Hybrids are hot right now, having dramatically increased their share of the overall vehicle market in the past several years. The Toyota Prius is in particularly high demand, displaying an impressive sales increase of 9.5 percent between May, 2012 and May, 2013, for a total annual volume of more than 23,000 vehicles. While drivers are buying hybrids for various reasons, given the combination of an economic slump and high gas prices, affordability is often listed as a deciding factor.
But are these fuel efficient vehicles actually more affordable than their standard counterparts?
Ownership Costs For Standard VehiclesA basic understanding of ownership costs of standard vehicles can help you better understand the implications of buying a hybrid. Typically, the upfront cost is greater for a hybrid, with some or all of the difference being made up through the hybrid's fuel efficiency. The American Automobile Association (AAA) listed the annual cost of owning and operating a mid-sized sedan at $9,122 a year, or 60 cents per mile. This figure assumes that the driver owns the sedan for a minimum of five years and racks up an estimated annual mileage of 15,000. Costs included in AAA's estimate include fuel, maintenance and insurance, all of which have the potential to be impacted by the hybrid label.
Ownership Costs For Hybrid VehiclesThe easiest way to compare long-term hybrid vehicle costs is to simply compare the hybrid version of a given vehicle to the original model. Edmunds lists the five year cost of owning a Honda Civic at $35,188. Compare this to the Civic Hybrid, which offered a slightly lower cost of ownership at $34,237. Thus, the conclusion is that, over a five year period, it is less expensive to own and operate a Civic Hybrid.
The economic benefits of hybrid ownership are also exemplified by a cost comparison of the Ford Fusion Sedan to the Ford Fusion Hybrid. During the course of five years, the standard Fusion costs $39,698 to operate, while the hybrid totals $34,465. Either Fusion is an affordable option, with www.drivetime.com listing the vehicle at just $18,965.
Let's Not Forget As with AAA's ownership cost estimate, Edmunds' calculations include fuel, repairs and auto insurance expenses. Most of the savings of a hybrid come from spending less time at the gas pump. Maintenance costs for the hybrid are slightly more expensive, simply because the battery pack will need to be replaced. However, this cost may be offset by federal and state tax breaks for hybrid owners.
Ultimately, a hybrid becomes more affordable the more it is used. Thus, if you do not anticipate driving your car over 10,000 miles per year, the hybrid may not yet serve as the more economical vehicle option. But for frequent drivers, the long-term reduction in gas prices is enough of offset the upfront cost, ultimately making a hybrid model the more affordable option.
Creative Commons image by mariordo59