Do hybrid cars make sense as gas prices remain high?

Consumer Reports crunched numbers to see if gas savings justifies higher up-front cost

As gas prices remain pumped up, interest in hybrid vehicles may be revved up. But do they make sense given that many come with a higher up-front cost?

As gas prices remain pumped up, interest in hybrid vehicles may be revved up. But do they make sense given that many come with a higher up-front cost?

“Hybrids have a gasoline-powered engine and a battery-powered electric motor that work together to optimize efficiency,” said Alex Knizak, Consumer Reports’ auto expert. “We compared hybrid and non-hybrid versions of some popular vehicles and found that fuel savings could make up for many hybrids’ additional up-front purchase price.”

Using a gas price of $4 per gallon and driving 12,000 miles a year, Consumer Reports found that the Toyota Rav4 Hybrid would pay off its higher cost in four years; the Honda Accord Hybrid would pay it off in three years; and, the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, only two. And if gas prices go up to $5 per gallon, the payback period for the Santa Fe Hybrid could drop to just one year.

Beyond fuel economy, some hybrids even performed better in their tests than the gas-only version of the same model.

“For example, the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid rides better, is quieter, and shifts more smoothly than the gas-only Santa Fe. It’s quicker in our acceleration tests, too,” Knizak said.

Consumer Reports also found that hybrids often have higher owner satisfaction scores than their conventional counterparts.

If a new hybrid isn’t in your budget, used may be an option.

“When shopping for a used car, we say the sweet spot is a well-maintained five-year-old vehicle,” Knizak said. “It not only has gone through a significant part of the depreciation cycle but also was designed and built recently enough to have modern safety and convenience features.”

And if you are in the market for a car but you’re not ready to try a hybrid, here is Consumer Reports’ list of fuel-efficient gasoline-powered vehicles.

Most Fuel-Efficient Cars

Fuel economy is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a new car because it has an impact on your weekly operating costs.

Many cars sold today offer impressive fuel economy, especially in contrast to what you may be trading in. Below, Consumer Reports spotlights the most fuel-efficient cars based on its overall fuel-economy test results.

Consumer Reports’ fuel-economy numbers are derived from a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon. Consumer Reports’ overall mileage results are calculated based on equal portions of city and highway driving.

This list starts with the most-efficient car, and it doesn’t include plug-in vehicles, like the Honda Clarity and Toyota Prius Prime. All of the cars are hybrids.

Complete test results can be found by clicking through to the model pages. Note that not all of the models below are recommended vehicles.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.