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Do Hybrids Actually Save You Money?

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mar26homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, March 26, 2008-(MCT)–Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles get excellent fuel mileage, but do they really save you money? The answer is yes. And no.

Compare the 2008 model of the most popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, with one of the best-selling Toyota cars, the Corolla, and a solid case can be made that either car is the better buy. Both cars seat five and are of comparable size: The Prius is 175 inches long, the Corolla, 178.3 inches long.

Fuel Economy

Fuel mileage is good for the Corolla; superb for the Prius. The revised 2008 Environmental Protection Agency statistics have the Prius at 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, with a combined overall mileage of 46 mpg.

The Corolla with the automatic transmission (the Prius comes only with a CVT automatic) is ranked at 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.

Helpfully, the EPA has calculated annual fuel costs for both cars, assuming gas costs $3.07 a gallon. If you drive 15,000 miles a year-roughly, the average in the U.S., with 45% highway driving, 55% city driving-the Prius will cost you $999 in gasoline, and the Corolla, $1,589.

Advantage: Prius, with an annual fuel savings of $590. If gas were to average a frightening $4 per gallon, the yearly savings jumps to about $765.

Price

According to Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com), a well-regarded pricing service, the 2008 Prius, with shipping, lists for $21,760.

Kelley Blue Book says the transaction price for the Prius-the price the consumer should expect to pay-is $21,724. The federal tax incentive for the Prius expired last year _ it would have been good for a credit of $787.50, but only if the vehicle were purchased prior to Oct. 1.

A comparably equipped Corolla LE, with several options that roughly match the Prius’ equipment, has a list price of $17,965, with an expected transaction price of $17,445.

Advantage: Corolla, with a buy-in price of $4,279 less than the Prius.

Long Term

On the surface, it would appear that with an annual fuel savings of $590 for the Prius, it would take roughly seven years and three months for the Prius to equal the cost of the Corolla.

But that, however, is not the whole story. Let’s return to Kelley Blue Book, and-here is where it gets a bit theoretical, but still valid-look at the value of a used Corolla and a used Prius. It’s worthwhile, but often overlooked, for both fleet and private buyers to consider the value of a vehicle when it’s time to get rid of it, not just to acquire it.

Retail value of a 2004 Toyota Prius, in excellent shape, with 50,000 miles, should be $19,320, according to Kelley. Retail value of a 2004 Toyota Corolla LE, in excellent shape with 50,000 miles, should be $14,105.

Advantage: Prius. While the Corolla has very good resale value, the Prius’ resale is astronomical, among the best in the industry.

Emissions

If you’re concerned about global warming or just breathing clean air, emissions may factor into your car-buying choice.

The difference in the “carbon footprint” of vehicles is based on the amount of carbon dioxide each emits. The lower the number, the more environmentally friendly.

Advantage: Prius, with its “footprint” rated by the EPA at 4, compared with the Corolla’s at 6.

© 2008, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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