Fueleconomy.gov gives you hybrid break-even value point

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A Swedish hybrid vehicle, the 1994 Solon.

When will your high-price hybrid hit the break-even point of savings? Find the answer at fueleconomy.gov. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Jan Ainali/Wikipedia)

Sales of hybrid vehicles have been less brisk than automakers would like, and automakers widely attributed the reason to the high entry cost of a hybrid. For those interested in a hybrid, but wondering when the break-even point of saving money will occur, the U.S. Department of Energy has you covered. The department has started a website that will clearly illustrate to consumers how long they will need to own a hybrid before the savings begins to outweigh the high initial cost.

Hybrids don’t always pay for themselves

One of the unfortunate things the Department of Energy discovered is that hybrid vehicles won’t always pay for themselves in terms of break-even savings.

‚ÄúHybrids have moved from the early-adopter stage to the mainstream,” said Bo Saulsbury, fuel economy researcher who helped design the Department of Energy’s hybrid vehicle value website. “We thought it was important to give people a tool to figure out if they’re worth the cost. A hybrid won’t always pay for itself, but some will.”

Currently, the website will only list hybrids that will reach the break-even point within six-years. The website also leaves off any plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, because they are not as common in the U.S. marketplace as overseas marketplaces at this time.

Visit fueleconomy.gov and find out for yourself

Fueleconomy.gov illustrates just how much a hybrid vehicle adds to the average sticker price, when compared with a similarly equipped non-hybrid, internal combustion model. It also shows consumers how much money they will save each year by using a hybrid versus a standard gas model, and finally how much time it will take for the fuel savings to compensate for the initial high cost of the hybrid vehicle. What I took from this website the most was actually quite basic; the higher gasoline prices fluctuate, the quicker the break-even point comes for hybrids.

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The top of the list

According to the website, Buick LaCrosse and Lincoln MKZ hybrid vehicles manage, on average, to hit the break-even point during the very first year of ownership. Each has the same MSRP, and both offer increased fuel efficiency when compared with non-hybrid V6 versions of each. Even the Cadillac Escalade hybrid, which tops out at a mere 21 mpg combined city/highway, pays for itself in 2.1 years, according to fueleconomy.gov.

How long until some of the less expensive hybrids break even? On the lower-priced hybrid end, the Kia Optima won’t break even for 4.9 years. The Detroit Free Press notes that this is because the difference between the hybrid Optima’s 37 mpg and the standard Optima’s 28 mpg isn’t as big a jump percentage-wise as the improvement in a vehicle like the Escalade, up to 21 mpg. Proportionally, the Kia hybrid’s price jump of $2,500 is greater than the $2,175 price jump for the Escalade hybrid.

“Sometimes, the most bang for the buck is in big vehicles,” Saulsbury said.

Not an exact science

Fueleconomy.gov compares some hybrid and standard vehicles that aren’t perfectly comparable, notes the Free Press. As such, the value breakdown may not be as useful to consumers. For instance, the website compares the Honda CR-Z to the Honda Fit, which might not be the best or closet match the sight could find. If a standard equivalent to a certain hybrid does not yet exist, the website will not make specific projections regarding savings. However, experts agree that the Department of Energy has managed to find very close matches for 18 of the most popular hybrid vehicles on the U.S. market.

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