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Transportation Earth The Almighty Buck Technology

Just One Out of 16 Hybrids Pays Back In Gas Savings 762

thecarchik writes with this snippet from GreenCarReports: "One of the criticisms of hybrid cars has historically been that there's no payback, especially given the cheap gasoline prices in the US. The extra money you spend on a hybrid isn't returned in gas savings, say critics. Well, that may be true, especially when regular gasoline is averaging $2.77 a gallon this week. But as we often point out, most people don't buy hybrids for payback — they buy them to make a statement about wanting to drive green. Nevertheless, a Canadian study has now looked at the question of hybrid payback in a country whose gasoline is more expensive than ours (roughly $3.70 per gallon this week), with surprising results. The British Columbia Automobile Association projected the fuel costs of 16 hybrids over five years against their purchase price and financing fees. In a study released in late July, only a single one of the 16 hybrids cost less to buy and run than its gasoline counterpart." The one car that would save you money, according the study, is the Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan — and it will only cost you $105,000.
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Just One Out of 16 Hybrids Pays Back In Gas Savings

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  • by synaptik ( 125 ) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:20PM (#33194646) Homepage

    That's how the market is supposed to work.

    Ideally, the invisible hand of the market would price the hybrid vehicles higher than their non-hybrid counterparts, to such a degree that the hybrid's price discounts the future value of the gasoline saved over the vehicle's lifetime. If the market didn't do this, an arbitrage opportunity would exist... and arbitrageurs would act upon it, which would have the effect of raising the price of the hybrids anyway.

    Obviously this will never work out perfectly outside of academia, but if you had a crystal ball and all future prices were knowable by all parties in the present, this is how the pricing would work out, all other variables held constant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 )

      A hybrid is a unique sort of car: it has a special cargo area to haul your smug around! It has never been about saving money, but about the very American idea of expressing your personal values through your choice of vehicle.

      • by SpryGuy ( 206254 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:34PM (#33195008)

        Well, you're half right. It's not about saving money. It's about trying to use less fossil fuels, even if it costs a little more. Because there are longer-term and indirect benefits. And yes, it's also about making a statement. But it's not ONLY about making a statement. It's about taking necessary first steps. Without early adopters paying more (which "early adopters" always do, especially in the world of high tech gadgets), the road wouldn't be paved for the masses down the road. Do you think the people who bought the first PS3's did it because they thought it would save them money in the long run? It's not ALWAYS about saving money.

        • by NeverVotedBush ( 1041088 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:51PM (#33195424)
          Sigh. Personally, I think it is about saving money and using less fossil fuels.

          I bought a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid after running the numbers. I broke even at around 27,000 miles and it's been gravy since then.

          I didn't take the price difference as between the base Civic and the HCH because the HCH was much closer to the EX version in terms of features. I got a $1500 tax rebate, did not have to pay excise tax, and until I switched to Michelin tires, was getting 50-54 mpg. The closest I came to that mileage before was with the Civic HX where I got 42-44 mpg.

          This was also through the time that gas creeped up over $3.50/gallon and such, but it worked for me.

          In fairness, my hybrid battery did need to be replaced at 67,000 miles but that was done under warranty and didn't cost me a penny. Spooked me a little though since the repair cost would have been $5000 instead of the $1500 the dealer had told me a replacement pack would cost at the time I bought the car. On the other hand, there are rebuilders out there who will take a bad pack apart, replace the dead cells, match all the other cells, and give it back to you for around $700.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by S-100 ( 1295224 )
            I hope in your "gravy" calculation you include your next battery change. And a worn-out battery will cost a hell of a lot more than $700 to replace. Also work the battery state into the depreciation of the vehicle. Like a worn set of tires, a half-used battery will also drive down resale value. And if/when better batteries are introduced in new vehicles, that will also notch down the resale value of your model.

            Current hybrids don't make economic sense except in extreme or lucky circumstances, or when y
            • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:38PM (#33196430)

              Current hybrids don't make economic sense except in extreme or lucky circumstances, or when your net benefit is based on government hand-outs.

              Kind of like gas-only vehicles only make sense with hundreds of billions of dollars in government hand outs to gas and oil companies? God forbid you have to pay the $8-12/gallon true cost of gasoline instead of the $2.50-$4/gallon subsidized price.

            • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @06:53PM (#33197572)

              Except that as of 2008 Toyota reported that they had sold a grant total of... 0 batteries due to wear and tear.

          • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:38PM (#33196428)
            In the report [], the Civic hybrid didn't quite break even during their arbitrary 5 year cutoff, but it was very close (-$290), and that was with no tax incentives. That car would have shown a positive return if they had even extended the time window to 6 years, or assume it was driven slightly more miles per year. (They also placed the value of a 37% reduction in CO2 emissions at $0.) So, the case for the Civic is very easy to build.

