Did you know the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is a better deal for fuel-economy-inclined car buyers than a Honda Insight? True story, but only sorta.

Using a new section of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's FuelEconomy.gov website, we can now quantify the time it takes to pay off the higher price tag of most hybrids thanks to the lower refueling costs these vehicles provide. The page lets prospective customers look up 18 hybrids and show how many years it takes to save enough money to cover the extra cost. People can customize the search according to how many miles a year they drive, what their percentage of city vs. highway driving is and what gas prices are. Only hybrids apply, which means there are no cost-benefit analysis for the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt possible on the site – at least, not yet.

Still, some of the results are illuminating. The best deals, of course are models like the Buick LaCrosse eAssist mild hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, both of which have the same MSRP as their gas powered counterparts. That means you're in the black as soon as you drive them off the lot. As for other models, SUV hybrids had an advantage over some of more the most fuel-efficient compacts because the fuel-economy gains relative to the gas-guzzling conventional SUVs were greater.

That means that a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid four-wheel-drive, when factoring in 15,000 miles a year of driving, a 55 percent/45 percent city/highway mix and $3.75 a gallon gas prices, takes just 2.1 years to pay off relative to a conventional Escalade. That compares to the 4.6 years it takes to pay off a Toyota Prius C compared to a Yaris, and the 5.3 years it takes to pay off a Honda Insight hybrid compared to a gas-powered Honda Fit.


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  • 36 Comments
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think we will start to see a trend that large luxury SUVs will have the MSRP for the gasoline non hybrid version inflated to give more incentive for the hybrid version. Why? Probably a CARB credit play of some sort, where hybridizing the larger SUVs is more effective. I am SURE that adding hybrid technology is not free for the automaker. And they, being Luxury automakers, could afford the inflate the price of some models without harming overall sales. So you may think, "who cares, the buyer still saves". Wrong! The price difference should account for the Average price for other SUVs in that class, especially ones without hybrid counterparts.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        I think you're right about the MSRP juggling. It's already happening on the Lincolns and Buicks. Even a mild hybrid system isn't free, they're just hiding the cost (and making the payback look better) by raising the price of the base non-hybrid.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        Actually Ford charges the EXACT SAME PRICE (yes, I yelled) for the MKZ hybrid as the standard engine. Makes me wonder why people buy the non hybrid....? This right wing extremist is a cheap right wing extremist who LOVES pointing out that his truck is an ULEV flex fuel vehicle to any liberal in sight, and then asking them what their car's emission rating is (no one has ever been able to answer - I have had so much fun doing that).
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          "Makes me wonder why people buy the non hybrid....?" Better performance, presumably. Basically, Buick does away with the rental fleet engine, and simply gives the buyer the choice of high-mileage or higher-performance powertrains. Very simple and clean.
      mylexicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      By introducing the years to payback stat, the EPA are actually hurting green industry, and reinforcing all claims that they know nothing about commerce. They need to get out of the way. Buyers have been paying higher MSRP for big engines that require higher fuel operating costs. By suggesting that green technology should be judged by its payback period, they actually inhibit the sale of green technology. Every time gas prices adjust, people will stop buying, if payback is the reason green technology exists. The EPA only needs to emphasize that green tech is the only option that actually pays for itself.
        Yespage
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        Hybrids cost a premium. The EPA is saying that you'll see that money back given time, and perhaps not that much time either. The calc sheet is for the math disabled.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        "By introducing the years to payback stat, the EPA are actually hurting green industry" How so? Being able to directly compare fuel saved vs cost premium is very helpful.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          They ought to point out V8's are a huge Drain on your resources. People seem to not be able to do simple math. Like saving $1000 a year * 10 years = $10,000.
          skierpage
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          What's the "fuel saved vs cost premium" for fancy wheels, or leather interior, or the satnav & high-end stereo? Oh that's right, there isn't one. People should be happy to pay more for the feature of "my driving is less bad for the environment than other comparable cars"; someone who expects to get paid to choose that feature while blowing $$ for other options is an unthinking selfish jerk, who undoubtedly soothes his insecure ego by whining about smug environmentalists who are chumps because the payback for a hybrid takes years. Do the right thing when you buy a car, it's a large part of your environmental footprint. All his/her psychobabble aside, mylexicon has a valid point.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        "The EPA only needs to emphasize that green tech is the only option that actually pays for itself." And that's exactly what they're doing - they're telling potential buyers the time frame in which the option actually pays for itself.
