Hybrids Worth Their Extra Cost?

Posted Monday, Nov 26, 2018

Currently, gas prices have dropped down again, but whether they are high or low, having to spend less for gasoline is always alluring. So, when you see a hybrid advertising an estimated 49 mpg’s in the city, you begin to wonder if you should consider buying one. But, you may be asking yourself, "Are hybrids worth their extra cost?" Let’s look at some figures to decide.

Obviously, there are several models of hybrids being made today, and several have been made over the past 10−15 years, so this post would become too lengthy if we tried to compare every hybrid to its conventional counterpart. Hence, we will choose only one as an example: the 2019 Honda Accord Hybrid vs. the 2019 Honda Accord LX. In this comparison, we’ll be looking at the base model of each.

hybrids worth their extra costAccording to Honda’s own website, the 2019 Accord LX starts at $23,720 and the 2019 Accord Hybrid starts at $25,320. So, the price difference is $1600. To be sure, options and trim packages can move this price differential in either direction, but we’re looking at base to keep the comparison accurate.

Honda’s website also states that the LX’s mpg rating is 30 city/ 38 hwy, while the Hybrid’s is 48/48 (although hybrids typically get better city mileage than highway mileage). If we take the average for each, we’ll establish that The LX gets 34 and the Hybrid gets 48. According to the Federal Highway Administration’s website, an American, on average, drives 13,476. If we allot 13,500 miles per year, we will find the LX will use approximately 397 gallons of gasoline each year. However, the Accord Hybrid will use about 281. As of November 13, 2018, the national average for a gallon of gas is $2.68. So, the LX will cost $1063.96 for fuel per year, but the Hybrid will cost $753.08. This means the owner of the Hybrid will have spent $310.88 less each year for gas. Remember, though, he/she spent $1600 more to purchase the car. Therefore the Hybrid owner will have to drive his/her car for 5.14 years to break even with the owner who bought the conventional Accord.

Another thing to consider is the fact that both vehicles have gasoline engines and transmissions, so factoring in a new engine or transmission is really a moot point. However, only the Hybrid has a battery pack that may need replacement. Some authorities state that you should expect no more than 150,000 miles from a hybrid car’s batteries; there are exceptions to this rule, as usual. Since our numbers equate to 69,390 miles (5.14 years X 13,500 miles/year), we shouldn't have to plan for the likelihood of battery replacement. If we do, the replacement may or may not fall under the warranty depending on length of ownership/mileage; including parts and labor, the replacement averages around $3000.

So, what does all of this mean? According to these numbers, an Accord hybrid is worth the extra cost from a purely financial point. Interestingly, though, this is not true of all manufacturers or different models among the same manufacturer. Looking at Toyota's 2019 models on their website, you'll see that it will take 12.74 years for the Camry Hybrid owner to break even with the Camry Base owner, yet the Avalon owner only needs 1.97 years to break even. In the end, you should opt for the hybrid model that is priced most closely to the standard model if you're making the choice based on economics. However, if you feel you should have a smaller carbon footprint, then a hybrid in general would be the sensible option.

Coming from a different vantage point, though, is that a used hybrid with high miles could be the ticket if you would like to bet against the odds. Some hybrids have batteries that make it beyond the 100,000 mile mark, yet many people are scared to go beyond this threshold. So, used hybrids with high miles are often priced cheaply. If you view the 100,000 mile mark as superstition, then a high-mileage used hybrid is for you.

No matter your decision, as hybrid technology advances, this argument will become obsolete for their cost/value will surpass their conventional counterparts. As for now, some are worth the extra cost, and some aren't.

Photo courtesy of reasonablerides.com

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