            In fact, the case for all the hybrids near the top (Civic, Prius, Insight) is very close, and several assumptions in the study are fairly arbitrary. It seems clear we are within a year or two of a new headline, "non-hybrids fail to provide savings." At that moment will everybody not driving a hybrid be accused of wasting money just to project an image of wanton wastefulness and pollution? I find the argument rather silly. People spend $1500 on leather upholstery and another $1200 on a fancy stereo system, and nobody complains. But spend an extra $290 to avoid emitting thousands of pounds of CO2, and suddenly you're some kind of leftist rebel.

            • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @06:05PM (#33196876) Homepage

              "People spend $1500 on leather upholstery and another $1200 on a fancy stereo system"

              Nobody is complaining about people spending money for an option that lets them express their opinion and show their feelings about the environment. I think what the discussion is centered around is whether hybrids will save the owner any money. The evidence appears (to me) to say that if you do save any money, it's less than you think.

              I think that's a reasonable discussion to have.

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:53PM (#33195468) Homepage Journal

          I'm not in the least interested in buying a hybrid. I want an all-electric car. I want a normal-size car that can do 80 mph uphill, and has at least 300 miles of range at typical highway speeds. Get the price under 50g, and I'll buy it. With any luck it'd become a family heirloom. The only dealings I want with petroleum are for lubrication and manufacture of the plastic parts.

          I'd love to buy a Tesla, but it's just too small, and let's face it, a wee bit on the expensive side.

          Too bad EEStor turned out to be a bust... ultracapacitors could solve this whole battery mess pretty easily if they just had adequate energy capacities. Everyone else is in the "discovery" phase, which usually translates to "impractical." Not that manipulating a (very) high voltage energy source for use in low voltage, high current motors is all that easy anyway. That whole (E = CVV/2) thing is a cast-iron bitch on a number of fronts.

          Oh, well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by saskboy ( 600063 )

            I too want an affordable electric car that gets decent speed and distance. Although, living in Canada where it's cold at least 4 months of the year, I'm thinking a plug-in hybrid may be a better solution so heating comes from burning fuel, instead of burning coal at the power plant.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

              It's cold here in NE Montana too, we see -40f pretty much every winter. The thing about burning anything at the power plant, even petroleum, is that it is actually far more efficient than burning anything in the car. And of course, once the car is electric, the grid itself can change to anything - nuclear, solar, hydro, whatever - in any combination - and the car is oblivious. So you get a double benefit: First, you gain efficiency, and you also get flexibility at the plant level.

          • by rk ( 6314 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:12PM (#33195912) Journal

            I want a spaceship that runs on my kitchen garbage that can fly to Mars in 3 hours. I want it to cost 500 bucks and generate gold and platinum as waste products.

            I figured if we're going to fantasize, I might as well go for broke.

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:05PM (#33195762) Homepage

          Let's look at their numbers [] for the Prius comparison. Competitor: Toyota Matrix XR

          Matrix cost listed: $21,800 CAD
          Prius cost listed: $27,500 CAD
          Matrix total 5-year cost listed: $38,606 CAD
          Prius total 5-year cost listed: $40,324 CAD

          Assumptions: Total cost includes purchase price, financing, and fuel costs at $1.17/l ($4.43/gal CAD), less rebates. Does not include maintenance or insurance costs. Annual driving distance is 20,000 km (12,427 mi).

          Stats: I couldn't find a 2010 "Matrix XR". There's a "Matrix XRS". Heck, let's just assume that they mean the most efficient 2010 Matrix, which is a manual base model that gets 26/32mpg. The 2010 Prius gets 51/48mpg.

          Fuel consumption calculations: Given these numbers, the Matrix should consume 429 gallons per year at $1,898 for five years for a total of $9,492. The Prius should consume 251 gallons per year at $1,112/yr for five years for a total of $5,561. The difference, then, is $3,931 CAD. I don't know what "rebates" or "financing" costs they're assuming, but their combination of rebates and financing seems to be approximately a net zero, so the rebate value must be low and the financing costs high.

          To quote Billy Mays, however: "But wait, there's more!"

          Unlike in this study, a vehicle doesn't just vanish into thin air after five years. The average age of a vehicle on the road in the US today is over 9.5 years and rising. Hence, the projected lifespan until the vehicle hits the scrapheap is about 20 years. So the total fuel difference is actually $15,724 CAD. Some last longer, some shorter. And even if your argument is, "well, I'll just sell my car after five years" -- that leaves two options:

          1) The low cost of gas the Prius provides will be reflected in the resale price; OR
          2) The buyer of a new Prius may get a bum deal, but the buyer of a used Prius gets a correspondingly *excellent* deal.

      • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:13PM (#33195942)

        The study assumed several things and was way too narrow in scope.

        I bought a 2002 Prius at 1 year of age. The purchase cost covered all maintenance for the first 100,000 miles. Some other cars do that too. I commute 30 miles one way to work. The study was limited to the first 5 years of a new car purchase. This covers the depreciation of driving it off the showroom floor which I have never purchased.

        Now for some stats, I'm averaging 46 MPG. I have driven 135,000 miles. I'm well into the gas payback as this purchase was planned to be kept until the wheels fall off. The payback not covered in the study has been maintenance.

        I have had to buy the usual replacement sets of tires. No savings there. Oil changes are less frequent. Some savings there. I have had to replace the small 12 volt battery twice, about the norm for a car that age.

        Now compared to cars the same age I used to drive.. I have had no need to change any belts, hoses, starters, water pumps, brake pads, etc. The sum total of items failed has been the bulb in the dome light.

        Due to the lack of a starter motor, this is won't ever be a repair bill. The car has only one belt, the AC belt. The new model eliminated that belt. There is no belt driven water pump. The electric pump has been very reliable. The regenerative breaking drastically reduces brake wear. At my 80,000 miles tire change I checked the brakes and had 80% remaining. They will need changed at about 200,000 miles. The car has a linear electric motor for the power steering assistance, not hydraulic. Hose and pump failure won't happen.

        The mechanical portion of the transmission has less than 10 moving parts, none of which is a clutch, band, or disk, or friction part. A mechanical transmission failure is very unlikely. If the hybrid battery pack fails, it is less expensive than most transmission replacements. I will be unlikely to need to replace the entire pack. Replacing a failed 7.2 volt module from the 36 module pack is much more likely. The modules are recyclable. Finding a used one at the same age of the rest of the pack won't be too difficult.

        I am well into the payback period and loving it. My wife's car of the same age has already been in for a couple repairs exceeding $300 each.

        I bought the car knowing that low repair bills was part of the payback. I figured the payback for 100,000 miles at the time I bought it. The gas prices then was at the 2003 gas prices.

        The short sighted report listed a 5 year ownership. It did not list a 100,000+ mile study. I did my study when gas was under $2/gallon. Over the life of my car ownership, the gas prices were higher as anticipated and the payback period started well before 100,000 miles. The Prius replaced another smaller 4 cylinder car, not a large gas hog.

        If you counted the first five years of my car's ownership, the study would have been correct as the payback period was just being reached.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:18PM (#33196028) Journal

        A hybrid is a unique sort of car:

        A $80,000 sports car is also unique. People are willing to pay premiums for all sorts of things. They'll pay premiums for the status of driving a car that's worth twice the yearly income of a working-class family. They'll pay premiums to drive cars that use four times the amount of gasoline to travel one mile as other cars, just to make it look like they can afford it. They'll pay premiums for "sports cars" to make it look like they're younger than they really are.

        You want to talk about "smug"? You ever talk to someone who lives in the city and drives one of these huge SUVs that look like locomotives? You ever talk to someone who drives one of the new Bentleys or Aston-Martin DB9s?

        All of those things, status, looking young, looking wealthy, they're all subjective and illusory reasons to buy a car. So why do you have such a problem because someone wants to pay a much smaller premium to drive a car that is more fuel efficient? Even if the premium is never payed for by the differential between fuel economy and price difference. Do you really think the guy with the $170,000 Bentley or $2.5 million Bugatti Veyron is ever going to get enough pussy to pay for the difference in price? Do you believe the "he-man" type who drives his F250 pickup around downtown is ever going to realize the difference in his gasoline costs in make-believe macho?

        If people can express their "personal values" by stapling teabags to their hats and carrying racist signs, what's wrong with expressing their "personal values" by driving a fuel-efficient car?

    • Ideally, the invisible hand of the market would price the hybrid vehicles higher than their non-hybrid counterparts, to such a degree that the hybrid's price discounts the future value of the gasoline saved over the vehicle's lifetime. If the market didn't do this, an arbitrage opportunity would exist... and arbitrageurs would act upon it, which would have the effect of raising the price of the hybrids anyway.

      So, essentially the invisible hand is stupid and greedy, and there's no incentive for anybody to ma

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender ( 156273 )

      Arbitrage? Are you kidding? I don't know anybody who buys ten years worth of gasoline futures contracts along with their cars. Market forces may set the price of used cars, but new cars are priced based on the image they project. There is no financial reason to buy a new car when used cars provides identical transportation abilities for half the price.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

        There is no financial reason to buy a new car when used cars provides identical transportation abilities for half the price.