          mylexicon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          No they are not. They are creating a statistic that stratifies green vehicles, and pigeon-holes them into the concept of payback. We live in a society where people aspire to double or triple the cost of ownership. They don't want a base Corolla, they want as loaded Lexus IS. They don't want a base Passat, they want a loaded Audi A6. The luxury badge and almost every single option they buy for their car creates higher depreciation, maintenance, replacement, fueling, etc. The EPA is teaching those mindlessly aspirational consumers that green technology is best summed up by a cost-benefit stat sheet. The EPA need to f*ck off and let the marketers do their work. If the EPA had balls, they would have a Prius or Volt as the base vehicle calculation, and they would give "years to bankrupt" stats for all of the SUVs and gas-guzzlers people purchase. Instead, they hurt green vehicles and reduce aggregate demand by holding green vehicles to statistical calculation that affects no other vehicles. Why? B/c government administrators are nanny-staters who think that people need better information to make better decisions. The EPA need to learn the difference between informational efficiency (a metric often used to evaluate financial markets) and the invisible hand (a moral, inspirational, aspirational, cultural, legal force that affects consumers and producers within a society). "Years to payback" is a hindrance to green energy, and it leverages none of the forces that bring about change.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Well, at that rate, might as well not bother showing fuel economy or AER at all... Just take the dealer's word that it's "better".
          super390
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Mylexicon: "Nanny-staters" are evil because they want people to have better information? This is the stupidest anti-government statement I've ever heard. The core complaint about "nanny-staters" is that they don't want citizens to make decisions at all, they want to make the decisions themselves. Furthermore, the foundation of free market theory is Adam Smith. Smith defined a properly functioning market as having perfect mobility, perfect information and perfect competition. Which is so far from reality as to be laughable, but at least he is demanding rational actors. You are deliberately calling for irrational actors with important information withheld or kept obscure. Which by definition produces rigged markets, and destroys the free-market argument that individual reason is the basis for human improvement and thus is more than a whimsy that must bend to government requirements. Your ridiculous "moral, inspirational, aspirational" force is exactly the cult of irrationalism created by Al Sloan to sell Detroit cars as giant dick substitutes, which got us tail fins, 400 hp engines moving 5000 lb cars, yearly superficial model changes that ruined quality control, and SUVs as crypto-military expressions of fear. All manipulation of human psychology. If you're too irrational to consider your own resources when buying stuff, you are the last person who should give a damn about the sustainability of the Earth's resources and so why should you want a hybrid?
          marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          mylexicon You seem very confused. "mindlessly aspirational consumers " the can be mindless or aspirational, but not both ! You also are confused about Adam Smith. His book was titled, 'Observations on the Wealth of Nations'. He was not an economist in the sense of preaching a philosophy or dogma, but an observer describing and already existing and evolving phenomenon. The whole point of his observations was that economies are neither moral nor immoral, simply efficient or inefficient . The EPA exists to provide information, not publish political doctrines.
          mylexicon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I never said nanny-staters are evil, and I never implied "evil" tendencies. I said nanny-staters are ineffective, and I implied that they lack understanding, especially about commerce. Nanny-stater is not synonymous with public servant. NS is a pejorative defined by failure. I'm not anti-government, either. I'm anti-incompetence regardless of the label associated with its origin. The EPA are not providing informational efficiency, as I outlined at the beginning of my post, they merely think they are creating informational efficiency. In reality, they are creating a new metric, and applying it to small number of vehicles. B/c the EPA are not applying it to all vehicles available for sale (they can't), they are not improving informational efficiency in the car market. They will essentially create two-distinct informational markets. One market where payback efficiency is necessary (alternative/green), and one market where payback efficiency is conveniently omitted (conventional). The result is relative disinformation. You need to focus on EPA policy, and quit indulging your cognitive biases by redefining every argument you encounter. "Years to payback" data is already included within cost of ownership data provided by numerous companies. Furthermore, "years to payback" emphasizes the financial strategy of green. How often to financial investment strategies change? Every 5 minutes? Financial strategies adhere to risk-return, which in its unfettered state is fear-greed. Nice payback numbers finally come along for green technology, and suddenly you are persuaded to institutionalize fear and greed as an integral part of green consumption. The label "naked opportunism" springs to mind. If I wanted to kill green energy, subjecting it to the tyranny of fear, greed, and contagion would be my first play. We tolerate such things in public markets b/c we are mainly concerned with assigning a public price. The public purpose of fuel-efficiency and green energy are far more important. We are trying to mitigate the externalities associated with our backwards car buying paradigms.
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      giant terd on 4-wheels
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      EPA can be clueless, did the oil lobby win again? Of Course, the Real Savings is a comparison from the CAR YOU LEAVE, to the Car you Choose. Say, a Subaru, or a Mustang GT, to a Prius. There you save a FORTUNE.
