Best money saving hybrids

By Ric Blackwell email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

(WFLX) - Buying a hybrid is almost trendy these days. In fact, a new Consumer Reports survey finds one out of three buyers is seriously considering a hybrid.

They get better gas mileage but, does shelling out more dough for a hybrid really save you money?

Toyota dealers say with today's gas prices, they have a tough time keeping Priuses on the lot. "They go rolling off the showroom floor as fast as they come in."

A base model Prius that gets 44 miles per gallon goes for around $24,000. That's $5,000 more than a similarly-equipped Toyota Corolla XLE that gets 32 miles per gallon.

To see which is the better deal, Consumer Reports compared the total cost of ownership if you bought the cars new and traded them in after five years.

"We compared several factors, including: depreciation, repairs and maintenance, and fuel costs, based on $4 a gallon and driving 12,000 miles a year."

Despite the extra $5,000 for the Prius, Consumer Reports figures you'd save about $2,000 over five years.

Consumer Reports checked which other hybrids to see if they saved you money. "It really depends on the hybrid. Some will save you thousands of dollars. Some won't save you anything, and others will only save you money if you can get the federal tax credit."

For example, the hybrid Nissan Altima will save you about $1,600 after five years with the tax incentive. But, without it, the Altima hybrid won't pay off.

But, with the hybrid Toyota Camry, you don't need a tax incentive to see big savings.  "If you buy the Camry hybrid instead of the all-gas version, you can save more than $4,000 over five years."

Consumer Reports says that makes the Toyota Camry the biggest money-saving hybrid out there which may come in handy if the cost of gas keeps going up.

Current federal tax incentives on hybrids range from $500 for the Honda Civic to more than $2,000 for the Nissan Altima.

But be aware, the federal rebates phase out once an automaker has produced 60,000 hybrids.  That's why there are no more rebates for Lexus and Toyota hybrids. And rebates for the Honda Civic hybrid will run out at the end of the year.