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To Hybrid Or Not To Hybrid?

Hybrids almost always cost more than comparable, conventionally powered models.

But the Toyota Camry Hybrid will save enough in gas to recoup that extra cost in well under two years, which makes it an excellent deal.

Hybrids almost always cost more than comparable, conventionally-powered models.

Indeed, we can’t understand why anyone would buy a Camry without the gas-saving, environment-friendly hybrid powertrain.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about most other hybrids, some of which need more than a decade of savings to recoup their higher initial price.

We got our information from the car-shopping website Edmunds.com, which recently studied the most popular 2009 and 2010 hybrids to see which ones made financial sense.

It compared the sticker prices of hybrid and non-hybrid models, and assumed gas would cost an average of $2.53 a gallon over 15,000 miles of driving a year.

The 2010 Camry Hybrid was the clear winner, needing just 1.4 years to recover the additional $477 it costs over a comparable gas-engine-only Camry.

The top-selling hybrid, Toyota’s 2010 Prius, pays back its $1,489 premium over a Camry (there’s no conventionally powered Prius model) in a respectable 2.1 years.

Although Toyota likes to compare the Prius to the Camry, we think it’s much more similar in size and performance to a compact Corolla than a mid-size Camry.

And when Edmunds compared the Prius to the Corolla, it needed a whopping 11.3 years to recoup its extra cost.

Unfortunately, it’s also typical of pretty much every other hybrid on the market.

The well-reviewed Ford Fusion Hybrid requires 8.1 years to recoup its extra cost over the standard Fusion.

The Lexus’ RX 450h, which TV ads tout as a technological marvel, takes 10.1 years to recover the hefty $5,844 premium over a standard RX 350.

Nissan Altima Hybrid requires 11.4 years and the Honda Civic Hybrid 13.3 years.

You’d have to drive Chevrolet’s 2009 Silverado Hybrid pickup 16.4 years to before the savings on gas would offset its additional, initial expense.

One thing we noticed about the Edmunds report: The new Honda Insight is only available as a hybrid and isn’t compared to any gas-powered car such as the Civic.

As a result, we can’t tell you how the least-expensive hybrid on the market stacks up.

Comments (2)
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  1. Thai said:
    on November 29th at 03:03 pm

    This article is somewhat misleading.

    The 2010 non-hybred Camry’s start at $19,395 (MSRP) while the 2010 hybred Camry’s start at $26,140 (MSRP).

    To come close to the “…$477 it costs over a comparable gas-engine-only Camry…” the author shows, one would have to buy one-of-the most expensive non-hybred Camry’s.

    Like the * shown next to many advertised prices, one needs to look in the small print for such phrases as: “and up” or “starting at”.

  2. crankysaver said:
    on December 3rd at 11:11 am

    Edmonds.com is a pretty authoritative source of data on stuff like car prices. Here’s a link to the original story that offers payback times for a wide range of models, plus diesels:

    http://www.autoobserver.com/2009/07/diesels-paying-back-quicker-than-hybrids-edmundscom-reports.html

    This is a link to a followup story that deals mostly with revising Toyota payback times:

    http://www.autoobserver.com/2009/08/updated-data-revises-some-hybrid-payback-times.html

    And here’s a post from Edmunds Green Car Advisor that lists every hybrid and diesel model (as of last July) and its price, fuel economy and “premium” over a conventional counterpart:

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/07/still-shopping-with-big-rebates-hybrids-and-diesels-can-be-attractive.html