NADAGuides Asserts Most Hybrids Are Not Cost Efficient

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

That handsome Saturn VUE Hybrid you have your eye on isn’t such a bargain after all. Sure, it can get great gas mileage, maybe 30 mpg or even higher if you are soft on the gas pedal. Still, when buying any hybrid vehicle you are paying a premium over the gas version and in the VUE’s case you probably will never recoup the difference.

In a new study released recently by (a vehicle pricing and information site), the company has concluded that only a select few hybrids make financial sense, and only for a specific group of motorists.

Using a formula that takes current gas prices for ten major metropolitan areas, the NADAGuides studied the number of miles needed to make up for the extra cost of buying a hybrid car over its gasoline-only counterpart. “We recognize that every driver’s situation is different and that some people will achieve a return on the extra investment of a hybrid car much faster than others,” said Tara Baukus Mello, senior writer and lead market analyst for

For example, the study reveals that a driver in Los Angeles, the city with the highest gas prices in the study, will break even about 18% faster than a driver in Houston, the city with the lowest gas prices, assuming both drivers are driving the same number of miles.

“Drivers near major cities often have a wide range of commute distances, which means that the break-even point can be dramatically different from one person to the next,” cautioned Baukus Mello. “For example, if a Houston-area commuter travels 12 miles one way to work, driving 10,000 total miles annually, while a Los Angeles-area commuter travels 25 miles one way, driving 15,000 total miles annually, the Los Angeles commuter recoups his investment almost 80 percent faster.”

Even at today’s high gas prices, the study found that only five hybrid cars make financial sense for a consumer who buys a new car every five years or less and drives an average number of miles per year. Even taking into consideration Los Angeles-area gas prices, there are no more than five hybrid cars that would allow consumers to recoup their additional investment before they sold the car, assuming they drove an average of 15,000 miles per year. In order of shortest time to break even, these five models are:

1. Toyota Camry Hybrid
2. Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
3. Nissan Altima Hybrid
4. Toyota Prius
5. Honda Civic Hybrid

“Consumers who are thinking of purchasing a hybrid car solely to save money on gas should calculate the number of miles they drive per year and their typical per gallon gas price to make an educated decision,” advises Baukus Mello. She also recommended consumers use’s Cost of Ownership tool to obtain estimates of other costs, such as car maintenance and car insurance.

Of course if you are planning to keep your hybrid for the long haul, for many years beyond the average, then most any hybrid could be worth it over an extended period of time.



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