EPA rates it at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, or about 22 mpg on average.
- The hybrid Vue lists for $24,795, and its city/highway mpg rating is 25/32, or 28 mpg on average
Assuming 15,000 miles per year, $3.50/gallon gas, and that the EPA numbers are accurate, the hybrid version pays for itself in less than 6 years. After that, any gas savings are just gravy.
Which makes me wonder why someone wouldn’t opt for the hybrid version. Over the long run, it looks like to me like a real bargain.
That said, I can see why the average car buyer might hesitate about hybridizing their Vue. In theory, gas prices could fall; the hybrid could underperform its EPA ratings; battery replacement could pose an unexpected cost; and so on. So the extra $3 grand for the hybrid may feel like a risk.
But to me there’s just as much risk on the other side: gas prices could soar even higher, for example, as many analysts expect. And as I reported last winter, hybrids (especially the Prius) are holding their value exceptionally well.
To me—and despite the higher purchase price of a hybrid—the real financial risk is to buy a gas guzzler. More and more, the hybrid seems like the safer bet.