Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why I Won't Buy a Hybrid.... Yet

There was a really fantastic article on Yahoo! today by Noah Buhayar and Bryan Palmintier outlining the savings gained by Hybrid cars now that gas is over $4 a gallon. 

Ever since I got rid of my car and bought a scooter, I have been fine with us being a one car family. Our old Volkswagen Golf is on it's last legs and if we were to buy a car, a Hybrid would definitely be at the top of the list because of the efficiency. There are a few reasons why I am a little reluctant to take the plunge, though. 

One of the arguments for Hybrids is the tax credit that comes with it. Back in 2005 an energy act was passed which gave purchasers substantial tax credits for buying a Hybrid car. However, these were only valid for the first 60,000 cars sold by each manufacturer. The highest performing Hybrid right now is the Toyota Prius. All the tax credits for this car are gone. If you looking for a tax credit, you are left with Hybrids from General Motors and Nissan.

Hybrid cars are not appearing on the market as used cars frequently, and when they do the resale value for these cars is very high. This isn't entirely surprising, as it makes sense that people would choose to keep these cars and that they would hold their value, but as the cost of a new Hybrid is normally around $20,000 it is likely that purchasing one would involve taking out an interest bearing loan. 

Now the math for my family. We drive, on average, no more than 15 miles in a day. That is our maximum. Add in a couple of road trips a year that might tack on an extra 400 miles makes our mileage total about 5,875 miles per year. This is much less than the national average, which is over 12,000 miles per year. 

Our current car gets approximately 26mpg according to the internet, and the Toyota Prius gets an average of 46mpg. 

Golf - 226 gallons of gas a year
Prius - 128 gallons of gas per year. 

Thats a saving of 98 gallons. At an average of $4 a gallon, we would save $392 per year.

If we took out a loan for a $23,000 car at 7% interest, we would be paying over $1,000 in interest per year. Unless we bought the car with cash, then for my family we would be paying more in interest on a new car than we would be saving in gas. If we started driving a lot more, it would be a more viable option, but as we both work within five miles of our job this is unlikely. 

It's important to really crunch the numbers for your family before making the decision to buy any new car and particularly a Hybrid. They are great cars and I am hoping that their new sales price will drop significantly over time. I'm a "Green" person and I like the idea of being more fuel efficient, but I am also a financially analytical person. I have a scooter that has much better fuel efficiency than a car, as does my husband. So for now, we'll drive our car less, our scooters more, and wait for the prices to drop.  

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