        I've got a 12 year-old Mazda that is perfect for carrying me the 2500 or so miles I drive every year. The upkeep is negligible and the thing uses very little gas.

        You think a Prius-owner is smug, you should see me when I meet a friend who's still paying a $400 car note every month.

        Doesn't it bother anyone else that our entire economy is based upon most people being chumps?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ajrs ( 186276 )

      that is how the market worked. For some period of time you could sell a used Prius for about what you paid for it.

      1. buy a prius
      2. dive it around for a year
      3. buy another one
      4. sell the old one
      5. get a tax credit
      6. profit!

      no ????. The size of the 'profit!' depended on the value of the tax credit, the cost to buy and sell a car (taxes, fees), and one year of depreciation after supply rose to meet demand.

  • Misleading summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by e065c8515d206cb0e190 ( 1785896 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:22PM (#33194700)

    The one car that would save you money, according the study, is the Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan — and it will only cost you $105,000.

    The retail price of that car seems to be ~$80k. The given figure includes gasoline costs over time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      $105,000 is the MSRP in CAD. Yes, even though the exchange rates are almost at parity, we are gouged.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

        Google tells me that 1 U.S. dollar = 1.02670037 Canadian dollars.
        It also tells me that 105 000 Canadian dollars = 102 269.37 U.S. dollars
        We're getting gouged for 22 269.37 USD, which is more than a quarter of the MSRP in the USA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

      I don't see why it's misleading, the summary talks about cost to own and operate, not just cost to own.

      If you want to work out for yourself whether or not a hybrid is worth it for you to buy, it's pretty simple. Look for what you want in a car within your budget, pick both a gas and a hybrid that meet your criteria. Take the difference in price between them - the hybrid will almost certainly be more expensive, but if not, stop there and take the hybrid (it's a magical case that will save you a crapton of

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jeff4747 ( 256583 )

        The cost to operate is probably a bit more complicated than that.

        For example, many states allow you to drive in their HOV lanes (aka 'carpool lane') if you are by yourself in a hybrid. Depending on your commute route, that can save a ton of gas, not to mention time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)


            You also forgot to factor in the cost of money. I.e., if you banked the $5000 instead, you'd have that much more money at the end of the car ownership period. In 10 years at 7%, that $5000 becomes almost $10,000 (depending on how you compound the interest.)

            And then, you also forgot to factor in the cost of externalities. How much is your reduced production of CO2 going to save in reduced damage to the environment?


  • Well..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HappyCycling ( 565803 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:23PM (#33194722)
    Not if you buy a used hybrid.
    • Depends. Hybrids would logically have a higher resale value, so comparing a used hybrid to it's used gasoline counterpart is still an unknown result. Still though, I can guarantee that there will still be some obstacle to overcome before breaking even, as you will pay some premium regardless.

    • Not if you buy a used hybrid.

      And you factored in the replacement battery costs after five years of owning a used one?

      There's a reason people sell them off after a while.

    • Re:Well..... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:37PM (#33196390)

      There is still a price gap of a couple thousand dollars, which will still take about a decade to make up. Buying a used civic hybrid instead of a used civic will only take you 10 years to make up the difference, instead of a new civic hybrid vs a new civic, which takes 30+ years, but it's still a long time, and the car already has wear now.

  • It's reasonable to consider the total cost of ownership (including fuel) of a (for example) Prius vs. a Camry.

    But the dollar-cost is only relevant to the environmental issues, insofar as it affects uptake of hybrid vehicles.

    A more important issue for us, long term, is how much polution is produced for the creation an use of (for example) a Prius vs. a Camry.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...and destruction....environmentalists always forget that at some point all those batteries need to be disposed of somewhere.

      • Batteries can be recycled. Almost all lead-acid batteries are currently recycled, and I'm sure NiMH and Li-ion batteries are just as recyclable.

        Pollution can't be recycled.

        • by mini me ( 132455 )

          That's not really true either. The outputs from an engine make great fertilizer to grow crops, which can be turned back into fuel. It is already happening on a small scale, but it is true that there is no large scale emission recycling happening today.

      • correct - those batteries are taken to the busiest inner-city intersection and pulverized down to an airborne particulate size for all to inhale, cling to structures, flood down drains, etc. mmm - lithium.

        anyway... wake me when U.S. / Canadian gas prices are $7.10 to $7.90/gallon.
        (* at 1.419 .. 1.579 Euro/liter in NL, 1.32328 USD/EUR ( and 3.78541178 liters/gallon)

    • A more important issue for us, long term, is how much polution is produced for the creation an use of (for example) a Prius vs. a Camry.

