• Aug 10, 2010
2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

Despite its combined rating of 50 miles per gallon, the Toyota Prius is reportedly not the best hybrid to buy if you want to recover the extra money spent on that battery and electric motor through fuel savings. Surprisingly, that honor falls to the Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid. How is it that an $88,000 car luxury car with a 15 kilowatt mild-hybrid system can be a better value than the $22-30,000 Prius?

As is so often the case, the answer depends on the question you ask. The question asked by the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) comes down to how much extra you pay for a hybrid over its conventional gas-powered equivalent compared to how much you save in fuel over five years of ownership.

The ace in the hole for the Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid is that it's the cheapest S-Class currently offered in North America by several thousand dollars, which means that you save money before you even drive it off the dealer's lot. It's currently the only hybrid offered that is less expensive than its nearest non-hybrid equivalent. BCAA estimates that the S400 will save the owner about $5,000 in reduced fuel and purchase costs over five years, and that's all gravy since you're not paying a premium for the hybrid experience.



Photos Copyright ©2010 Sam Abuelsamid / AOL

[Source: British Columbia Automobile Association via Green Car Reports]
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2010 Annual Hybrid Cost Analysis
July 21, 2010

Twelve years after Honda introduced the first gas-electric hybrid vehicle into the mass North American market, car buyers have yet to see the kinds of price reductions that were predicted to occur as hybrids gained popularity and market share. Even with technological advancements, and increased sales and model selection, consumers continue to pay a premium to purchase a hybrid. And, with the introduction of the HST and the corresponding elimination of the provincial sales tax rebate on hybrid vehicles, most hybrid models continue to cost more to own and operate than their conventional gas-powered counterparts.

According to British Columbia Automobile Association's (BCAA) annual Hybrid Cost and Savings analysis conducted in July, several models come close to their conventional cousins when costs are compared over five years, but only one – the $105,000 Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan-is less expensive to own and operate compared to its conventional equivalent.

BCAA's study placed 16 hybrid models available in B.C. and their conventional equivalents side-by-side and compared the purchase, financing and fuel costs over a five year period. The analysis assumes a constant gas price of $1.17 per litre and a driving distance of 20,000 kms a year. The main differences between the 2010 and 2009 cost studies are the elimination of the provincial sales tax rebate and the provincial luxury vehicle tax, and the price of gas, which last year was $1.04 per litre. New models this year are the Lexus HS 250h and Mercedes-Benz S400.
BCAA's Hybrid Cost Analysis revealed the following:

* The $105,000 Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan is the only model less expensive to own and operate compared to its corresponding conventional model. The S400 is approximately $5,000 less to own and operate than the closest conventional model, the Mercedes S450.
* The hybrids that come closest in cost to their conventional counterparts in purchase and operating costs are all the Toyota models (Prius, Camry and Highlander Hybrid), all the Honda models (Insight and Civic Hybrid) and the Lexus HS250h.
* Over a five year period, the hybrids that are the least costly to own and operate are the Honda Insight ($38,326), Toyota Prius ($40,324), and Honda Civic Hybrid ($42,664).
* Hybrids with the greatest greenhouse gas (GHG) emission advantage over their gas-powered equivalents are:
Toyota Prius (55% fewer GHG emissions)
Ford Fusion Hybrid (38% fewer GHG emissions)
Honda Civic Hybrid (37% fewer GHG emissions)
* The hybrids with the lowest overall GHG emissions (kg of carbon per year) are:
Toyota Prius (1748 kg/yr)
Honda Civic Hybrid (2070 kg/yr)
Honda Insight (2162 kg/yr)
Ford Fusion Hybrid (2352 kg/yr)

"With the elimination first of the federal tax incentive and now the provincial tax rebate, it appears it's still going to be a while before hybrids offer a cost advantage over standard vehicles," says Trace Acres, BCAA's director of corporate communications and government relations. "What we are seeing however, is manufacturers starting to offer price breaks for things like cash sales, so an environmentally conscious consumer may still be able to make a hybrid purchase work financially by shopping around."

When considering a switch to a more environmentally-friendly vehicle, Acres encourages drivers to examine emission ratings as well as sticker prices to ensure the hybrid they choose will provide them with the environment savings they expect.

"BCAA's research shows that cost is not typically the main motivator for someone looking to purchase a hybrid," explains Acres. "We believe that many consumers are willing to pay a bit more to go 'hybrid' if it will reduce their carbon footprint."