      Yespage
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Did you know the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is a better deal for fuel-economy-inclined car buyers than a Honda Insight? True story, but only sorta." No, not sorta, not true at all! The comparison is also not strictly apples to apples. Anecdotally, I had to settle for a Fit over the C because of the price difference. I don't know how fair these comparisons might be. I was driving the Fit on the highway, about 15 miles and got 46 mpg. Total driving, including that we live in a valley (we've put about 250 miles on the car and got 35 mpg, that is with minimal highway driving and not including the 46 mpg one way trip). I have no idea what the Second Gen Insight would give me. Besides, comparing the Fit with the Second Gen Insight isn't right. They should compare the Fit to the Prius C, the good hybrid (and it should be the Prius C Two, not the One). It'd be better if you could arbitrarily compare one car to the other. I do like how you can choose an annual mileage that is more likely what you'd drive. When comparing the C to the Fit, I needed to be realistic about not driving 15k a year in the C. That would have definitely made a difference in making the car cheaper over the immediate term.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Harrumph! Jeeves, more caviar! Why yes, I care about the environment, trees and such! Harrumph! Why, just last week, to demonstrate to the boys at the country club how much I cared, I bought this new Escalade. Look at that fine old growth wood that they have inlaid into the dashboard and steering wheel! And the dealer told me that they killed 25 cows to make the seats! This is all to demonstrate my caring for the environment! Harrumph!
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Well said, my good man! Pip-pip and all that! Let us drink some fine scotch and toast ourselves! ;-)
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Grendal
          Toast ourselves, dammit, good line that I missed! :D
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Yeah, it is a bit ridiculous. But a hybrid monster is more efficient than a convention monster. They should consider smaller vehicles though. BTW, relatively small improvements to gas guzzlers can help a lot. Going from 15MPG to 17MPG on some gas guzzler saves much more gas than going from 42MPG to 44MPG on a Prius.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Oh yea, low hanging fruit...and Marco's container ships and all that. Improvements are improvements, and should not be laughed at. However, as nifty as the improvements are on an Escalade, I would have a hard time calling it 'green.' a payoff number is a good way to see the cost benefit, but even this radical right wing extremist would have difficulties keeping a straight face driving to the local occupy protest in my 'slade, with my 24's, pressed jeans hat smartly cocked to one side with my fist in the air (the other holding my Starbucks) yelling out, 'fight the power!'
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Blah blah blah yanh yanh yanh nothing to say.
      sirvixisvexed
      • 2 Years Ago
      Resale value only "varies wildly" based on how well the owner treats and maintains their vehicle. All vehicles from a certain year by a certain automaker with the same number of miles and who are in the same condition will not have values that "vary wildly". Or if someone chooses to sell privately and allows themselves to be taken advantage of and lets it go for less than it's worth; and then complains the car was only "worth" what they sold it for. You can go look on autotrader or cars.com right now and see that all hybrids retain more of their value over time than their exact same model/year/miles/condition ICE brethren. That is why the entire years-to-payoff context is wrong and ridiculous. While you spent your 6 years going on and on about your payoff period, you then go "oops" when you realize that your car is worth almost the same difference in price when used as it was when new, compared to a same make/model/year/miles/condition ICE car. More efficient machines are worth more. Doesn't matter whether new or used.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Other factors, such as insurance, maintenance, or resale value, are not considered since they can vary widely." Resale value is an exponential increase in payback period. A weak hybrid that gets 1 mpg better won't have a discernable increase in resale value. But for strong hybrids like the Prius, they hold value MUCH better.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        You can't just say "1 mpg". 1mpg on an Escalade means a fuel savings of over 5% and 25 gallons a year ($100). 1mpg on a Prius would be a fuel savings of 2% and about 7 gallons per year ($25).
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Joev..., is under some kind of misconception that these batteries are worthless at 100,000 miles. Do we have to always have at our fingertips the Prius 10 year study, with batteries still performing fine?
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Yeah, but after 8 years and over 100,000 miles... would a used car buyer really be willing to pay anything extra for that? Probably not.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          I don't get what your answer has to do with anything. If they won't pay for 5% better mpg on car A, why would they pay extra for 2% better on car P?
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      They should emphasize that these calculations are merely educated guesses. They don't know the price of oil 3 years from now. They pay-back times could be much shorter or they could be longer.
      nsxrules
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why do they compare the Insight to the Fit as opposed to the Civic? Sounds like Obama's EPA is slanting the numbers towards the government owned hybrids (except Ford)
        Yespage
        • 2 Years Ago
        @nsxrules
        I think the Insight to Fit comparison is decent as they both share relatively similar utility inside the vehicle. There is more cargo space in the Insight and Fit, than the Civic.
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