Consumer Reports: Hybrids Can Pay Back

September 4, 2008
Once a point of contention regarding gas-electric hybrids, Consumer Reports now affirms that the purchase of a hybrid can save consumers anywhere from $500 to $4,250 over a five-year ownership period. Especially with steep gas prices, the greater mileage afforded by even mild hybrids, such as General Motors' alternator-driven hybrid models with their small MPG increase, can offset the higher purchase price when compared with their traditional gas driven counterparts.

CR looked at 12 hybrids, some full hybrids, some mild hybrids like the vehicles offered by GM, and finally the SUV two-mode hybrids recently released by General Motors. Of the twelve vehicles total, six of them - the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Escape, Saturn Vue, and Toyota Camry - led CR to its claim of savings from $500 to $4,250. And these gains are even without the tax credits offered on several of the models by Uncle Sam for going geen. Significantly, the six models above actually pay back their price premium after just one year of ownership. Much of the bump is in depreciation values--hybrid vehicles are holding their values much better than many gas-only vehicles.

To compare cost, Consumer Reports used their own new-car owner-cost estimates form the April 2008 issue. The most savings were offered up by the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which netted 34 mpg overall in CR's testing. It set the bar in CR's tests, and netted the impressive $4,250 savings over a comparable gas-powered Toyota Camry XLE, which rang in at 24 mpg overall.

The Toyota Camry hybrid, which gets 34 mpg overall in CR's tests, saves the most money: about $4,250 over five years compared with a similarly equipped four-cylinder Toyota Camry XLE, which gets 24 mpg. Next up is the Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid, which saved about $3,000 compared to the non-hybrid 4-cylinder Vue. Finally, the Chevrolet Tahoe saved about $1,500. But currently, with tax credits, the Tahoe comes out ahead by a whopping $4,500, the Vue at $3,700.

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