Buying a Hybrid: Does it Really Save You Money?

by Miranda Marquit · 11 comments

With gas prices rising, many of us are looking for ways to reduce the amount we pay. Gas saving strategies like taking public transportation, consolidating errands, and properly maintaining your car can help you improve your fuel efficiency so that you spend less. Some, though, wonder if they could do even better if they bought a hybrid. While the price of hybrids has been coming down, there is still often a premium attached to these vehicles. As a result, it might take time for you to recoup the cost of your hybrid.

How Much Do You Really Save with a Hybrid?

My husband and I bought a Toyota Prius in 2009. We finally decided that we were ready for a second car. Public transportation in our locale is inconvenient, and the nearest stop is more than a mile away. We had planned on buying a second car for a while, and knew how much we wanted to spend. We ended up getting our Prius for quite a bit below invoice, due to a pricing error on the dealer’s web site; without that discount, we probably would not have bought a hybrid, since the price was higher.

We didn’t spend “extra,” since we had budgeted for the purchase. And we have saved money in fuel costs. Indeed, after one year, we did the math and found that we had saved $360. However, if we had paid “full price” for the Prius, it would have taken almost 10 years to recoup the cost beyond our budgeted amount in gas money saved.

Before you buy a hybrid to save on gas, it’s a good idea to consider your true savings. Figure out whether or not you will truly save money. Will you save enough money in gas to justify the purchase? If you have a plug in, you will also have to consider the cost of the increased power use in your home. You may save in gas, but you will pay more on your home power bill.

Cost Associated with a Second Car

Before you buy any second car, you need to consider the additional costs. It’s not just the cost of another car payment (if you borrow to get your car). You also need to think about the additional fuel costs, as well as the added insurance costs. If you are thinking about getting a second car, you need to consider the added costs. In our case, we had saved up for a down payment, and we had planned for the second car. We were prepared for the added cost. And, since we got our Prius at a discount, we didn’t pay the premium for the hybrid. We came out ahead. However, I’m not sure that would have bought it without the discount. Since then, though, the prices for some hybrids have gone down, and there are used hybrids on the market, making them a little more cost efficient to buy.

In the end, the decision is yours. People buy hybrids for more reasons than just saving money on gas. Before you buy a hybrid, carefully think about why you want one, and whether or not it will save you enough money to make it worth the cost.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry December 1, 2011 at 8:24 pm

This article is too vague to make any sense in a decision. There are no specifics regarding the car that was compared to the prius or the annual mileage driven by the author.

I have a 2001 Prius with 215,000 trouble free miles. During that time I have averaged twice the mileage of an equivalent sedan. People forget that the extra power of the Hybrid motor “upgrades” you from low power econo car performance to that of a typical 6 cylinder. The comparison is always made to a economy car to maximize the supposed “premium” to own the hybrid. It is a false comparicon. The way I look at it I am getting my fuel for half price. Most people would consider that a real valid reason to invest in now proven technology.

William December 2, 2011 at 5:01 am

If you don’t intend to keep your cars forever, you should compare the value at trade-in or sale time. My first Prius cost a little more than a similar equipped non-hybrid but it was worth much more when I traded it in 3 years later on a newer model.
Compare the used car prices from a few years ago and you will see. Interestingly enough the fuel economy guage has changed the way I drive. I am strangly a much safer driver, not worrying about cutting in and out of traffic or speeding everywhere like i used to.

Phil Bickel February 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

$360 a year in savings doesn’t make sense unless you don’t drive very many miles. For someone driving 15K a year, they will usually save about 700-800 a year.

Additionally, a Prius is a more premium car than a Corolla, for example and it isn’t a good price comparison, A better comparison would be a Matrix XR that sells for only about a $1000 less, and still doesn’t have some of the Prius’s features such as climate control and smart key.

Then there is resale, the Prius commands a very high resale and that further reduces ownership cost.

These articles are written by people who really don’t know what their talking about for the most part.

