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Are Hybrids Worth it?

Is that Prius worth it?

The cry has gone out. You must drive a hybrid if you are going to be environmentally responsible. That sounds great on the surface, but what happens when you give the surface a good scratching? Are hybrids really worth buying?

The answer, of course, is case-specific, and there is more at stake here than simple economics–there are ethical and environmental considerations–but let’s have a look at a common side-by-side matchup.

Cost

The measure of any good deal is the sticker price. Well, when you slap a hybrid tag on a car the price suddenly jumps an average of 20 percent–that’s a serious premium! The top seller in the hybrid market is the Toyota Prius. When you compare the 2014 Prius V to the 2014 Hyundai Accent sedan–a comparable sedan in terms of size, features, and utility–the Prius costs about $13,000 more. The two vehicles seem like good ones for comparison, given the Prius’s popularity and the Hyundai’s complementary nature.

MPG

Many of the pure hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV) deliver 40-50 mpg. You also have the option to buy plug-in hybrids (PHEV) as well. These plug-ins offer you the first 30-50 miles while running on an all electric engine, thus using zero gasoline. The drawback is that you have to be traveling at less than 40 mph in most cases. Another negative for a plug-in hybrid is that it costs even more than a regular hybrid, and you may need a 220-volt wall socket to enjoy a recharge time that doesn’t take all night. This is especially important if you go one step further, opting for a pure electric vehicle (EV) instead of a hybrid, meaning you rely solely on electricity, with no gasoline engine. Such an outlet upgrade can cost $500 to $2000, according to Tesla owners who have been through the process.

Is a Hybrid Car Worth the Money?

That is the question of the day. Let’s look at how long it takes you to actually see any savings. Going back to the comparison above between the Hyundai Accent and the Toyota Prius V. The difference in price is $13,000, so how long will it take for you to recoup that thirteen grand through fuel savings. Let’s see, the Accent gets 38 mpg on the highway and the Prius 50. You get a bonus of 12 mpg. With an average fuel tank of 12 gallons, you get an extra 144 miles per tank. Awesome, right? Almost three whole gallons worth of mileage between fill-ups. So, you save $12, assuming gas is $4 a gallon. Now, divide thirteen grand by $12, how long does it take for the hybrid to pay for itself? Like 1,083 fill-ups.

So, in this specific case, a hybrid doesn’t seem like a worthwhile investment–at least not in simple economics. Of course, “worth” can be defined in different ways. What price are you willing to pay to reduce your carbon footprint?

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