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  • 30 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      The question is irrelevant to begin with - I wish the Auto Press would stop it!!!!!!!!!
      Q: How many sets or rears can you have the privelage of tearing up over 5 years if you buy the new Mustand GT, VS the regular Mustand V6?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why does everyone obsess about how long it takes to make your money back when purchasing a hybrid/higher-mileage car? Why not also obsess about how long it takes to get one's money back when purchasing a CD/hard-drive audio-entertainment system versus a simple AM/FM radio, or the payback time between buying power windows and air conditioning versus manual windows and no-air? Currently, hybrids and electric cars should be seen as - and marketed as - luxury technology catering to a luxury market, like iPods, iPhones, iPads, iMacs and every other fancy product that Apple and others produce. Once the luxury market is saturated and economies of scale in manufacturing take over, then hybrids/electrics should be viewed in terms of the money they save. Moreover, I would like to see AutoBlog and others do a cost analysis of how much our oil wars, ecological disasters and carbon-subsidized tax policies cost us and see if a couple thousand bucks lobbed on to the purchase price of a hybrid/electric vehicle is higher or lower than that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      When you compare this thing to its true counterpart, the S350 which isn't available in the States... this mild hybrid makes no sense.

      But it is marketing genius for those who need the image of a hybrid, with no sacrifice in luxury, for a slight loss in 0-60, while paying less to do so!

        • 4 Years Ago
        I doubt, it seems like pretty much every automakers failed at the Hybrid game BUT Toyota.

        If these things really made product more marketable we would have seen them across all models. MB is just testing the new system and i am sure they are losing money on it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Rather silly comparison as those wanting to save money on vehicles do not tend to shop luxury models. But at least there is some 'value' to that hybrid.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If they are looking to save money they shouldn't be looking at a BENZ. Sure it may "save" you money before you drive it off the lot, but just wait until AFTER you drive it off the lot!

        It's an instant downer when a customer tells me they want to trade in thier Merc, because it is NEVER worth a reasonable number.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If they are looking to save on a vehicle they shouldnt even be looking at a hybrid.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This comparison is hilarious. First of all, the Lexus GS 450h with a 3.5L engine has the same performance as the GS 460 4.6L V8...yet they compared it with a 3.5L V6 with lower performance. The whole point of the hybrid system in that car is to add to the performance (like a turbo), and not to save fuel.
      Likewise, they compare the Lexus HS with the IS...cars that share no common parts.
      The cherry on top of the cake is the previous generation Lexus RX 400h to the current generation RX 350 (who's hybrid counterpart is now called the RX 450h).
      However, for the Mercedes, they compare a V8 S450 to the anemic V6 hybrid S400.
      How are they not embarrassed to put out such a "study"? My high school teacher wouldn't have accepted such a report...a reported flawed to the core.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How much does a non hybrid Prius cost ?
        • 4 Years Ago
        as much as a corolla or matrix.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It would be worthless.

        Being a Hybrid is the only thing it has going for it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Naturally aspirated non-hybrid FTW!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Considering that the S-Class diesel from 15 years ago actually had better fuel economy ratings (1995 S350 = 19 city / 26 hwy vs. 2010 S400 Hybrid = 19 city / 25 hwy), this S400 Hybrid isn't much to brag about. However, I understand that MB has a diesel hybrid in the works which is suppose to deliver truly impressive fuel economy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Regardless you still have a multiple of 4 over initial purchase, not to mention the Cost of Ownership, taxes and depreciation are all higher as well. Of course I rank those same buyers in the moronic category that purchase a Suburban Hybrid. A educated buyer would wait for the Fisker Karma.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think this "study" misses the point entirely.

      Hybrids are for people who want to save maximum money on fuel costs. The only reason Hybrid sales really took off is because gas prices post-Katrina were historic highs. $4.00 a gallon regular which rose to around $5 in some places.

      A Prius and most other hybrids cost less than $30,000. If you factor in the cost of ownership over 6 years (72 months) these cars will cost roughly $55,000 - and that's with BAD CREDIT. With Good credit, a lower interest rate will cost you roughly $45,000.

      How the hell does an $88,000 car which comes to roughly $108,000 after taxes and fees save you money over the 6 year term?

      That's completely senseless.

      What I will say is that the S550 is made of more recycled materials than the Prius and is slightly more Earth Friendly... if you don't believe CO2 and NO emmissions are bad for the planet.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In America this is true, but in some countries you can avoid congestion charges and save significantly on insurance by driving a hybrid, on top of initial purchase incentives. Furthermore, there are a number of people who buy them to reduce their emissions, fully aware that it may cost them more money in the end but that is the cost of doing something they feel is valuable.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Are the Tahoe and Escalade Hybrid not available in BC? They should be at the top of this list.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I just looked, the GM 2-mode SUVs don't really command a ton of price bump over equivalent non-hybrids. Don't get me wrong, they cost a ton, but they are similar in spec to an LTZ config, and they are the same price. You're probably paying only a couple thousand in hybrid costs, which is pretty good for a $50K vehicle that saves you $500 in gas per year.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is listed as only over 5 years. This is the same trick that was pulled on that Prius versus Hummer garbage a while back.

      If a car has a payback at all, then it's quite possible you save money driving it even if you don't own it long enough to reach the payback, because in theory it will have higher resale and so in essence the next owner pays enough money to put you over the payback even though it isn't reached until after you own it.
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