      With modern emission controls, that Camry is not putting out much in the way of emissions. And because the batteries are pretty limited on a Prius, it's going to be running the engine pretty often.

      You also have to factor in the environmental cost of the batteries in the Prius, both manufacture and whatever is lost in reclamation.

      In the end, just because of the batteries al

    • by HolyCrapSCOsux ( 700114 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:36PM (#33195040)

      From what I understand, nickel (used in Prius batteries) mining is much more polluting than burning hydrocarbons. (Which the Prius still does occasionally)

      There is more to enviromental impact than what comes out of the tailpipe...

      • the Nickel myth (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spage ( 73271 ) <spage&skierpage,com> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:12AM (#33200486)

        Nickel isn't polluting, it just sits there. Presumably you mean the production of a few hundred pounds of NiMH batteries, containing (if I recall correctly) about 20 pounds of nickel. Note that the chrome and steel in a regular car already contains nickel, and that the real toxic villain is the lead-ACID battery in a conventional car

        So what makes you think the pollution from manufacturing a few hundred pounds of recyclable batteries is remotely comparable to the TONS of gasoline and CO2 saved over 100,000 miles by driving a more fuel-efficient car? Repeating crap you've heard doesn't make it true.

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:26PM (#33194776)

    Well here in the UK my local garage is selling petrol/gasoline at 1.20 GBP / litre, there are 3.79 litres to 1 US gallon = 4.55 GBP / gallon, x 1.45 (pounds to dollars) so we're at $6.60 /US gallon. You can probably find it for 1.17, a few pennies cheaper, but probably it's around the 1.20 mark give or take a tiny bit across the country. Rest of Europe probably similar.

    So quite a difference from the 2.77 you pay in the USA and so hybrids perhaps more economically viable here.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 )

      Hence why Americans like to drive cars with 6L v8s and can afford to drive a truck to work everyday.

      • by name_already_taken ( 540581 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:40PM (#33195150)

        Hence why Americans like to drive cars with 6L v8s and can afford to drive a truck to work everyday.

        Some of them. Last time I looked it up, the average engine size in the USA was in the 2.5L to 3L range. There are a lot more small-displacement cars on the road than there were 15 years ago.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by zoney_ie ( 740061 )

          2.5 to 3 l is still in the laughably absurd range here in Europe!

          A small car here is 1 l (actually just under), and a lot of people would have medium cars only a bit over that (maybe 1.2-1.4 l). Bigger engines for diesel though, but then that even so is usually more economic (just a higher up-front cost for the car and potentially less performance).

    • by Monkey_Genius ( 669908 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:55PM (#33195484)
      The reason you pay such high fuel prices in the U.K. is because your government is gouging the bloody hell out of its citizens with taxes []. The U.S. has historically had significantly lower taxes on fuel than the rest of the free world. That being said, crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices in the U.S. are inching their way back up despite record high inventory levels and reduced demand due to the prolonged recession. Those of you who are paying less than $3.00 USD per gallon here in the U.S. should consider yourselves fortunate.
      The pundits in the financial press attribute much of the recent run-up in prices to the falling value of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies such as the Euro. While this may account for some of the upward price pressure, much of the gains are due to hedging of currency risk by large firms such as Morgan Stanley -the same bastards that were responsible for bidding the price of crude to record highs in the summer of 2008 while that squint Bush was telling the world it was the Chinese and their demand that was responsible for the high prices.
  • so that we can feel good about being green?
    Don't forget that hat $7000 credit has a greenhouse gas carbon footprint, too.

    • Pretty much. The idea is to encourage responsible behavior through financial incentives.

      Once the responsible behavior has become prevalent, they can slowly take away the financial incentive, and the market will push products toward that responsible state.

      (See the benefits provided through marriage, whose "responsible behavior" is intended to be creating children for one such incentive that has been bastardized over time to the point of unrecognizability.)

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:26PM (#33194790)

    So the time frame is only over 5 years? Cars can and do last longer than that. Also the comparisons are against the non-hybrid equivalent (Camry Hybrid v Camry, Fusion Hybrid v Fusion). What did they compare the Prius to since it does not have a conventional equivalent?

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:34PM (#33194994)

      Exactly. My car is 16 years old, and my wife's is 10. What kind of moron only keeps a car 5 years? Even if the original owner sells it, it generally lives a long life with the subsequent owners, unless it's some POS that falls apart right after the warranty expires. Toyotas are generally known for having very long service lives (as long as they don't have a stuck gas pedal incident....)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      I would use a corolla to compare it myself.

