• Mar 14, 2011
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

Buying a hybrid is a responsible environmental move but, given their premium over standard cars, they aren't always a money-saving purchase. A study by CarGurus showed that gas would have to top $7 a gallon to make most hybrids the economical choice.

Hybrids command, on average, a 17-percent markup over their standard-powertrain counterparts, which stunts their economy at the pump. The $7-a-gallon break even point is an average. For some cars, the break-even is point is even higher. For a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid to make you money, gas will need to climb to $15 a gallon.

On the lower side of the scale are the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid. The Toyota's break-even point came out to $4 a gallon, while the Ford bucked the trend, breaking even at $2.50 a gallon.



Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Shunk / AOL

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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  • 61 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Disregarding the whole break-even argument, are people forgetting the fact that hybirds don't help the environment at all? The majority of our electricty comes from coal plants which produce pollution. The more electricty we use the more pollution we put into the air.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Depends on where you live-- all utilities run on a different mix of fuels. CA, for example, uses 30% less coal than the US average. Also, power plants run at a much higher rate of efficiency than your car can (40% vs. 10%). So choose your well-to-wheel units: pounds of CO2/mile, pounds of particulates/mile, etc.; electric cars pollute less.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Jayjay, most hybrids in the states are currently not plug in hybrids. Thus they generate their electricity from things such as regenerative braking.
        • 3 Years Ago
        They don't use electricity from the grid? Your argument is the only thing that doesn't make any sense. First off, we don't live in the same region so to assume that where I live uses electricity from the same source as yours is absurd. Secondly, you must have missed the part where I clearly stated that the majority of electricity we use in North America is from coal plants. If anyone tried to deny that then they are just a fool.

        http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12826
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ford wins again.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Some interesting reading:

      In the 1960 Mobilgas Economy Run, a Rambler Custom two-door sedan returned 28.35 miles per US gallon (8.297 L/100 km; 34.05 mpg-imp) over a route of more than 2,000 miles (3,219 km), finishing first in the compact class. Further proof of the American's exceptional fuel economy came when an overdrive-equipped car driven coast to coast under NASCAR's watchful eyes averaged 38.9 miles per US gallon (6.05 L/100 km; 46.7 mpg-imp). However, the most astounding demonstration was the record set in the Pure Oil Economy Trials, another NASCAR-supervised event: 51.281 miles per US gallon (4.5868 L/100 km; 61.586 mpg-imp).

      You may note that the Rambler used no batteries. :cough: #hypermileTHAT

      :goes back to polishing his Excursion:
      • 3 Years Ago
      Tabloid automotive journalism.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't understand all the Prius hate on AB. For people that want a boring old car that gets them to-and-from work reliably, seats five, is cheap to insure, and that they can drive until the end of time, the Prius is the perfect car. The sleek ass technology gismos are just icing on the cake really.

      As others have said, if you, "did the numbers" and think a Prius doesn't make sense, you suck at math or have a bias. The Prius comes nicely equipped (meaning premium stereo, bluetooth, etc.) at $25k, which is actually $2,000 LESS than a Camry XLE 4 cylinder -- which is the only Camry comparable in features. Speaking of Camry, the hybrid option for the XLE is less than $400. In fact, the hybrid is cheaper than the V6 option.

      Sure, you could buy a smaller, inferior car for less money. But a Yaris/Fit/Corolla isn't what your average new car buyer is looking for. Your average mom/girlfriend/grandma is looking for safe, reliable, cheap transportation that is big enough to haul four people and the stuff from the occasional IKEA trip. The Prius fits the bill perfectly.

      Imagine that: a product that does exactly what consumers want selling well?
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is a silly article, I'm totally a car guy but I get the hybrid thing. It's not worth it for everyone but some people it makes a lot more sense.

      My mother in-law does around 20-25k miles/year. She got herself an insight and regularly sees 45mpg on the highway and around town. 45 mpg AROUND town is huge, I borrowed her car after dropping her off at the airport for a few days and racked up 450miles on the car and it didn't even take 10 gallons at the damn pump. It's nice to be able to both visit the pump less often and be able to spend less $$$ at the pump.
        • 3 Years Ago
        But...but... where's the "smug"? You're supposed to be oozing "smug". I read so on the internets.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've been arguing this for years now. At current gas prices $3.60, it would take 120k or so miles to break even, buying a Prius over say a Honda Fit. And that's considering only City miles. It takes far more if you start figuring in highway. Plus there are other cars more fuel efficient than a Fit.

