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Conventional wisdom is that hybrid vehicles reduce our dependence on foreign oil and emit fewer environment hurting CO2 emissions. When comparing a hybrid to a conventional gasoline-powered model on a mile-by-mile basis, there's some logic to this argument provided the pricing disparity between the two models isn't too broad. However, a new study by Quality Planning shows that hybrid owners drive much more than non-hybrid owners, potentially negating the benefits of the added battery pack and electric motor.

Quality Planning studied nearly 360,000 vehicles throughout 2007 and 2008 to analyze driving habits, and some of the study's findings are pretty surprising. According to the survey, hybrid and non-hybrid drivers have statistically similar commutes, but hybrid owners drive their vehicles 25% more (2,000 miles) in non-commuting scenarios.

Dr. Raj Bhat, president of Quality Planning, thinks part of the reason for these findings has something to do with the fact that high mileage drivers are typically more interested in hybrids than infrequent drivers.
"What we don't know is whether owning a hybrid vehicle encourages people to drive more miles each day or take more pleasure trips. High-mileage drivers appear to be attracted to these vehicles, so insurers should take steps to verify the intended use of hybrids and validate actual miles driven wherever possible."
The study also shows that hybrid owners are significantly more likely to receive traffic tickets. According to the survey, Toyota Prius owners received .38 tickets per 100,000 miles driven, versus a non-hybrid average of .23 tickets per 100,000 miles. That's a 65% differential. One possible explanation for the ticket disparity has to do with where hybrid owners live. Quality Planning found that hybrid owners are more likely to live in an urban setting, where tickets are more frequently issued.

If you really want a hybrid and you don't want to hear any more bad news, you should stop reading. QP also found that repair costs are significantly higher for hybrid owners. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, costs 31% more to repair than the gasoline-only model, while repairing the Toyota Highlander Hybrid will reportedly add 45% more cost. A recent report by IntelliChoice that found that, in the long-term, hybrids and diesels are actually cheaper than gasoline-only vehicles.

The text below illustrates how much on a per dollar basis hybrid repair costs for collision and comprehensive coverage versus one dollar for a non-hybrid. The disparity is shrinking every year, but according to QP, hybrids still cost more to fix. Hit the jump to view the Quality Planning press release.

Collision Comprehensive
Coverage Coverage
2006 Hybrid Models $1.16 $1.75
2007 Hybrid Models $1.09 $1.35
2008 Hybrid Models $1.13 $1.17

[Source: Quality Planning via Marketwire]


SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - July 15, 2009) - With gas prices on the rise again, energy-conscious consumers are looking to save on fuel costs, and hybrid vehicles are a popular choice when gas mileage is a primary concern. However, an analysis of the driving habits of about 360,000 vehicle owners by insurance services company Quality Planning has concluded that many owners of hybrid vehicles drive as much as 25 percent more miles than owners of non-hybrids, and that hybrid vehicles are often more expensive to repair.

Numerous studies have compared the cost of ownership of hybrid vehicles versus conventionally powered vehicles, but driving behaviors of the owners of hybrids and vehicle repair costs are generally not part of the analyses. To understand driving behaviors of hybrid vehicle owners, Quality Planning looked at classes of vehicles for which both hybrid and conventional engines are available and examined annual mileage for both vehicle types. Also considered were two common auto insurance rating variables: everyday driving (normally termed "pleasure use" by auto insurers) and "high-commute" driving (defined as commuting more than 15 miles per day).

Do hybrid vehicles encourage owners to drive more?

Quality Planning found that while the mileage for high-commute drivers was roughly the same for both types of vehicles, those drivers who use their hybrid vehicles for non-commuting purposes drove an average of 10,500 miles per year -- 2,000 miles (or roughly 25 percent) more than non-commuting drivers of non-hybrid vehicles.

"The additional miles driven by hybrid vehicle owners would seem to offset the net ecological benefit of owning a fuel-efficient vehicle. After all, a gallon of gas is a gallon of gas, no matter which type of engine is burning it," said Dr. Raj Bhat, president of Quality Planning. "What we don't know is whether owning a hybrid vehicle encourages people to drive more miles each day or take more pleasure trips. High-mileage drivers appear to be attracted to these vehicles, so insurers should take steps to verify the intended use of hybrids and validate actual miles driven wherever possible."

To further assess the risk represented by hybrid vehicles, Quality Planning looked at the demographic profile of their owners and found that they are frequently women, typically older, more affluent, and often live in cities. Quality Planning also looked at the number of moving violations issued to Toyota Prius drivers and found that those drivers tend to get more than their fair share of traffic tickets (0.38 violations per 100,000 miles driven, compared with an overall average of 0.23). However, this 65 percent difference may be because urban drivers generally receive more traffic citations.

Will a damaged hybrid cost more to repair?