  • Fuel prices aren't static and are likely to go up. Then again, considering the length of ownership, the increase may not make a difference.

    The truth is you should not be buying a car on any "gimmicks", but rather on figures that match your driving pattern. For example some cars probably do better doing long distance, while others are better in the city. While manufacturer's figures aren't always accurate, they are probably accurate enough to decide whether you are making a energy consumption saving, no matt

  • by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:29PM (#33194864)

    The hybrids only cost more if you ignore the externalities []. That is, if you conveniently ignore the cost of our climate warming up, and the cost in blood and treasure of maintaining access to oil, then sure, the hybrid costs more. Bicycles are even cheaper, if you ignore the cost of your time and of becoming a smear on the expressway. How about hitchhiking?.

    • Yes, but everyone else is still driving their 4 mpg trucks to work and back, so we all still get the negatives of the externalities either way. Why pay more to make other people's lives easier?

      Tragedy of the commons, if you will.

    • by rsborg ( 111459 )

      Bicycles are even cheaper, if you ignore the cost of your time and of becoming a smear on the expressway.

      If you live so far away you need to ride your bike via expressway, don't do it. Also, there are benefits gained by riding on even a semi-regular basis (ie, fitness).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Haffner ( 1349071 )

      How about hitchhiking?.

      Untimely demise by chainsaw

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:52PM (#33195426)

      The hybrids only cost more if you ignore the externalities.

      I'm used to the modern digital world, where everything is available for free and you only pay for something if you want to reward the folks whom made it.

      My buying choice was to either:

      1) Send $3000 to the Japanese, whom will spend the profit on formulaic movies about women and tentacles


      2) Send $1000 to the Saudis, whom will bankroll their citizens into flying aircraft into our tall buildings.

      I'm much happier sending a little more to the Japanese than a little less to the Saudis.

  • My 2007 Prius was $13500 used with 45000 miles, which is about $1500 more than a similarly equipped Corolla with similar mileage and age.

    I bought it from out of state, so I qualify for a tax credit. Even if I did not, it works out to be cheaper long term than a Corolla.

  • Five years!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rnelsonee ( 98732 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:30PM (#33194890)

    Well, it usually takes over 100,000 miles to break even, so the study, which only considers 5 years, is fairly useless. On a thread last week, someone calculated that a Prius will take 320,000 miles to to break even (and I checked the math, as we all like to do!). And the average Prius will last longer than 5 years - especially since those with a "greener" lifestyle know how bad buying a new car is for the environment.

    I'd imagine about half of the cars pay back the owner in fuel costs. And it's obviously variable as gas prices are fairly volatile lately...

  • One has to wonder how Canadian dealers' sustained massive price premiums - despite the rise in value of the Canadian dollar - play into this study. If you could purchase a hybrid at the American price, which tends to be much easier on the car buyer in general, the difference might be more pronounced.
  • by El_Smack ( 267329 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:33PM (#33194964)
    Think of today's Hybrids as the equivalent of the first iPod. "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." It's the 3rd and 4th gen of these vehicles that will blow everything else out off the road, in a matter of speaking.
  • by Lank ( 19922 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:34PM (#33194996)
    Look, is it so hard to believe that someone would buy a hybrid to make a statement not to others, but to the car manufacturers making these products? I own a Honda Civic hybrid. It's not much to look at and it certainly doesn't turn heads. On the other hand, I bought it new from a Honda dealer in California when they were trying to push a lot more expensive cars on me. Why? Because I want Honda to know that I'd rather be green than cool or hip or whatever. I want Honda to know that it's important to ME so in the future they'll make cars better-suited to ME.

    From one of the linked articles, "Translation: The kinds of people who buy Toyota Prius hybrids in the U.S. may indulge themselves in private, where no one else will see them, but want to be seen in public with less luxurious, greener products to bolster their reputation."

    I call bullshit. I didn't do it to bolster my reputation. I put my money where my mouth is and instead of getting on a soapbox and telling everyone to go out and buy a hybrid, I actually bought one.

    I don't care that I probably spent more than I'll recoup from the fuel-efficiency. For me, it wasn't about that.
    • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:42PM (#33195196)

      The thing is, if you are TRULY concerned about the environment (and must drive a car), then you would buy a used car.

      The amount of energy and resources and toxic chemicals involved in the car manufacturing process FAR outweighs any "statement" you make with a hybrid.

      And if you REALLY REALLY care about the environment, you would carpool, or take the bus (if it's available), or walk or ride your bike.

      What I'm saying is, you aren't being "green" by buying a hybrid. You're just pretending. You're a poseur.

      • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:57PM (#33195546) Journal

        Or, he's thinking of the long term rather than short term. If his buying a hybrid kicks in to the car companies that they should make hybrids and they do, then in the long term it will create much more efficient cars everywhere rather than just his one bike trip back and forth to work and the store.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "Buy used" is a nice sentiment and all, but if everyone follows that sentiment who the heck are you going to buy it from?

        Somebody needs to be first purchaser, and if the only people who are willing to be first purchasers don't buy the cars you want to buy used you are SOL.

  • They have flawed comparisons in their "hybrid-only" cars.

    They compare the Prius to the slightly smaller and noticeably less well appointed Matrix XR. The Prius has a unique spot in Toyota's lineup, falling between the Corolla and Camry. The Matrix may be closest - being basically a Corolla wagon, but it is still smaller. The $1700-over-5-years buys you more than a $1700 upgrade in car size and appointment.

    Same with the Honda Civic DX-G vs. Insight. The Civic is a smaller, less well appointed vehicle, the upgrade to an Insight is more than worth the $1200-over-5-years difference.

    Not to mention they quote some of the hybrids at higher-than-base packages, while the conventional equivalents are base. (Or they compare versions that have higher-than-base stock to the base conventional, such as all the Lexus models - which all come at higher-than-base packages compared to their non-hybrid equivalents. The LS coming at 'fully loaded' as the only choice on the hybrid.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Yes - I rented a Prius for a couple of weeks while I was between cars, and liked it quite a bit, so much that I looked fairly earnestly for a used one. Unfortunately there were very few used Priuses available, and they were about twice my budget.

      Overall I was surprised by how comfortable and roomy the car was, and how well it went on the freeway - I often see Priuses putting along in the slow lane, and assumed that they were gutless. I was wrong - they step out OK, and they can keep up on the freeway just

  • Here is the actual study (took a few clicks to find it):

    A car lasts a lot longer than 5 years. If you want to calculate the cost over 5 years you'll need to subtract the resale value of the car, which will be higher for a hybrid. It doesn't appear they've done that.

    While I agree that cost savings of a hybrid vehicle are overblown, this study is misleading. Also, another benefit of buying a hybrid vehicle was that until recently you could drive

    • by RelliK ( 4466 )

      Hate to reply to myself, but here is what I mean:

      "Long-term depreciation and resale values remain unknown so are assumed to be neutral."

      (from the pdf).

  • Oil is cheaper, more efficient, better for the economy, for the country, for jobs, more "American" (whatever that means). Oil might even be more ecological. I cannot fathom what motivates such conclusions. I just wonder if it has anything to do with money, and the the term "petro-dollars", and prices and profits and stuff. And I assume "yes", and I have no friggen clue why, other than my own brain seems to say so.
  • fuel costs of 16 hybrids over five years

    Really? 5 Years? Is that really the lifetime of a car?

  • Other conclusions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:42PM (#33195204)
    The actual numbers are quite interesting. [] The study seems to be doing a decent job of adjusting for other aspects of car quality and features. To do this, they directly compare hybrid and non-hybrid versions of various cars, or very similar cars by the same manufacturer when this is not possible.

    What's interesting, to me at least, is how small the "hybrid loss" actually is for many of the popular models. The extra cost to buy and operate a Toyota Prius, over the Toyota Matrix XR, is apparently $1,718 over 5 years, or $343/year. This isn't that much to a person who cares about the environment. Consider, for instance, that this will apparently reduct CO2 emissions by 1242 kg/year. This means that it "costs" the environmentally-conscious consumer about 28 cents per kg of CO2 reduced. Doesn't sound too bad.

    Also worth noting is that the vehicle costs were apparently based on MSRP. Thus any incentive program (e.g. government rebates) only have to be on the order of a few thousand dollars to make the hybrid cheaper overall. I would, personally, prefer it if the hybrid technology were cheaper no matter what (so that there was no excuse not to buy one), but the fact that the extra cost is so small makes it fairly reasonable to subsidize it in the name of environmental protection. (Or, conversely, taxing more-polluting vehicles or energy sources for the externality of environmental damage they cause.)

    Again, I think it's well-known that it's generally cheaper to do environmental damage, and more costly to protect the environment. But I see these numbers as being very encouraging: the technology is now at a point where the extra cost of hybrid technology can be made quite small. (For instance it's only $290 extra over 5-years to own and operate the Honda Civic Hybrid vs. the Honda Civic EX. That shows how close we are to hybrid vehicles being cost competitive with conventional vehicles, even without government rebates.)
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:45PM (#33195276)
    My civic hybrid cost $4000 more than the non-hybrid version. I figured I would have to put about 100,000 miles on it to reach break-even, even with $3/gallon gas. However, I now have over 120,000 miles on it, so it is now actually saving me money. (There have not yet been any additional maintenance expenses because if it being a hybrid, but the IMA light on the dash is now on all the time.) Of coarse buying fuel-efficiency now partially protects you from future volatility in the fuel markets -- I'd be willing to pay extra for a true multi-fueler if one was available.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wizkid ( 13692 )

      I'm willing to bet this doesn't take into consideration the higher resale value of hybrid's. That's one other factor to consider.

