Hybrids-It’s Not About The Extra Cost, It’s About Making A Better Choice.

I will be upfront with you; we don’t own a hybrid car. This is mainly because of where we live, which is on a dirt road, surrounded by dirt roads, which get full of foot-deep mud and snow for 4 months out of the year. Were we still living in California, where weather changes amount to which way the single cloud is moving that day, our next car would have been a Prius, for sure. We could have bought an SUV hybrid (which is kind of any oxymoron if you ask me), but we don’t need an SUV and it would have been a waste of money. So instead we bought a Subaru Forester that gets 30MPG, which I am quite happy about. But I digress – let’s talk about hybrids.

Lately, because of the fall in gas prices, there have been several articles written about how the extra cost of hybrid vehicles is not worth it. For example, this article at Kiplingers says stuff like “savings at the pump rarely make up for the $3,000-plus hybrid premium”. This is exactly why NOT to buy a hybrid car. Sure, if gas prices are $5 a gallon, you might save money on gas. (Trust me, gas will be that high again – and soon) But most people who buy hybrids do not buy them because they can save money on gas; if that was the case, these same people would buy tiny little econoboxes that get 35-40 MPG and only cost $13,000, instead of the $22,000 for a Prius. Now THAT would amount to some serious savings! Rather, most people who buy hybrids do it for one of two reasons:

1. They want to do the right thing and use less gasoline and emit less pollution.
2. They want to scream out to the world that they are doing the right thing (OK, that one was a little snarky).

My reason for wanting to buy one, if we could, would be because I want to use less gasoline and pollute less. That’s all. I like saving money as much as the next guy, but I would not buy a $22,000 car in order to save money. It just makes no sense whatsoever. However, that being said, what if you bought one for one of the reasons listed above and gas prices went up to $5-$6 a gallon? Well, that would just be an added bonus for you! Hybrids also hold their value better than many cars (other than our Mini, which did really well), which adds to their long-term value.

But please, enough with the articles about how paying a premium for a hybrid just isn’t worth it because gasoline is cheap right now. If that is the only determining factor you use to make a car-buying decision, than sure – it’s a waste of money. Buy yourself a Hyundai for $13,000 and put the extra $9,000 in the bank. Most people who buy hybrid cars do it because they want to do the right thing – use less gas and emit less pollution. That’s all. If it was only about saving money, there are plenty of better options available.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Miranda says:

    The thing about hybrids is that they aren’t that much more than other cars right now. We got a 2007, one previous owner, Prius for $15,000. That’s not bad for any comparable non-hybrid car.

  2. I agree, the “premium” for Hybrid cars is constantly shrinking. Although, you might still pay a small percentage more, you simply need to aknowledge the you are willing to pay that small % more in order to receive all the benefits you outlined! There nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s seems like intelligent shopping to me!

  3. David says:

    Not at all Miranda, that’s quite good!

    I agree Baker, it seems like it to me as well…

  4. Michael_W says:

    I would venture the reason people are writing the articles you are complaining about is because people are using cost savings to justify buying a hybrid. I’ve heard several people both online and in my life talk about the money they’re going to save with the hybrid.

    I believe that the main reason people buy hybrids is because they’re the new status symbol in America. Look at me! I care. I drive a hybrid. There are much better ways of doing good stuff for the environment without forking over a “premium” to buy a hybrid. It’s all about status. If someone’s really concerned about the environment, walk, ride a bike, or start a carpool.

  5. Garrett says:

    Hate to tell you this, but a Forester is an SUV. It’s Motor Trend’s 2009 Sport/Utility of the year and the Forester is referred to as an SUV on Subaru’s own website.

  6. David says:

    We have a 2008. It’s a wagon.

  7. Kira says:

    We have a 2007 Prius – and at that point, yeah, we did like the gas prices. We have put on 75,000 miles on the car in the last year and a half, and when you can go from Phoenix to San Diego – round trip for about $30 – that’s a pretty nice savings.
    We mainly bought it for the HOV plate though. In AZ, if you bought before 2008 you could get a special plate that allowed you in the HOV lane as a single. This saves me a good 15 minutes each way every day. That was worth it alone!

  8. Ken says:

    Good points….I think I’ll just buy the Hyundai next time I purchase a car.

  9. rosemarie says:

    I saw similar articles too and it scared me that carmakers will stop making them now that gas is low because, as you said, that’s not the reason for them. Not everything is for selfish, I want to save money reasons, sometimes it’s for the greater good.

  10. Kate says:

    David, my thoughts exactly! It may be a status symbol, but purchasing a hybrid car is also about making a commitment to the environment. Just like bringing your own bags to the grocery store or recycling your plastic bottles, choosing to drive a hybrid is a recognition of The Power of Small in our daily lives. We can all make a difference with just the little things we do. And since the Earth is everyone’s home, I am happy to make the extra investment.

  11. Pam in Taos says:

    My 2 cents worth:

    I bought my (oxymoronic) 2006 4WD Ford Escape Hybrid when I lived in the Denver/Golden, CO, area (famous for 3 foot March snows). It replaced a 13-14 MPG Land Rover Discovery. I almost immediately doubled(+) my gas mileage on my work commute (except when it was REALLY cold).
    It was not practical to ride the bus, bike or carpool because of location and hours worked. I received a Colorado tax credit to offset the higher initial cost, and I’m fortunate enough to have a good job which made the purchase feasible. I have NEVER been sorry that I made this purchase. It affords me the option of hauling stuff in the back, seating 5 people if necessary, and getting around fairly securely on bad roads (with what my husband considers “marginal” tires for the task). Since I moved to NM (where they have “real” gas, not E10), my warm weather mileage, last summer, rose to between 33 & 34 MPG and raised my lifetime mileage 29.3.

    This vehicle is just part of what I try to do to lessen my household impact.