CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Hybrid usage

How many miles should I drive a month to make the purchase of a hybrid worthwhile?
Thanks for any comments.

@daryleann, I would say that you probably need to drive at least 20K miles/year to make the purchase worthwhile.

Hybrids are best used in situations that involve a lot of city driving with stops and go’s frequently. They are less beneficial when used primarily for highway driving. While the number of miles does matter, the kind of miles (stop and go city, or highway cruising) also make a big difference.

A lot of city driving in a hilly city like San Francisco is a perfect scenario for getting a hybrid. A 50 mile one way commute on an interstate in North Dakota would not use the hybrid efficiently. In this case a high mpg car like a VW TDI diesel, or a conventional Honda Civic would be a better tool for the job.

Perhaps the OP could tell us more about how much monthly driving he or she does now, where these miles are driven, and how much city vs highway miles are driven?

Denver area driving, mostly city, with occasionally taking a road trip. Average about 1000 miles for both husband and myself, so looking to go to just one car.

Look at the cost of the hybrid…then the cost of vehicle equipped with the options you want. Then compare the price. Divide the difference over how many years you plan on keeping the vehicle to determine how many years it’ll take you to break even. 12k miles a year usually isn’t enough miles to break even. Last I looked you need about 20k miles and keep it for 6+ years to break even.

My guess is that you don’t drive enough miles a year to come out ahead. However, you really should look at the price difference and the fuel economy difference for the specific cars you’re considering and do the math yourself.

Consumers Report just rated the Prius as having the lowest Total Owner Cost (TOC) of all the cars they tested. The reliability and low maintenance costs is what brought the TOC down, but I do not know what their horizon was as far as duration and number of miles this was based on. The base model Mini Cooper was about the same TOC and is a non hybrid vehicle.

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybridCompare.jsp

My feeling is you will not save enough on fuel to make a hybrid payoff financially. If you just want a hybrid then l’d look at the '13 Ford Fusion. City and highway mpg all close to the same. You might never recoup the higher cost of the hybrid but if you feel better using less gas that is an intangible that only you put a value on.

@keith, I also read consumer reports, but I take some of their findings with a grain of salt.

Take the Mini Cooper for example. Does any mechanic reading this right now seriously think that a Mini Cooper is a low maintenance reliable car?

Like you said, we don’t know how long CR keeps cars in their fleet. But I’d bet it’s not long enough to realize that some of their “reliable” models turn into a POS in just a few short years.

I believe that the poster won’t break even, so to speak, but there are plenty of people that don’t buy them for economical reasons.

On a strict $$ basis it might be breakeven 5+ years at 12,000 miles a year, depending on the vehicles compared. I’m fine with that, I get all kinds of options that have NO “payout” whatsever.

Filling up half the time I used to is GREAT, and the price was OK.

I guess my question is what makes something “worthwhile” to you? Somehow the hybrid vs. conventional question always gets mucked up with things like selling price, cost of ownership, resale value, yearly budgets, etc. These things are, in my opinion, not relevant.

Hybrids use less gasoline than conventional cars. Period. Notice I didn’t say use less fuel or resources or money. There’s no way to accurately quantify the costs of developing, building, marketing, and owning a hybrid. Too many variables. But the fact remains that a hybrid car uses less pump gasoline than a conventional car. That alone should be your deciding criteria for buying one.

There’s always a cost involved with supporting emerging or developing technology.

Take the Mini Cooper for example. Does any mechanic reading this right now seriously think that a Mini Cooper is a low maintenance reliable car?

I am not a mechanic, but based on my wife’s Mini, they can be low maintenance and reliable.

Yep,get it because you want it,it’ll do great around town-Kevin

The economics don;t really make sense currently, you still pay a premium long-term for hybrids.

However, if making an effort to reduce fuel usage is important to you, than you should consider one. I’d recommend test driving the Prius, just because it has a long-term history and a good track record. Most of the others are yet-to-be-proven designs.

The Camry hybrid’s another good choice, same basic technology as the Prius, bigger all-around, still 40+mpgs in a very roomy sedan.

still 40+mpgs in a very roomy sedan.

Hopefully they changed things since we looked at them in 07. The major reason we didn’t buy it was the lack of trunk space. We couldn’t put two sets of golf clubs in the back.

It depends on the hybrid. It might make sense for a Prius hatchback or Prius c hatchback, but not for a Prius plug-in hybrid. They are too expensive at this time. Actually, any plug-in hybrid is too expensive.

Make a list of the hybrids that you want and a similar conventional car. Often, there are both hybrid and conventional models of the same car. The figure out how much the gas will cost for 12,000 miles. Then see how many years it takes for the gas cost difference to equal the initial purchase cost difference.

I think the Prous is a worthwhile investment. It has proven its self over and over for more then ten years of market testing, and many are still going strong. A guy down the road had one that he commuted with here in Maine.

His wife worked at the local Toyota dealership and with my experience talking with them, I would give the car these two caveats. First, you should have a Toyota dealership a reasonable distance away, and secondly, I would drive it frequently if not daily in the winter time and in extreme cold. Just my thoughts with my neighbors opinions. Lastly, with it’s low aerodynamics, don’t expect it to go through deep anything without some possible damaging results over time. That stuff aside, I think you’re good to go.

It just doesn’t work or me, cause I have no use for a 2 wd car where I live…and it is not worth owning as an occasional driver.

I would only buy a ToyotanHybrid as NO ONE else has the proven track record with owner satisfaction for as long a length of time.

As any autosalesman will tell you, “Buy what you like first then what you want second, afterall you will be driving this car for many years.”. Or maybe it’s the other way around?

We went from a 32mpg car to a 45mpg car (highway driving). but this was secondary to the fact that we needed a car that we can get wheel chaired parents in/out and trunk to accommodate that wheelchair + groceries. We no longer do much highway driving and we lost the invalid parent.