Quality Planning also looked at the loss experience of conventional vehicles versus hybrids by comparing the collision and comprehensive loss costs of both kinds of vehicles. Loss costs include impact of both frequency (the number of claims per 100 insured vehicle years) and severity (the dollar impact of a claim). For all 2008 model-year hybrids, collision coverage loss dollars were 13 percent higher, and comprehensive coverage loss dollars were almost 17 percent higher. The 2006 and 2007 models had substantially higher comprehensive losses.

When comparing specific 2006-2008 models, the highest collision loss costs were associated with the Toyota Highlander hybrid (45 percent higher) and the Ford Escape hybrid (31 percent higher). In general, there were increases in both frequency of claims and severity of claims for hybrid vehicles. When compared with a baseline loss cost of $1 for the equivalent non-hybrid model, the hybrid models had the following loss costs:

Collision Comprehensive
Coverage Coverage
2006 Hybrid Models $1.16 $1.75
2007 Hybrid Models $1.09 $1.35
2008 Hybrid Models $1.13 $1.17

"These findings should be of particular interest to auto insurers. Some currently offer policy discounts on hybrid vehicles. A 25 percent increase in miles driven or a 30 percent differential in loss costs is very significant," added Dr. Bhat.

Study methodology

Quality Planning sampled 359,309 vehicles from multiple carriers across the country over a two-year period from January 2007 to December 2008. The vehicles were re-underwritten using Quality Planning's proprietary program for correcting rating errors, Precision Re-Underwriting™. The vehicles analyzed were hybrid vehicles that had equivalent non-hybrid counterparts. The annual mileage estimates were obtained from Quality Planning's proprietary RISK:check® process, which uses statistical estimates and odometer readings when available; the estimates were confirmed by policyholders through mail and phone contact.

About ISO

A leading source of information about risk, ISO provides data, analytics, and decision-support services to professionals in many fields, including insurance, finance, real estate, health services, government, human resources, and risk management. Using advanced technologies to collect, analyze, develop, and deliver information, ISO helps customers evaluate and manage risk. The company draws on vast expertise in actuarial science, insurance coverages, fire protection, fraud prevention, catastrophe and weather risk, predictive modeling, data management, economic forecasting, social and technological trends, and many other fields. To meet the needs of diverse clients, ISO employs an experienced staff of business and technical specialists, analysts, and certified professionals. In the United States and around the world, ISO helps customers protect people, property, and financial assets. For more information, visit www.iso.com.

About Quality Planning

An ISO business, Quality Planning is focused exclusively on providing rating integrity solutions to auto insurers. Quality Planning works with insurance companies to identify areas of significant rating errors using sophisticated database management, statistical analysis and modeling, customized survey design, and highly targeted customer interaction. Quality Planning helps clients work within their existing rating plans and charge fair prices to policyholders based on a true representation of risk. The company was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in San Francisco. For more information, visit www.qualityplanning.com.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Other reasons why hybrid drivers get more tickets - a lot of them are $hitty drivers, and in general cops don't like hybrids.

      As for driving more, a lot of the hybrid drivers I know at work are people who commute very far distances. They think they are so 'green' driving these hybrids, but how about living closer to work in the first place so you wouldn't have put out all those emissions all those years of commuting?
        • 6 Years Ago
        They commute those long distances because to live closer would mean living in the same neighborhood as, well... YOU know... THOSE people.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The nut behind the wheel is responsible for higher repair costs, more traffic tickets and the accident costs___not the vehicle they drive.
      The conclusion I draw is that the hybrid "owners" (not the vehicles) as a group drive worse and abuse their vehicles more than non-hybrid owners. Just as it is no secret that Buick buyers have have far less accidents, moving violations and less repair cost because of the type of people that buy the full size Buicks', not because of the vehicle itself.
      For instance the average age of brand new Corvette buyers is 58 years of age and they seldom have accidents because of how they drive, not because of the vehicle itself.
      B.O Stinks
      • 6 Years Ago
      They get more tickets because cops hate libhurls to !
      • 6 Years Ago
      I live in the Wash D.C. area and I have yet to encounter a hybrid driver who is not driving at least 20 to 25 mph over the posted speed limit. Could explain the reason they are getting more tickets.
        • 6 Years Ago
        One of my bozo greenie friends has one and pulls some ridiculous crap with that thing.

        We're leaving a restaurant together, I drive a modified WRX, him a Prius. He runs to his Prius and runs a stop sigh so he can pull in front of me and would not let me pass the entire drive home, even if it meant him swerving into the oncoming lane so I couldn't go around him. He seemed very proud of himself for ruining what would have been a very fun drive through the winding roads of Skyline Rd. (in the hills of LaHonda, CA). It was like Kryptonite to what should have been a nice Superman drive through the hills.

        I pulled over to let him get some distance from me, he sees me do that in his rearview and he pulls over too. When I pull back out he makes sure to pull out in front of me again.

