Paying more for fuel efficiency does not save money

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Prius C

Paying a lot more for a hybrid to save money on gas is still a fool's errand. Photo Credit: Mariordo/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Fuel efficiency is at an all-time premium as gas tops $4 per gallon and people are willing to pay top-dollar to save. However, a small number of people protest that hybrids and other cars that demand premium prices for savings are really a waste of money.

Hybrid moments

Most people think that hybrid cars, because they get much better gas mileage, are a more economical choice than gas-only cars. However, a small number of people have observed that the fuel savings are negated by the higher sticker price.

A recent survey by, according to the New York Times, found that gas would get a lot more expensive for buying more expensive cars to pay for themselves.

Doing the math

More on how to calculate savings from a hybrid here. found that gas would have to hit $8 per gallon for most hybrid models to pay themselves off in six and a half years, the typical length of car ownership. The survey assumes owners drive 15,000 miles per year, which is about standard.

A Ford Fusion hybrid takes 8.5 years for the gas savings to make up for the difference in sticker price with gas at $4 per gallon. If gas rises to $5 per gallon, it comes down to 6.5 years.

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Buying a Nissan Leaf instead of a Versa takes nine years to pay off with gas at $4 per gallon and six at $5 per gallon.

The Chevrolet Volt might as well be called the Soak, because at $32,500 after the tax credit takes 27 years to pay off the difference between the Volt and the Cruze, which the Volt is partially based on. That assumes the car is normally being driven beyond its electric range. However, if a Volt owner were to only drive within the electric range and gas were to go up to $5 per gallon, that drops to eight years.

Not the first time

In March of 2011, according to USA Today, released a similar survey calculating how long a hybrid model would take to pay off. Among other things, the survey found the average hybrid cost 17 percent more than the standard model.

Based on the average additional cost of $6,400 per hybrid, the survey calculated that gas would have to hit $7 per gallon for hybrid cars to start making economic sense.

Makes sense for some

In some cases it does make sense to opt for the hybrid. CarGurus’ survey found the Ford Escape hybrid and Toyota Camry hybrid, only slightly more expensive than the gas-only models, paid off the difference in price in a few years at $4 per gallon.

However, car makers are pushing the boundaries for fuel economy in standard cars and package options that boost efficiency, such as the Cruze Eco and the SFE package on the Ford Fiesta and Focus. According to Edmunds, there was only one car in 2010 that could get 40 miles per gallon. There are now nine.


New York Times

USA Today


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