Hybrids and low gas prices

By Sharon Peters
CTW Features

Q: Two years ago, when gas prices were high, I was definitely thinking of buying a hybrid for my next car. I had no formula or scientific rationale, I just assumed that with time I’d wind up saving money. Now, with gas prices so low, I’m pretty sure it would not be a wise financial decision. Any advice on weighing this decision?

A: As a first step, go to http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybridCompare.jsp. You select the specific hybrid you’re interested in and that vehicle will automatically be compared to a non-hybrid, comparably equipped, from the same manufacturer.

I chose, for exploratory purposes, a 2015 Honda Accord hybrid, which was compared to the 2015 Honda Accord. The results: the hybrid costs about $3,475 more than the conventional Accord and the annual fuel savings from owning the hybrid version is about $332 a year. The payback period, then, the site tells us, is about 10.5 years.

But running the numbers on the site is merely a start, a partial picture. The payback calculation is based only on fuel cost (using prevailing gas prices) and vehicle price. If you buy the vehicle for a better price, and if fuel prices go up after you buy it, your payback period would be shorter, of course.

If you drive more than the average person, that, too, can reduce the payback period. Furthermore, none of this takes into account insurance cost, maintenance or resale value, all of which could significantly impact the payback period.

I wish the answer could be simpler, but there are lots of factors to consider.

Q: Hubby and I had as our first car out of college a Toyota Corolla. I heard there’s a special 50th anniversary edition this year. I want to get him one in August to celebrate our 45 years together. How do I go about making this happen?

A: Contact your Toyota dealer soon and reserve your car. Only 8,000 2017 Corollas with the Special Edition package (which includes black seats with black cherry stitching, special badging and other distinguishing features) will be made available in the U.S.

You’ll probably have to settle for giving him a photo of it in August. The actual vehicle won’t be available until later in the year. No word on pricing.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.

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