        I told him if he ever pulls that crap again I'll run his golf cart of the road. I can't stand Prius drivers at all. I make fun of him and his golf cart every chance I get.
        • 6 Years Ago

        ...yeah... I wonder why he gave you a crap sandwich on that drive then.
        Maybe it is because you "make fun of him every chance you get."
        I'm sure he, as a prius driver or anything else, isn't just acting like that with every other car on the road all the time.
        It is kind of funny though that you couldn't manage to find an opening big enough to muscle past his "golf cart".

        - mike
      • 6 Years Ago
      More hybrids are probably ticketed for going 10 under the speed limit in the left lane while not paying attention to anything but the little gauge that is telling them their MPGs.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Guys, I had a prius for a while when I commuted along highway 280 in California. I averaged over 85 mph for my commute once on the highway and BOTTOMED OUT at a low of 41mpg average - while driving the hell out of that thing. Only time the mileage was truly awful was, as expected, going uphill for stretches in SF downtown, but you regain your mana on the other side of the hill with the regen braking. Stopped the commute and drive an Elise now. I didn't hate the Prius.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I rented a Prius for a few days a I can honestly say that it's a damn slippery car. It seems to get up really quickly-I was at 80 before I knew it and had to make myself slow down. I normally cruise at 70 in my Solstice.

        Overall, I hated the experience- awful driving position, terrible handling, too much body roll, and I could never get used to the engine cutting off at a standstill and thunking into gear when it restarted.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I also commute on 280 between San Francisco and San Jose, I also notice some pretty spirited hybrid drivers but your MPG figures don't surprise me because the Prius is a pretty slippery car aerodynamically and it's not until past 90mph does the car really ramp up the RPMs.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oddly enough, I see Priuses going insane speeds all the time on the highways around here. They're probably just more conspicous than other cars because one is prone to think: why would you buy a car for which fuel efficiency is the main point, and then flog it at like 85-90mph on the highway thereby negating most if not all of the efficiency.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Hybrids are very aerodynamic.

        They are probably like my mother's old Saturn - very slow to reach high speeds but maintain them very easily.
      • 6 Years Ago
      They only get more tickets because of the machismo, gun toting, bible thumping, SUV driving cop culture.

      I see Priuses pulled over all the time here in Texas, disproportionately so. The guy in the 11 foot tall chevy pick-up with the Confederate flag in the back window going 85 in the left lane blows by and doesn't get a second look from the police car park on the side of the road...

      ...Prius fails to signal during a lane change and three cop cars, two fire trucks and the local Teamsters all instantly pounce.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, all the bible thumpers in San Francisco... hate how this area is so conservative.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Anybody caught violating a traffic law in a hybrid should be publicly flogged.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Correct me if i am wrong but doesn't just about car manufactuer in the world today either currently sells a hybrid motor-vehllce or plans to in the near future and not just Toyota.

      Also, i suppose the Volt is not trying to be about image ... mmm !!

      What i find funny is that for many years Government Motors (GM) heavily critised Toyota for investing into hybrid drivetrains but today they promote thier advances in the very technology they once openly critised ... how is that for arrogance at it's best !!
        • 6 Years Ago
        They're both hybrids. The Volt is a series hybrid. Hybrids are still for greenwashed yuppies. Prius drivers ARE some of the sh*ttiest drivers around. I don't get why they have to roll stop signs. Don't you have regenerative braking?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Technically, the Volt is not a hybrid. That's because, unlike the Prius, the gas motor is never used for propulsion, only the electric motor does that. The gas motor is basically a generator, topping up the batteries when needed, it never turns the wheels.

        In the Prius, the electric motor is inline with the gas engine, it's basically where the clutch/torque converter would be. The net effect is that the gas engine turns the wheels, with the electric motor providing a boost effect. With the gas engine off, it's basically an electric car.

        The reason why this is important is that all engines have a speed at which they operate a peak efficiency. One of the problems with conventional cars is the variance in engine speeds, which makes it really, really hard to deliver high efficiency. GM has chosen to solve this problem by removing rpm variability through the use of a pure electric drivetrain.

        It may be too little to late, and most customers couldn't care less about the technology as long as the brand and vehicle match their perceptions....

      • 6 Years Ago
      This report is full of contradictions and doesn't do anything to help one decide which is better to consider buying. Typical BS study from someone trying to justify a career in auot research.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Too bad.

      Due to CAFE standards, if you want to drive anything resembling a current car as we know it today, it will need to be a hybrid in 2015. Anything else will be a micro.
      • 6 Years Ago
      @Franz: this is from autos.msn.com
      MSRP Price Range: $33,600 - $50,700
      Invoice Price Range: $30,910 - $46,645
      base invoice is almost 31k.. if you can get if for that much, awesome!
      Diesels are best if most of your driving is highway miles... Hybrids work better in stop and go traffic. The car that gets YOU the most mileage would be based on what most of your driving is.

      • 6 Years Ago
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