COMMENTARY | Think you’ll save money buying a hybrid? Think again. A recent New York Times report shows you may be waiting a long, long time before you start saving money at the pump. With gas over $4 a gallon and rising, many Americans are looking for an alternative to the gas guzzlers they’ve been driving. There are lots of choices with hybrids, electric cars and super economy models popping up on dealer’s lots all over the place. But are they all they’re cracked up to be?
Sure they get great gas mileage, but like everything, there are strings attached. The technology is expensive to produce and expensive to maintain and that is one of the main reasons these hyper efficient cars have not gained in popularity. “The point where a car can actually go after a mass-market audience is when the pricing starts making sense on paper. If they want these technologies to be mainstream, pricing still needs to come down.” said Jesse Toprak, vice president for market intelligence at TrueCar.
One of the more shocking aspects is how long it takes to actually start seeing the savings above and beyond the high price of these vehicles. According to Truecar, which did the study for the New York Times, it would take the Ford Fusion 6 1/2 years, at $5 a gallon before its owner would start saving money. The Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima would take at least four years at the same price.
The Nissan Leaf would need nine years to pay for itself and the much vaunted Chevy Volt would take an incredible 27 years before it would start saving its owner any money. According to the Lundburg Survey gas would need to be $12.50 a gallon before it would make sense financially to own a Chevy Volt.
If you’re in the market for a fuel efficient vehicle and think you’ll be saving lots of dough you might want prepare yourself for a long wait. Unless gas doubles in the next couple of years these cars are just not worth it unless you plan on owning one for five, 10 or even 27 years. Yes, they are clean burning cars but there is no such thing as a free lunch. It takes coal burning electrical plants and nuclear facilities to charge these vehicles.
At the end of the day these kinds of cars are a great idea. But the technology isn’t there yet and the prices need to come down before people will head down to the dealerships and bring one home. And right now I can’t take a Chevy Volt down to Home Depot and throw a few sheets of Plywood in the back. Until then I’ll stick with my pickup.