I was chatting online recently with someone in the UK where gasoline is approaching $10 per gallon. He said to me, “For me the cost savings for Hybrids isn’t there. People buy hybrids to save money at the pump, but the difference in the price at the pump will not be realized in savings compared to the price of the new hybrid for decades.”
I disagree with this.
You will certainly “Save money” on fuel if you’re achieving more miles per gallon, what’s questionable is whether the savings you achieve will justify the premium you’ll pay for a hybrid versus a non-hybrid.
Assuming you want to spend $21,000 on a vehicle, you have a variety of choices. Let’s assume one drives 12,000 per year, the mileage allowed by a typical lease. According to 2007 CAFE rules, a manufacturer’s fleet must exceed an average of 27.5 mpg. My Prius is rated at 62 miles per gallon. We all know that these numbers are overstated. I know that the way we drive our Prius, we average 45-55 miles per gallon depending on the season and the type of driving (HWY vs. CITY).
So, If you spend $21K on a vehicle that achieves 25 MPG, you’ll buy 480 gallons to drive 12k miles and will pay $1776 per year in fuel if you pay $3.70 per gallon.
If you spend $21K on a hybrid vehicle that achieves 50 MPG, you’ll buy 240 gallons to drive 12k miles and will pay $888 per year in fuel if you pay $3.70 per gallon.
Over 3 years of ownership, the Prius will have cost $2664 less to fuel than the 25 MPG vehicle. TRIPLE THE SAVINGS if you live in the UK. If you’re paying $10 per gallon, you will save approximately $8000 fuel costs over a 3 year ownership if you’re driving a 50mpg Prius versus some 25MPG non-hybrid vehicle.
I understand details about the hybrid battery replacement argument, but I won’t go into them here other than to say no Prius owner, from the beginning of time, has every had to pay to replace the battery. This is because of how Prius engineered the wear on it.
There’s another way to think of a hybrid purchase;
1) Even if you pay more for a hybrid vehicle than what you’d recover in savings, you’ll be reducing dependence on foreign oil, which reduces demand, which can ultimately help lower the price of gas.
2) Getting better gas mileage is better for the environment. Without regard to your position on global warming, I think that everyone agrees that planet is better off with the fewer pollutants we release into the air. If you achieve more miles for each gallon of gas you burn, you’ll be releasing fewer pollutants into the air.
We leased our first Toyota Prius Hybrid in 2001. We liked it so much that when the lease expired three years later, we bought our second one. I’ve just returned from a Sunday drive and noticed that the display shows 52 MPG for the past 200 miles driven.