Though most are priced higher than comparable gas-only models, several hybrid cars can prove to be more cost effective over a typical ownership period
While many hybrid car buyers choose them to help reduce their carbon footprints for environmental reasons, far more motorists purchase the gas/electric-powered models to help save money at the gas pump.
Though it can be difficult to determine whether the price premiums they tend to exact make them financially advantageous purchases over time, a surprising number are in fact cost-effective. According to a recent study conducted by the automotive research company Vincentric in Bingham Farms, Mich., 13 out of 33 hybrid vehicles surveyed can be expected to deliver lower long-term ownership costs than their conventionally powered counterparts.
The top model in that regard among model-year 2013 vehicles, the Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, was determined to save an owner $6,379 over a five-year ownership period compared to a similar gasoline-only model. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid luxury sedan came in second with a savings of $4,778, while the compact Audi Q5 Hybrid luxury crossover SUV came in third with a bottom-line cost reduction of $3,805.
Yet 20 out of 33 hybrids studied carried higher long-term operating costs, with the biggest money loser being the (now discontinued) full-size GMC Yukon Hybrid SUV, which was predicted to add a whopping $9,171 to an owner’s five-year bottom line over a standard Yukon. Other financially counter-productive hybrids include the full-size Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid SUV (also now out of production) at an additional $6,697 in ownership costs and the midsize Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid SUV at plus $6,955.
“Our research shows that consumers are seeing additional vehicles that are financially advantageous when compared to their all-gasoline counterparts,” says Vincentric’s president David Wurster. “However, because over half of the hybrids we evaluated have higher five-year ownership costs compared to their all-gasoline counterparts, it is important that consumers look at individual models to understand the cost implications of hybrid technology for that vehicles.”
Vincentric’s study was based on total cost of ownership factors for 2013 models over a five-year period, assuming 15,000 miles driven and included depreciation, financing, insurance, maintenance, repairs, fees and taxes as well as fuel consumption. Gasoline prices were averaged over a five-month period to negate sudden peaks and dips in per-gallon gas prices.
Solely based on fuel savings over five years, the most frugal models in Vincentric’s study are the Toyota Prius and Prius c at a predicted $5,917, the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid at $6,245 and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid at $6,522.
Among the 33 models studied, Vincentric determined the average five-year cost-of-ownership for a hybrid car or truck to be $1,338 higher than with a conventionally powered alternative. And had the research company included the most expensive hybrid-powered ride on the road, the full-size Lexus LS 650h L luxury sedan, that number would have been skewed even deeper into the red.
That’s because at $119,910 (for the 2013 model year) the car is priced $38,135 higher than the next costliest LS, yet according to the EPA gets just one additional mpg in combined city/highway driving. While it does promise added acceleration over a standard V8-powered model, at an EPA-estimated fuel savings of just $100 per year the LS 650h L would have long gone to the auto graveyard before its owner – and his or her descendents – would ever come ahead on the deal in terms of fuel savings.
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Here are the 13 hybrid vehicles Vincentric predicts will save their owners money in ownership costs over a five-year period over comparable gasoline-powered models:
1. Lexus CT 200h ($6,379)
2. Lincoln MKZ Hybrid ($4,778)
3. Audi Q5 Hybrid ($3,805)
4. Mercedes-Benz S Class Hybrid ($3,283)
5. Toyota Avalon Hybrid ($2,222)
6. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($1,674)
7. Toyota Prius v ($1,528)
8. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (1,487)
9. Honda Insight ($1,079)
10. Ford Fusion Hybrid ($803)
11. Toyota Prius c ($474)
12. Acura ILX Hybrid ($471)
13. Lexus ES 300h ($195)
Source: Vincentric 2013 Hybrid Analysis.