      Pure electrics are even worse. A $41,000 Volt would take forever and a day to break even. Especially if you use those ripoff "charging stations" that charge 5 bucks or more an hour.

      I'm kind of curious about their math in the article though. "The break even point is $2.50 per gallon." Is that to match monthly payments? Total cost? How many miles are we assuming here?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Lazy

        Edmunds bought a long term Volt, and they've been getting an average of $0.076/mile -- considerably less than a comparable compact to midsize car, or up to "221 mpg." Driven correctly, the Volt will break even in under 5 years compared to a Civic.

        Under normal driving, the same can be said about the Prius or Fusion Hybrid -- both can break even over a Civic or a regular Fusion in under 5 years, assuming gas prices never go up. If gas goes up, 5 years becomes a lot less.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Lazy: Yes it would take forever to see the break-even point in a Volt, is it were used in the same manner as an ICE powered car would be.

        I have been following the Volt closely, and find that most of the early owners, uses the car as if it were a pure electric, and become pretty upset when the ICE kicks in. Almost all of them are averaging over 100+ plus mpg, with some doubling that. It all depends on how you use the car. The folks with fewer long distance trips have the higher MPG efficiency.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Did you just compare a Prius to a Fit? A Prius is a mid-size and the Fit is a subcompact.

        They're worlds apart in size, comfort and standard options.


        But thanks for spreading the FUD.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Fit vs Prius: There is the problem for me. You can't buy a non-hybrid prius. I'd consider a Prius or Prius V just because of the size and space.

        I have stuff I want to haul, and I live in a place where many people have to fold their mirrors to get their cars into their parking. Fit is on the small side. Some of the cross-overs might work, but in a case like the Honda CR-V, for example, the way the space works is useless for me (not hauling cubes - need length).

        Mazda5 has always been on the list, but I think the PriusV is going to have better space inside. Otherwise this small van section is pretty much an empty shelf in the US.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Interior dimensions of the fit vs prius are only slightly in favor of the prius in terms of seating and the fit actually has more cargo capacity. Prius was chosen as it's "The Hybrid." and at the time of the original argument, the car driven by the other guy.

        But if you want to compare Midsize, the Elantra is about the same price as the Fit and gets still better gas mileage.

        The only time I have ever seen a hybrid be worth buying from a cost standpoint is the Lincoln MKZ as they sell the Hybrid version for the same price as the gas version, and see significant fuel improvement. Our pharmacist has one, it's nice.
      • 3 Years Ago
      My parents bought a Hybrid Camry a couple years ago and the reason they got it was basically because it cost the same as a similarly equipped non-hybrid 4 cylinder model. The difference in cost was so small that the version of the none hybrid Camry with all the same features made no sense at all.

      All they wanted was to stop going too the gas station every three days to fill up their Wrangler Unlimited and it worked. They didn't care about the environment, I guess they cared about mileage but what ultimately sold them on the Hybrid was that it was practically the same price as the four cylinder non hybrid.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This was a big part of my senior thesis. They just don't make sense.
        • 3 Years Ago
        What I had put together was a spreadsheet that contained data for all available hybrids (at the time) and compared them to their nearest-equivalent gas car from the same manufacturer. You could enter gas price and mileage driven per year to see how long, in years, it would take for the hybrid to break even on fuel savings alone. It also had a section that compared the 5-year cost of ownership, including an average depreciation. Then I did the same thing for economical gas-only cars. That spreadsheet is what I've based my conclusions on. With gas going up in price again, I should update it with 2011 models and prices...
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm by no means a "greenie". Notwithstanding, here's why I'm considering a hybrid. For my next car I'm budgeting about $12k. I could get an '06 Accord EX or an '06 Prius.

        Based on current gas prices and my typical driving habits it would save me about $1000 a year in gas. After 5 years of ownership I'm looking at $5k in savings (at a minimum). Not to mention the additional resale value of the hybrid. If gas prices keep rising that saving goes even higher.
        • 3 Years Ago
        it was for an economics class.

        but even if you are trying to "protect the environment" they aren't helpful.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @thefourthheat

        Good example. But everyone focuses on the hwy mpg or the combined mpg. An even greater case could be made for people that drive 80% plus in urban traffic. The city mpg is often higher on hybrids than even the hwy mpg and if one drives mainly in city environments the payback would be quicker because the gap between city ICE mpg and city hybrid mpg would be much greater.

