Save The Earth or Your Wallet? The Pros and Cons to Owning a Hybrid Vehicle

With the growing concern of gas prices still on our minds, the public has heard about different alternatives for vehicles that can help us through the tough times and help us with better fuel efficiency.

Among all of the numerous ideas out there, one has become the most popular: the hybrid vehicle. There is some controversy as to whether you’re really going to benefit from a hybrid vehicle; let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

The Pros:

1. Better gas mileage: Hybrids get better gas mileage overall, but not by much on the highway. However, for city driving, there’s a considerable difference. With reference to city miles, you can expect to get an average of 9 mpg better gas mileage in a hybrid vehicle as compared to its non-hybrid counterpart.

Some hybrid vehicles do better and some do worse. However, with reference to highway miles, you will on average only get 2 to 3 mpg better in the hybrid vehicle. It’s still a difference and over time it adds up a bit, but most of your savings comes from the city mileage.

2. Less Pollution: The emissions on a hybrid is considerably less than in a traditionally gas powered vehicle. Hybrid vehicles have been proved to be terrific for the environment.

If this is your main objective, then a hybrid would definitely be the way to go. This is why some celebrities have gone with hybrid vehicles.

3. Incentives and insurance breaks: As far as any tax breaks go, it’s almost the end of the line for them. Most of the tax breaks have already ended for hybrid vehicles, though there are a few left through the end of 2008. After that, the tax incentives are gone. However, there are some insurance companies that have reduced rates on hybrid vehicles.

Also, some corporations are offering their employees incentives for owning hybrid vehicles. If you work for a large corporation, you may want to look into any incentive programs they may have.

4. Prestige: Because hybrid vehicles are so great for the environment, they have become almost the politically correct vehicles to purchase. As mentioned, a lot of well-known celebrities have started to purchase hybrid vehicles.

Therefore, owning a hybrid vehicle makes a statement that says you care about the environment.

The Cons:

1. The Batteries: Though the batteries on hybrid vehicles are said to last longer than that of a non-hybrid vehicle, a hybrid battery costs about $5,000. The other problem is that it’s not as simple as replacing it yourself. The car dealership has to be the one to do it. So, there’s a large additional cost also.

The batteries are supposed to last about 150,000 miles, but you have no guarantee on that. So, when you purchase a hybrid vehicle, you run the risk of needing a very expensive battery at some point. Also, this would be a lot more inconvenient than replacing a traditional car battery.

2. The Cost: It’s definitely less expensive to purchase a non-hybrid equivalent than it is to purchase a hybrid vehicle. Let’s look at some examples.

Compare the 2009 Toyota Camry and the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. The regular Camry starts at $19,145 versus $26,150 that the hybrid equivalent costs. The Camry gets about 27 mpg (combined city and highway) versus the hybrid, which gets about 34 mpg (combined).

In order to make up the $7,000 price difference, you would have to drive the vehicle for 204,000 miles before you would break even at $4.50 per gallon or 183,000 miles if gas were $5 per gallon.

What about with a hybrid SUV? Well, the 2009 Ford Escape starts at $20,100 and gets 25 mpg (combined) while the Ford Escape Hybrid starts at $29,305 and gets 33 mpg (combined).

If gas were $4.50 per gallon, you would have to drive the vehicle for 267,000 miles and you would have to drive it at 241,000 if the price of gas were $5 per gallon.

Now, a few car makers are coming out with a hybrid pickup truck. So how will this compare price wise? Well, the 2009 Chevy Silverado is priced at $27,725 with a gas mileage of 17 mpg. Though the hybrid is not yet out, they estimate that it will start in the mid $30,000s. So, we’ll call this an even $35,000.

They also estimate that the gas mileage will be about 20 mpg for highway and city miles. Given this information, you would need to drive your hybrid for 212,000 miles at $4.50 per gallon and 190,000 miles at $5.00 per gallon before you would break even.

From this information, it’s safe to say that on the average it is more cost efficient to purchase the non-hybrid vehicle. Also, keep in mind that you would also be paying extra money on the finance charges of the price difference.

In addition, by the time you drive the vehicle that much, you will most likely need a new hybrid battery at an average cost of $5,000.

As to which vehicle is the right choice for you is personal preference. Driving a hybrid is definitely better for the environment. Hybrids also seem to be the wave of the future and are certainly more fuel-efficient.

However, you also have to pay more on the overall sticker price of the vehicle, a very expensive battery, and a big inconvenience if you do need to have your hybrid battery changed.

Leave a Comment

  1. Nobilis says:

    One thing to consider is the “plug-in” hybrid. Power plants are FAR more efficient than little gasoline generators. The estimates I’ve seen say that even with all the inefficiencies of transmission, you’re still getting something like the equivalent of 100mpg when you’re in the “electric only” mode until the battery is drained enough to need to turn on the engine. If your commute is short, this option can completely change the calculus.

    There are people who are doing plug-in conversions on existing hybrids, and some carmakers are coming out with plug-in versions of their hybrid vehicles soon.

  2. greenlanding says:

    Until the hybrids become more efficient you are better off buying a regular small car and just driving it as efficiently as possible. You'll save both money and gas.