Hybrid vehicles rank at the top of the list for payback and fuel cost savings over the life of the car owner's investment. While hybrid cars have existed for decades, the cost of a new hybrid often exceeded similar sized sedans and seemed out of reach of the average consumer. It wasn't until the late 1990s that hybrid vehicle pricing dropped to be competitive with that of traditional vehicles.
Base Cost Versus Return
In 2011, the base cost of a Prius four-door sedan is $22,000. This does not include dealer extras or upgrades. Similar style vehicles include the Ford Fusion ($28,800) and the Chevrolet Volt ($40,000). The wild variance in pricing of similarly styled and sized hybrids is directly related to the gas mileage the vehicles get. The investment return on a hybrid car is firmly found in the gas mileage savings and long-term maintenance costs versus other vehicles.
The Chevrolet Volt clocks 60 miles to the gallon of gas by using electricity for the first 40 miles driven (after charging) and gas for every subsequent mile after that until the battery is fully recharged. The car has a generator that allows it to continue running well past the initial charge, which means you don't have to worry about running out of juice while driving.
Like the Prius, the Ford Fusion is a pure hybrid, relying on electricity for travel under 20 miles per hour and using gas when the car is moving faster. This makes the Prius and the Ford Fusion ideal vehicles for areas with heavy traffic congestion where stop and go driving keeps vehicles moving at less than 20 miles per hour, typically during rush hour traffic. The vehicles average 40 to 45 miles to the gallon but can vary, depending on travel time and congestion.
How Does This Save Me Money?
In 2011, gas costs are soaring to an average of four dollars per gallon. The average commuter travels 40 miles round trip to work in stop and go traffic. The average car has a 10 to 12 gallon tank, which costs $40 to $60 to fill. The average gasoline powered engine uses more gas per mile in stop and go traffic when the accelerator is pressed, which is required frequently during stop and go traffic.
In a standard gas powered vehicle, commuters can expect to spend three gallons a day or $12 a day in gas versus a hybrid that may use one gallon or less per day. That's a savings of $8 per day.
The greatest return investment of the hybrid is savings over time. At $12 a day in gas for commuters traveling 40 miles round trip, gas per year works out to $3,000 annually whereas with a hybrid the cost is roughly $1,000 per year based on four dollars per gallon.
In five years, a standard hybrid can save the consumer $10,000, which is just half the cost of the vehicle.
What hidden costs should a consumer be worried about where a hybrid vehicle is concerned? For the electric vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt, charging the vehicle will impact your electric bill, but at a cost that is pennies to the dollar versus gasoline savings.
Average maintenance fees are lower since there is less wear and tear on the engine due to the energy consumption. Fewer emissions mean fewer chances to fail increasingly strict, regulatory emissions tests in large cities. The increased popularity of hybrid vehicles has resulted in more savvy mechanics with experience in working on hybrid cars.
The battery is another area of concern. Naysayers are often worried about how much energy is stored in the battery of hybrid and electric vehicles and the dispersal of that energy should a car accident happen. Improved safety methods have resulted in high safety ratings for the top hybrid vehicles.
The average hybrid battery is designed to last about 150,000 to 200,000 miles according to the designer specs of the Fusion, the Prius and more. In addition, according to Green Car Journal, the modern hybrid battery is designed of NiMH (nickel metal hydride), which means they are completely recyclable and non-toxic to the environment. Replacement battery costs are anecdotal, but average at around $3,000. A cost of $3,000 every 150,000 miles or so is still offset by fuel savings in the long-term.
Family Benefits of Hybrid Car Investment
A hybrid vehicle is a long-term investment, ideal for commuters living in high-traffic, high-congestion areas and can save families thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the car. The money saved can then be used for other expenses such as home improvements, college tuition, vacations, and a wide range of other necessary or luxury items. In addition to the personal return on a hybrid car, the bigger picture is one of environmental savings that offer generational returns.