There are multiple reasons why people buy hybrid vehicles. Some buy them because they want to appear to care about the environment, others want to reduce their country's dependence on foreign oil. Still others just want to reduce their operating costs. Of course saving money on fuel means having to spend some extra cash up front (or at least finance more) to cover the cost of the extra hardware that's necessary to drive the vehicle on electrons.

While those that are in it strictly for the environmental benefit may not care about return on investment, others may want to know how long it will take to save enough gas to pay for the hybrid system. For those drivers, CNN-Money has done some calculations on payback time for thirteen currently available hybrid vehicles. They figured the price premium based on a similar non-hybrid model, gas at $3.10 /gallon and 15,000 miles per year of driving. Since the Prius doesn't have a conventional equivalent, they used the four cylinder Camry which has the same interior volume. The Prius came out on top of the list with a 4.2 year payback followed by the new Chevy Malibu Hybrid at 4.6 years. Not surprisingly, the $104,000 Lexus LS600h took somewhat longer to recover its premium. With estimated annual gas savings of 1 gallon it would take 3,771 years to save enough to cover the difference from an LS460.

[Source: CNN-Money]


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