A few years back, I had a fair amount of skepticism about whether buying a hybrid car was really and truly the best buy for the climate.
My argument at the time: hybrids came at a pretty steep price premium. A low-end Prius cost many thousands of dollars more than a comparable Corolla. I ran the numbers, and decided that a green-minded consumer who just wanted a new set of wheels would probably be better off buying a cheaper car that got decent-but-not-awesome mileage, and investing some of the savings in something even more effective at reducing emissions: new insulation, say, or super-efficient appliances and furnaces. Then both you and the planet might come out ahead.
But a few months back, I basically abandoned that line of thought. What changed? Mostly gas prices. As the cost of fuel has risen above $4/gallon, the cost savings from a gas-sipping car have risen in tandem. Plus, hybrids are proving that they maintain their value very well; maintainance costs are low, and worries about expensive battery replacements are subsiding. Car rating service Intellichoice.com concluded that the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid were the cheapest cars of their class available, considering the total cost of ownership over 5 years. So if hybrids are the best buys in their own right, the climate benefits are just gravy.
But now, I see that Edmunds.com has come to the opposite conclusion, and that hybrids aren’t even close to being the cheapest cars on the lot. The Prius, according to Edmunds, clocks in at #26—not terrible, really, but not stellar either. And the Edmunds report even assumes that gas rises to $5 per gallon.
And apparently Consumer Reports has yet anothertake; they rated the Prius as the third most economical new car, behind 2 versions of the Honda Fit. Of course, Consumer Reports limits their consideration to cars that meet their other criteria for quality and safety. (See here for a list of Edmunds & Consumer Reports top 10 most economical cars). Still, by their reckoning, hybrids fare pretty well.
If I dove into the numbers, I might figure out what’s going on here. Are there different assumptions about mileage, or maintenance costs, or financing? Hard to tell. But for the moment, I’ll consider the issue unsettled. At current and or/foreseeable gas prices, and factoring in the total cost of ownership, hybrids are either the very cheapest cars to buy; close to the cheapest; or not too shabby, all things considered. Your mileage may vary.
If you want personal transportation with the least impact to the environment, consider a scooter. They cost under $7,000 even for a top of the line model, they typically get 50 to 100 mpg. The cheapest models can be owned for under $2,000.If you really want to go green, the Vectrix electric scooter is available. 62 mpg top speed50 mile range on a single charge2 hours to recharge the battery to 80%I just ordered mine for delivery in July. Here is a cool YouTube video on the Vectrix.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEk2J85PXNg
I’m so glad to see this post. I must have missed it earlier. I may be in the market for a new car very soon and have been looking all over to see if buying a hybrid is really worth the price.I’m considering a Toyota Yaris, Chevy Aveo, Honda Fit, Toyota Prius, or Honda Civic Hybrid. All get 30+ highway.If anyone has any thoughts on any of these cars, please share. I’d rather not drive at all, but will have to commute to work. (no transit and brutal winters aren’t bikeable)
A Prius costs a lot more than something like a Yaris. It’s also substantially bigger and much fancier. It also burns less fuel even though bigger and fancier. Will it use so much less fuel that it’s actually cheaper to have a big(er) fancy car than a small non-fancy car? Probably not. Is this a surprise, though? One need only glance at the nearest road or parking lot to see that the majority of cars were clearly not purchased on the basis of a strictly rational calculation of the very cheapest way to roll around on the roads in a motorized box on four wheels. Realistically, I bought the Prius as much out of geek appeal as anything else. Idling is *so* 20th century…