  • by Servo ( 9177 ) <> on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:47PM (#33195322) Journal

    There are definitely folks out there who can afford to buy a hybrid without concern of gas savings, but most people are going to buy a vehicle that is within their financial means so the upfront cost has to face the reality of cost of ownership. I was one of those people who put enough miles on their car to warrant a hybrid. I did the math and it was cheaper to buy a brand new Prius than continue driving my paid off SUV, due to ongoing maintenance and fuel costs. Several years later, I opted to trade the Prius in for a "clean diesel" that delivers nearly the same MPG but with more comfort and space than the Prius offered. It costs me a bit more overall but due to my changing needs and cramped legroom I think its worth it. Environmentally speaking, I like having a vehicle that pollutes less, but I can't afford not to drive something as fuel efficient which is ultimately why I bought one.

  • Not an accident (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:47PM (#33195324)
    There's a reason that gas cars are cheaper. The oil companies are not stupid. They know the price point at which alternative fuels become competitive with gas and they keep the price a little below that. The price of oil is not high enough for anything else to compete....and it'll stay that way barring government interference. It's good for oil companies, they're rolling in the dough. It's good for consumers, gas is cheap and plentiful. It's good for politicians, their voters are happy with them. When glitches happen to the fuel supply and price drives high then all sorts of alternative power supply comes out of the woodwork. The price never stays high for long though. No one wants expensive fuel.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnFx ( 1531381 )

      There's a reason that gas cars are cheaper. The oil companies are not stupid. They know the price point at which alternative fuels become competitive with gas and they keep the price a little below that. The price of oil is not high enough for anything else to compete....and it'll stay that way barring government interference. It's good for oil companies, they're rolling in the dough. It's good for consumers, gas is cheap and plentiful. It's good for politicians, their voters are happy with them. When glitches happen to the fuel supply and price drives high then all sorts of alternative power supply comes out of the woodwork. The price never stays high for long though. No one wants expensive fuel.

      Dragging out the tired old oil company conspiracy again huh? So the car companies co-operate with this evil plan despite an overwhelming demand for a product that they could profitably sell, to prop up another industry? I suppose that works under the assumption that all big companies are evil, and thus colluding to screw the planet like some evil super-villain alliance. In the real world, I severely doubt that type of cartel-esque arrangement would hold up long. Forgive me, but I only see the Quid, but the

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:49PM (#33195368)

    Most hybrids are only a couple of years old, and will be on the road for at least another decade. At the moment, my Prius is an environmental statement and a fun engineering toy, but beginning around 2012-2013, I expect it to start looking like a very good investment.

  • Of course. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:50PM (#33195386) Homepage

    As with all economics related to energy, we're not factoring any of the environmental costs in. So a hybrid might cost more, or it might be saving thousands of dollars. Without factoring in things like pollution, and destructive weather caused by climate change it's really hard to know.

  • Wait, what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:19PM (#33196078)

    It says the Ford Escape Hybrid costs $35k?

    My wife bought her brand new 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid in Dec. 2006 for $24K. The non-hybrid model was about $20K. She averages about 32 MPG in it, about 12 MPG over the conventional model.

    At 22,000 miles/year, she saves about $1144/year at $2.77/gal. Plus we got the $1500 tax break. The "hybrid premium" was paid off sometime in late 2008. She now saves over $1100/year over the non-hybrid.

    I want to see some methodology on this study.

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:22PM (#33196148)
    I used Edmunds Cost of ownership list. []

    At my office everyone was trying to out-hybrid each other, and talking about all the money they would save. At 5 dollars a gallon it really seemed worth it to them to buy brand new hybrids.

    I showed that at 10 dollars a gallon the civic hybrid finally paid for itself in the typical 5 year ownership term over the non-hybrid, nothing else even came close until you modeled gas at 11 dollars a gallon.

    For kicks I modeled a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo - a Giant Gas-wasting monster of a 2-seater. And showed that assuming you needed 150/month for ongoing maintenance, You could buy another one each year, fill it with 5 dollar gas all year, then set it on fire, using 10 gallons of gasoline before buying a new one... and it would still be significantly cheaper to own than a prius.

    I get it, it's about conspicuous conservation. But Faux Green is pretty played out.

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