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Is Going Green Worth It? Hybrids vs. Conventional Models

Is paying extra for a hybrid worth it in the long run? Maybe.

It’s a question we get a lot here at U.S. News Cars. Given that hybrids and other green cars often cost more than their gas-only counterparts, does it make financial sense to buy one? The answer depends on which cars you’re comparing.

Car

Price

EPA-Estimated Annual Fuel Costs

Better Deal?

2012 Honda Civic Sedan EX

$20,505

$1,917

Civic saves $3,545 at dealership; would take over six years to match that in gas savings

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid

$24,050

$1,394

The Honda Civic Hybrid comes standard with features like a USB port and Bluetooth, while the base Civic Sedan doesn’t. To get a gas-only Civic with those features, plus an automatic transmission, you need to buy the EX trim. With gas at $4.09 a gallon and driving 15,000 miles per year, the Civic Hybrid saves you $523 on gas. But, given that you already spent an extra $3,545 getting the Hybrid, you’re looking at more than six years of driving before you break even. The conventional Civic is the better deal.

Not all hybrids take that long to break even, however. Take the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Though it starts at $6,400 more than the base gas-only Sonata, when you compare it to a similarly-equipped Sonata Limited with navigation, the gas-only Sonata is actually more expensive. Plus, it saves you $702 a year in gas.

Car

Price

EPA-Estimated Annual Fuel Costs

Better Deal?

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

$25,795

$1,658

Hybrid saves $683 per year in fuel and $2,550 at dealership

2011 Hyundai Sonata (limited trim w/ navigation)

$28,345

$2,360

Of course, hybrids aren’t the only gas-saving cars out there. Many affordable small cars offer high-fuel economy trims. For the most part, these trims cost extra. The Chevrolet Cruz Eco has similar equipment to the base Cruze LS, but costs $1,900 more before destination and other charges. However, the Cruze gets two mpg more in the city, eight mpg more on the highway and three mpg more combined. But, with gas at $4.09 a gallon, that only translates into $186 per year in fuel savings. It would take about 10 years to make up the price difference through fuel savings.

Car

Price

EPA-Estimated Annual Fuel Costs

Better Deal?

Chevrolet Cruze LS

$16,525

$2,045

Cruze LS saves $1,900 at the dealership. It would take more than 10 years to match that in fuel savings.

Chevrolet Cruze Eco

$18,425

$1,859

So, is going green worth it? It depends. Before jumping on a hybrid or fuel-efficient trim for the fuel savings, or passing one by because of the extra cost of the base model, make sure you run the numbers.

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