For all the hype, hybrid cars may not be the best option for the environment or for people on a budget.
High gas prices and environmental concerns have made hybrids a popular choice. On a typical drive around Fresno, it’s not uncommon to spot a number of them.
And it’s not just compact sedans like the Prius—Chevrolet has a full-size Silverado and a four-wheel-drive Tahoe hybrid, Porsche has an SUV hybrid and Honda has a sports car hybrid.
But are these vehicles the solution to high gas prices? Are they the answer for green transportation?
For many people, a more economical solution is holding on to what they already have: a reliable economy car. Saturn and Subarau sedans frequently have lifespans of over 300,000 miles.
I own a 1991 Saturn, and the odometer broke last year at 280,000 miles. It gets 30 MPG on a bad day.
A new Prius II costs $22,800. It has a 51/48 MPG rating. With a 10-year loan at a rate of 4.99 percent, car buyers are actually in the red almost $500 each month.
A recent study from CarGurus.com found hybrid cars cost more to drive and own than typical cars. Overall, the study suggested those shopping for hybrids pick a model with a low MSRP and high MPGs. This may be a no-brainer, but there are a number of models that cost thousands more than their gas-guzzling counterparts and don’t yield astronomical MPGs.
For everyone who owns an old clunker that still gets decent MPGs, here’s a rallying cry: “I drive this car for the environment!” There, don’t you feel better? You’re saving yourself from new car payments and doing something green. It makes a great excuse for not upgrading to a trendy new hybrid.
Hybrid cars are the biggest users of rare earth resources. In coming years, demand for rare earths will exceed supply by 40,000 tons. China is the world’s main rare earths producer, but in 2010 a rare earths mine will open in California.
When it comes to batteries, both Toyota and Honda take an aggressive approach to the proper disposal of hybrid cars’ power storage. Toyota offers a $200 reward for every battery returned for proper disposal. However, it’s unrealistic to expect every battery to be returned, and accidents involving hybrid cars are particularly problematic, requiring HazMat crews for cleanup.
For those with the budget for a new hybrid, they will save on fuel costs in the long run, but for people who plan on utilizing auto loans, savings in fuel costs don’t stack up against monthly payments.