        So the hybrid argument really makes more sense for people where gas prices are high and most driving is city type. The payback lengthens or disappears in some cases if you live where gas is cheaper and your commute is 50 miles each way of hwy driving.

        I won't address environmental impact of the mining of minerals in China since I don't really know much about it. But I would hazard a guess that some that are spouting a lot about it don't either. By the way, I've never owned a hybrid but those that feel that people that drive them "feel or act superior"......I think you must look within as I've never seen anyone driving a hybrid that appeared to be looking down on me.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The rare metals needed in the battery are offset by the smaller sized catalytic converter. Now, I've mentioned Catalytic Converter size being a factor here about 3 times now, and yet the "right" [ which seems to be always wrong ] never remembers.

        Is this whole article Astroturf funded manure from the Koch's?

        Especially EV's which don't have catalytic converters with a host of other dropped equipment.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If that's already your conclusion, then I see that this "thesis" is going to be one big fail.

        • 3 Years Ago
        First off, this CarGurus study doesn't show up on their own website and there's only a bunch of newspapers and blogs regurgitating each others nonsense. It claims that you need $4 gas for a Camry Hybrid to breakeven-but that makes no sense since there's no data about how many years that's over. Is it over 1 year? 10 years? There's zero details about anything they're claiming, and zero data on their website. In fact, far as their website goes the study doesn't exist at all.
        What does exist is this Edmunds.com study which shows damned good break-even times for everything:
        http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/top-10/top-10-diesels-and-hybrids-with-the-shortest-break-even-periods-for-2011.html
        The Lincoln MKZ hybrid breaks even in only 0.2 years. The Prius in 0.7 (this is a little bit confusing since they're comparing it to the Camry but the Prius is slightly smaller for passenger volume though a lot larger than a Corolla, and it has better cargo capacity than the Camry), the MB S400 hybrid in 2.8, etc.

        So basically, you're choosing to believe a "study" by CarGurus that doesn't even show up on their own website, with zero data about the number of years, a study that doesn't even appear to exist, over actual data from a study that actually exists. All to fuel your own ignorant thesis about hybrids. How about you sit down with a pencil and a sheet of paper and just do some basic math? Gas is around $3.89 a gallon right now (depends on state) and the average driver does 12,000 miles a year. Go look up the pricing of the hybrid and non-hybrid versions of a car and use their combined mileage rating to figure out the cost difference per year. Do your own damned math, and it'll be obvious to anyone but the most ignorant that there's a definite financial case for many hybrids now.
        Here, I'll even do a quick one for you. The Fusion I4 SEL vs the Fusion Hybrid (the Hybrid trim level is equivalent to the SEL):
        $3290 difference
        I4 SEL combined mileage: 28mpg
        Hybrid combined mileage: 39mpg
        Cost to drive Fusion SEL 12,000 miles: $1667
        Cost to drive Fusion Hybrid 12,000 miles: $1197
        Annual savings: $470
        Years to completely recoup initial additional cost: 7 years.

        And this is with the absolute *MOST CONSERVATIVE* possible method of calculating it, because the reality is that the Fusion Hybrid is also worth more money than the I4 SEL, so you don't have to recoup all the additional up front cost in order to break even. If you decided to sell it after 3 years you'd be able to get more money than someone selling the I4, so you don't need to save $3290 in gas to break even. And the Hybrid is a faster car anyways since it has power from both the hybrid system and the gas engine. If you compared it to the V6 it'd be much more in it's favor, but even against the I4 it'll break even within the average lifetime of a car. Within it's the warranty on the hybrid powertrain. So why in the world would you pretend like this isn't true?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Not if his thesis was for an economics class, it won't be.

        From a strictly dollars & cents point of view, this report pretty much confirms my own research and study from three years ago, when hybrids were a bit less promiment. Even then, when gas was approaching $4/gal (sound familiar?), the economic break even point of ownership on the average hybrid was out beyond the span typical new car buyers' keep a new car. And also similarly, the Camry hybrid broke even relatively quickly and the Escalade never did, for all intents and purposes.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I can understand the point of the intellectual exercise: to give consumers the ability to judge, at what point does gasoline prices make it worth buying a hybrid. But the outcome is still dependent upon a few fixed assumptions: average annual mileage, the sale price of vehicle and the residual value.

      So you're not necessarily better served by this method of measurement, than by the number of years to reach BEP for each hybrid model...the Caddy will still be more difficult to reach BEP over the Ford Escape, no matter how you measure it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The usual sneering idiocy about the buyers of hybrids being "greenies" and "feeling superior", so no change there then...

