Government Website Compares Hybrids to Non-Hybrids: How Long Is the Payback?

By Joel Arellano | May 18, 2012
Hybrid naysayers constantly say hybrids aren't worth the extra cost because it will take years to recover the premium paid for their high-tech vehicles versus a non-hybrid equivalent. Interestingly, they fail to mention hybrid vehicles are extremely well-equipped with many standard features, while their gasoline-only siblings are usually the cheaper base model. Thus, the argument is actually an apples-to-oranges comparison, which is useless to educating car shoppers. The government, in a rare show of competence during an election year, now makes it easy to actually compare hybrids with their similarly equipped non-hybrid counterparts. The "Hybrids Can Save You Money" website, developed by the National Transportation Research Center, allows car shoppers to select a 2012 - 2013 hybrid vehicle and instantly see how many years it takes to "recoup" the price difference compared to the non-hybrid version. If there is any. We compared the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid to its similarly equipped non-hybrid Sonata SE sedan. The price difference is around $2,600, which does not include destination and handling fees. According to the website, it would take slightly over five years to recoup the difference. But both the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist and the Lincoln MKZ hybrid have no price premium from their non-hybrid counterparts. That translates to savings at the pump since they have better fuel economy: the LaCrosse with eAssist gets nearly eight mpg better than the standard LaCrosse while the MKZ hybrid gets a staggering 18 mpg better than its gasoline-only sibling.
We examined the various hybrids on the site and found it usually takes 4-5 years to pay off the price difference. That figure is based on 15,000 miles annual driving, $3.75 a gallon price, and 55-percent city and 45-percent highway driving. The site allows you to change these figures: reconfiguring the miles of the all-new Toyota Prius c to a heavy-use 20,000-30,000 a year cut the payback years by 1-2 years alone compared to the non-hybrid Toyota Yaris LE. Interestingly, the Cadillac Escalade hybrid took less than two years to recoup the price difference versus the non-hybrid model. Both vehicles, though are already extremely well-equipped which explains the small premium price. This also explains the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which takes four years to pay off the $3,400 premium from the gas-only Camry LE but less than two years versus the top-of-the-line XLE gasoline-only version.'s take: Game, set and match, hybrid naysayers. Ball's now in your court. Source: USA Today