If you are asking this question… then NO!
You would have to drive more than 25,000 miles per year and the price of the gas would have to be well over $5 per gallon for it to be worth it from a cost perspective.
For comparison sake, let’s look at the Toyota Corolla — KarFarm’s pick for you commuting champions — and the world’s best selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius.
2009 Toyota Corolla LE
with Automatic Transmission, Cruise Control, Keyless Entry, All Weather Pkg, and Carpet Floor Mats
KF Observed Price: $14,800 (Northern California as of March, 2009)
EPA Economy Rating: 27 City/35 Highway
KF Observed Economy Rating: 31 MPG combined
2009 Toyota Prius
with Option Pkg #2 and Carpet Floor Mats
KF Observed Price: $22,800 (Northern California as of March, 2009)
EPA Economy Rating: 48 City/45 Highway
KF Observed Economy Rating: 43 MPG combined
The average driver in the US logs about 15,000 miles per year in driving. Also, as of April 2009, it is safe to say that the price of gas isn’t likely to go over $4.25/gallon. So at 15,000 miles the Corolla driver will spend about $1,185, and the Prius driver will spend $854 based on the KF observed ratings. The annual savings of about $300 and some change doesn’t seem like much, does it? Even at 25,000 miles per year we are looking at $1,976 and $1,424 respectively, a savings of about $550.
What if gas prices rise back up to the levels of last summer (July 2008), at about $4.65/gallon. The respective gas expenses rise to $2,250 (Corolla) and $1,622 (Prius) at 15,000 miles per year and $3,750 and $2,703 at 25,000 miles per year.
The MSRP difference between the Corolla and Prius is only about $6,000 or so, but in real world prices the difference is closer to $8,000. So unless the gasoline prices are above $5.00/gallon and you drive over 25,000 miles per year, you’re just wasting your hard earned money.
“What about the new Honda Insight?” one might ask. Yes, it is about $2,000 cheaper than the Prius, but it is not as fuel efficient as the Prius. Honda fanboys will argue that the Insight was observed by other magazines and blogs to achieve more than 56 MPG. But, KarFarm also got more than 60 MPG with the Prius on multiple occasions, and EPA’s rating will be much different than the Insight’s 40 city/43 highway numbers if the car can regularly hit the 50+ MPG numbers.
If your sole mission is to clean up the air, then all arguments point to driving a hybrid. The EPA estimates that the Prius will emit about 4.0 tons of CO2 per year. The Corolla pollutes the air with 6.1 tons of CO2, while the average midsize sedan will emit about 7-8 tons of CO2 per year. If you factor in how poor the Prius drives compared to the Corolla… no contest!
Don’t buy a Prius (or other hybrids) because it’s the ‘in thing’ or your favorite celebrity has one. He/she probably has about 10 adopted Asian/African kids, or they might not wear underwear in public and flash their business for the tabloids to publish – would you?
But then again…