      Gas here in the UK is equivalent to $7 a US gallon with every indication that it'll climb even higher in April so a 5 seat Prius which does 60+mpg, has zero road tax (because of it's very low emissions) and which is cheap to insure is nothing but sensible transport for a 40 mile round-trip daily commute.

      To put this in context, it costs $250 to brim a Range Rover to drive 400 miles before spending $250 again!

      Obviously such frugality annoys "real men" and "enthusiasts" who'd rather waste their money on gas whilst denying climate change, but oops, there's me being "superior" and "greenie" again!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Our Priuses don't get 60+mpg. Your gallons are bigger, cheaters.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This info still wont convince the greenies otherwise. Oh well.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you actually look at hybrid sales you'd see that the ones with crazy high breakeven points basically don't sell. The best selling hybrids are also the ones that actually make some financial sense.
        Also, this analysis seems flawed since it doesn't always seem to pick the right cars to compare against. According to Forbes, the Camry hybrid would break even in only 1.7 years so long as gas is at $3.67, and right now gas is like that in a lot of states.
        http://blogs.forbes.com/investopedia/2011/02/18/how-long-until-your-hybrid-pays-off/?partner=yahootix
        I'm guessing that CarGurus didn't take into account the fact that the Hybrid is much better equipped than the absolute base Camry, and came up with a much higher number for the price difference of $3300. It's actually equipped between the LE and XLE so it makes no sense to compare it against much cheaper Camry's. The Autoblog blurb doesn't even say how many years it would take to break even at $4/gallon which makes no sense. Saying that it breaks even with no # of years given is nonsensical.
        And the only way the Prius wouldn't break even damned quickly is if you compared it to the much less roomy, much less cargo space containing, Corolla. It's a much roomier car than the Corolla and it has far more cargo space so they're really not at all in the same class.
        I can't even find the actual analysis at Cargurus, only a bunch of shoddily written articles that all seem to quote each other about this supposed study. Where is this study? It doesn't seem to exist at all on their website, and frankly the numbers sound pulled out of someone's butt.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @James Sonne,

        Completely agree.

        In order to come up with a dollar figure for a break-even point, whoever completed the study would have to make a lot of assumptions for each individual vehicle, such as how people are driving them and how long they are owning them, to complement their estimate of how much a hybrid vehicle costs relative to its non-hybrid counterpart.

        Then there's the question of... in addition to your Lexus example where the point of the hybrid is not actually higher mileage, how do you come up with the non-hybrid counterpart to say, a Prius or Insight, which are arguably the hybrids with the best value, but don't have non-hybrid counterparts at all? And what about those drivers who otherwise wouldn't have purchased the cheaper vehicle anyway and went into the dealership with a set budget or monthly payment in mind? I think there are quite a few drivers in this situation, and for them the break-even point starts with the first tank of gas.

        It's all totally random and just to make headlines. Journalists are not scientists, but they sure can forgo integrity to sell a few more papers (or ad clicks in this day and age).
        • 3 Years Ago
        This article is based on several assumptions. First and foremost is the length of time of ownership of the vehicle in question, which the article neglects to even mention, nor does the article actually cite ANY source, in it's dearth of journalistic integrity which typifies the Detroit Free Press where it was published.

        Basically, the article says that hybrids have a higher price tag on average. It provides no explanation of its math, or how it compared hybrid to non-hybrid equipment levels to come up with that difference in price. There are even some Hybrids that get the same or lower MPG than their non-hybrid counterparts, like the Lexus LS long-wheelbase hybrid. It's simply a quieter, more luxurious version. Were these considered when coming up with that "average higher price tag" they used for calculation?

        I have likewise done my own calculations for my own amusement. It depends on so many variables that any article, such as the above linked, is merely sensationalist media reporting.

        I love my sports cars, but there's no need to make fallacious over-generalizations. Let people form their own opinions based on their needs and wants.

        Personally, I want a light-weight sports car with a huge engine. The exhaust from the engine will pale in comparison to the smoke from my tires. But hybrids are nice, useful, and good vehicles depending on your needs and wants.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Your use of the word "greenies" invalidates your point. Greenies don't care about the cost to the pocketbook, they care about the cost to the environment. It has long been established that those with a real concern for the environment will make financial and other sacrifices in order to be green or viewed as green.

        Now, if the article had looked into the environment impact of having Chinese mining companies dig up the rare earth metals needed to build hybrids and compared that to the impact of driving a standard ICE vehicle, you'd have a point.
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