Here’s a real fact, Cosumer Reports says that 96% of Prius owners say they’ll buy another Prius, and Prius outsells all other ( 39 ) Hybrids including Toyota’s by more than 2:1.

stonedome February 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

“We ended up getting our Prius for quite a bit below invoice, due to a pricing error on the dealer’s web site; without that discount, we probably would not have bought a hybrid, since the price was higher.” after that comment, i knew i didn’t need to go any further. there are always special circumstances that people use to promote these cars…buy a damn audi diesel…it’s a bigger, better handling car and meets cali emission standards. hybrid cars are for city commuting and are uncomfortable for extended highway driving… and i’m so tired of people telling us how they dance on their heads to save the environment.

VegGirl April 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

My Honda Civic hybrid was $3,000 more than the gas only civic, but I received a $2,000 tax credit. People should realize that you also save TIME when you buy a hybrid. I can travel nearly 500 miles before I decide it is time to fill up. Most people I know have to fill up at least once a week. I have gone a month without needing more gasoline.

Jack April 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm

When Gas went to $2.00 a gallon and I was, at the time, facing a 40 mile commute, I bought a Prius. This replaced a car that I was getting approximately 20 MPG. If I have put the difference in gas costs in a piggy bank, I could have purchased a new prius last year. I get 45 MPG consistantly and with prices where they are right now the savings are only building. I have about 130,000 miles on it an have had “0” problems.

George May 2, 2012 at 7:46 am

We are both retired and when we went to replace our 10 year old car we settled on a 2010 Prius. We wanted to be able to control our monthly expenses and reducing our fuel by more than 50% made sense to us. We went from a 20 to 23 mpg car to a 45 to 50 mpg car. My wife complains that we only get it washed when we fill it up and we no longer fill it often enough to keep it looking clean! We will probably take 8 years to break even but we enjoy the car and we are also finding we are driving more carefully to get maximum mileage! No more heavy foot acceleration!!

JJ Joseph May 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

I still don’t get it. The Prius has the same fuel consumption as an older economy car like my Chevy Metro. I still manage about 50mpg even tho it’s about 15 years old. And I don’t have to buy a $15,000 battery every 8 years (like the Ford e-Focus). So are we being scammed by the makers? Are e-cars just a trick to get us to buy bigger heavier econo-cars, thinking we’re saving money when actually we’re being ripped off?

David May 14, 2012 at 9:51 am

I could have saved a few thousand dollars initially by purchasing a non-hybrid comparable to the Prius that I bought, and, ignoring considerations of resale value. Buying a hybrid may take many years to break even financially, even at today’s gas prices but it isn’t only about the money. I am using less fossil fuel and causing less pollution, and that is worth something.

John Price June 16, 2012 at 2:20 am

I’ve owned a 2003, a 2005, and a 2008 Prius. Combined, 240,000 miles. Zero maintenance costs, no big battery replacements. Still have the old model 2003, gets only 39mpg. Wife loves it, won’t consider a change. I sold the ’05 to a friend to get the neat gizmos like Bluetooth & backup camera. I did the math: cost of car, actual depreciation, gas, oil, and insurance equals $0.245 per mile – actual cost on 85,000 miles.

Mustang Mesa June 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Comparing a bottom of the line Prius hybrid automobile with a bottom of the line economy gasoline automobile (such as a Honda Fit) results in an initial purchase price difference of about $3,625. I get 40 mpg out of my Fit which I will compare to 50 mpg for the Prius. Assuming 15,000 miles per year and $5 per gallon gasoline it takes 10 years to break even and in 10 years the resale values probably won’t differ by more than a few hundred dollars. Also, the manufacturing of the Prius battery and automobile is overall more damaging to the environment than manufacturing of the Fit. Disposal of the Prius battery and car at the end of its life adds extra environmental consequences above those of disposal of the Fit. Studies have shown that from cradle to grave the Prius is more environmental damaging than a pure gasoline car. And as shown above there is no cost advantage during the car’s lifetime even assuming $5 gasoline. It is still cheaper and more environmentally friendly to buy an economy gasoline car and drive it until it is dust. It will be a long time before a hybrid can be made and sold cheap enough to match the economic and environmental benefits of a economy gasoline car.

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