The real numbers on hybrid vehicles

Vancouver, Canada - B.C. is a hotbed for gas-electric hybrid vehicle sales - one-quarter of all hybrids sold in Canada are sold here. And with surging gas prices and concerns about global warming, the hype around hybrids is expected to intensify. Still, questions remain about whether gas savings in a hybrid are enough to offset its higher sticker price. How much "green" will you save by "going green" in a hybrid - if any?

The BC Automobile Association (BCAA) has compared the purchase, financing and operating costs of all 13 hybrids available in B.C. with comparable conventional models over a five year period.

A number of variables were incorporated: fuel costs, the provincial Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Concession and the federal ecoAUTO Rebate Program. With these factors in play, the analysis revealed that, in seven of the 13 vehicle pairs analyzed, the hybrid option worked out to be cheaper over five years.

Some models were thousands of dollars less expensive, including:

  • Honda Civic Hybrid ($3,868)
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV ($2,765)
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid ($2,135)
  • Lexus 400h Hybrid SUV ($1,816)

"What this analysis shows is, at current gas prices, most hybrids will end up being either less expensive over five years or within a few hundred dollars of their conventional equivalent," says Trace Acres, BCAA’s director of corporate communications and government affairs. "On the other hand, the price premium charged to own some higher-end hybrids won’t be recovered regardless of the price of gas."

Consumers are cautioned, however, that price shouldn’t be the only determining factor in choosing a hybrid. "We know from surveys that hybrid buyers are more likely to do so for environmental reasons than cost concerns," adds Acres. "If that is the case, potential hybrid buyers should be sure to examine emission ratings as well as sticker prices. Some models may appear cost-effective, but offer only modest emission reductions."

When BCAA completed its first five-year hybrid cost analysis in 2005, most of the hybrids were more expensive than their conventional counterparts - as much as 25 per cent. Today, this picture has reversed, in large part due to skyrocketing gas prices and government incentives such as the federal ecoAUTO Rebate Program and the provincial Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Concession.

"If you’re interested in buying a hybrid and maximizing your savings, 2008 may be the best year to buy," advises Acres, "The federal ecoAUTO Rebate Program is being phased out at the end of this year, cutting the cost savings on some hybrids by as much as $2,000."

Applications for the federal ecoAUTO Rebate Program on eligible hybrid vehicles can be submitted until March 31, 2009. The rebate applies only to new vehicle purchases, and 2009 vehicles will not be eligible. The provincial Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Concession is scheduled to be in place until April 1, 2011.

Click here for the detailed cost analysis.

About BCAA

BCAA is dedicated to meeting the needs of its members and customers throughout B.C. and the Yukon, connecting them with a team of membership, automotive, travel and insurance professionals. With over 780,000 members and $120 million in revenues, BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C. and the fourth largest CAA-affiliated association in Canada.  In 2007 and 2008, BCAA was named one the 50 Best Employers in Canada by international HR consultants Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business magazine.

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