Is a Hybrid Worth It?

I’ve been thinking about getting a new car and wondered whether it was worth it to get a hybrid. I used the following numbers in my calculations:

Car Price MPG
2008 Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) $21,080 24
2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid $29,720 34

All numbers from Consumer Reports April 2008 issue. Note that this isn’t a Prius – it is a Camry Hybrid

According to Consumer Reports, the cost difference between the hybrid and the regular 4 cylinder is $8,700. I then used various sets of numbers for both mileage over the life of the car (80K, 100K, 150K) and for the price of gas $3.00 to $5.00 in 25 cent increments. Based on my calculations, you would have to drive 150,000 miles with gas at $4.75 per gallon before you broke even.

I then ran the calculations again using the Toyota Prius:

Car Price MPG
2008 Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.) $21,080 24
2008 Toyota Prius $23,780 44

All numbers from Consumer Reports April 2008 issue

In this case, the cost difference for the Prius is only $2780 and the MPG increase is significant. According to my calculations, you would break even with a Prius even if gas got as cheap as $1.50 a gallon for 100,000 miles. In the same driving scenario as above (150,000 miles at $4.75 a gallon), the Prius would save you more than $13,000 in gas.

So, what is the conclusion? If you’re interested in saving gas money and aren’t concerned about such things as fit/finish, steering response, performance, power, handling, breaking, comfort, etc. then the Prius is the way to go. If you’re interested in those other categories but still want to save a little money on gas then just go with the regular Camry because the hybrid isn’t going to save you any money in the long run (assuming gas doesn’t spike up to $6.00 per gallon before you put 150,000 miles on the car).

If I wanted to be cool I would make a web calculator where you plug in numbers for the cost of the cars, gas mileage, total miles driven, and gas price. The calculator could automatically tell you which car saved the most money. Of course, someone’s probably already done it and all I need to do is Google it.

UPDATE: A little Googling did indeed reveal several hybrid car calculators. I liked this one the best. I ran my same set of cars through it and the resulting numbers were almost identical to my own.

4 Comments

  1. Palmtrees says:

    Of course, you were comparing a base Camry LE to the near-fully loaded Camry Hybrid. If you compared a fully equipped Camry XLE V-6 to a fully equipped Hybrid, the price would be within a few hundred dollars and the Hybrid the hybrid is a no-brainer at that point. Plus,the hybrid has that extra get-up-and-go that the straight inline 4 just does not have.

  2. Kelly says:

    This makes my brain hurt. I’ll take your word for it.

  3. Hal Dobbelsteyn says:

    Hi:

    Interesting comments, but somewhat illogical. You are comparing a 4-cylinder bottom of the line model with a hybrid (4-cylinder plus electric motor and battery) that is very well optioned! Sounds unfair to me.

    A true comparison would ideally look at similarly equipped vehicles that differ only in the drivetrain. For a fair comparison, the Camry Hybrid should be compared to the XLE Camry: hybrid performance is midway between the 4-cylinder and the 6-cylinder. I leave it to you to work out the costs and the difference, but I’m confident you will find it significantly less than the $8700 you quote in your comments, perhaps in the three-digit arena.

    Disclosure: I recently purchased a Camry hybrid and couldn’t be more pleased with the vehicle; the exceptionally high gas mileage is nice, but just the icing on the cake.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Hal

  4. BYUFan says:

    Thanks for the comments. I didn’t realize that the Camry Hybrid listed in Consumer Reports was fully loaded. According to the ResponsiblePurchasing.org site linked above, when you compare the conventional Camry to the hybrid they use a cost difference of approximately $4K as opposed to the $8K I used above (they don’t give you a choice on trim line and options when choosing the conventional model). That makes the hybrid more affordable with gas at $3.00 for 150K miles.

    I appreciate the feedback and it’s interesting to know that more than just my family reads this obscure blog on occasion.

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