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Pump prices ease sticker shock for hybrids

Posted May 26, 2008
Updated May 27, 2008

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— Paying a premium for a hybrid vehicle is becoming easier to swallow for consumers as gas prices continue to rise, car dealers say.

The national average for a gallon of regular gas was $3.93 Monday, according to AAA. The price is up more than 71 cents from Memorial Day weekend last year.

The average price in North Carolina is about $3.90 a gallon, while the average in the Triangle is $3.91 a gallon, according to AAA.

"You're starting to see a larger portion of people (who have been) maybe on the fence in terms of moving toward a hybrid actually jumping and saying, 'Hey, let's go ahead and pursue this vehicle,'" said Tim Littrell, a salesman at Leith Honda.

Leith Honda has a waiting list for Civic hybrids, Littrell said.

"(There are) none on the lot," he said.

About 330,000 hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. last year, which is 10 times the number sold five years ago. The Toyota Prius is the No. 1 seller, followed by the Toyota Camry, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus 400-H.

A hybrid costs about $3,000 to $6,000 more than a comparable gas-powered vehicle. With gas prices closing in on $4 a gallon, dealers said hybrid buyers can recoup the difference in the sticker price in a few years because of better fuel economy.

The hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe, for example, averages about 21 city miles per gallon, compared with 14 city miles per gallon for a regular Tahoe.

General Motors, which makes the Tahoe, estimates the average person drives between 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year and could save about $1,400 on fuel costs by driving a hybrid.

"It's brand new to us – the first hybrids we've had," said Joel Smith, a salesman at Hendrick Chevrolet. "Right now, we're talking two years to pay off that hybrid, but with prices going the way they are, it could only be a minimum of one year to make that hybrid difference."

The federal government also offers tax credits to consumers on many of the hybrid vehicle models.

"Now is the time to do it," Littrell said of buying a hybrid. "Gas prices don't seem like they're getting any lower. We've seen them creeping up, and we're starting to see those people saying this is the motivating factor."

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  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ May 28, 2008

    I read this article yesterday, and it is woefully inadequate in coverage. Hybrids are not for everyone. They are suitable for predominantly mixed or city driving due to their regenerative braking system. If you do mostly highway driving, they are not worth the extra expense ... get a regular fuel efficient vehicle instead. Plus, all hybrids are not created equal. Toyota and Honda produces "full" hybrids, and GM produces "mild" hybrids. The difference in MPG is tremendous between a full and mild systems, in comparison to their regular gas equivalents.

    I have owned a 2002 Toyota Prius as the originally owner, and I just paid off the loan last year. With over 103K miles, the hybrid system has been extremely reliable. I still get 42-48 MPG (and that is actually measured). During the winter times, I may get down to 38MPG due to engine warmup time. I drive mostly city with some mixed, so this is the perfect car for me. Your mileage may vary, of course :-)

  • ljcs357 May 27, 2008

    Gas is way too high, you should get rid of that old gas guzzling muscle car...and sell it to me :)

  • Just my thought May 27, 2008

    Don't forget the tax rebate of over $1000 you get for buying a hybrid.

  • fkhaywood May 27, 2008

    Renting a vehicle (trucks, in particular), is not as cheap as you think. Recently, my son rented a full size Dodge Ram in Raleigh with a V-6 engine while his truck was being repaired at a body shop after an accident, that vehicle cost the insurance company $51.94/day. It would cost an individual about $80.00/day. And that vehicle could barely pull the trailer for his lawn cutting business! I drive a full-size Dodge Ram (4 door) to work on my vacation home, about 100 miles one way, usually, at least one day a week to work on the home myself. A smaller vehicle would not be adequate to carry the tools, materials and a helper for that that trip. And you could not rent or buy hardly anything in the nearest town.

  • YipesStripes May 27, 2008

    People really need to evaluate if they will actually save any money with a hybrid. Yes, the concept of the hybrid is fantastic but the amount of money spent on a new car may be way more than the amount of money spent on gas for a regular car. Let's also not forget how a hybrid works. Do you drive in a location that will effectively utilize the battery in the hybrid or will you still be running on mostly gas? In most cases, a smaller vehicle like a Corolla or even the Hyundai Elantra gets great mileage and would suffice. Evaluate if you really *need* that SUV/truck/van. A simple change in how much a person packs and/or carries around with them can make all the difference. A household doesn't require a truck if they only haul something maybe 2 or 3 times a year. Instead, rent a truck for about $20 a day. That's a lot cheaper than spending that extra gas money. Americans have a hard time with evaluating true *needs* versus *wants*.

  • Boot-the-DC-Tyrant May 27, 2008

    By the time I pay all the extra $$$ for the hybrid, I would've spent that in fuel cost for my existing vehicle.

    I'll keep mine for now.

  • shine May 27, 2008

    If you have a vehicle that is paid for or owe vehicle payments you are better staying in the came until the seas calm. The hybrids are overpriced just like laptops and everything else when they hit the market. Auto dealers may show you on paper where they are giving you trade in - but they can't even sell their trade in vehicles. If you have a vehicle that is under 3 years old - you lose all the depreciation - so ananlyze that with a little fuel price difference and you will see that you are just substituting your fuel savings into a vehicle payment.

  • babbleon May 27, 2008

    The savings are not vs gas prices a year ago, they are hybrid vs standard @ $4/gal. So, for the example here:
    14,000 miles / 14 mpg = 1,000 gallons * $4 = $4,000
    14,000 miles / 21 mpg = 667 gallons * $4 = $2,668
    =========
    Savings = 4,000 - 2,668 = $1,332

    If you drive more, you save more; I drive around 20K miles / year. If I chose the hybrid above, I'd save $1,700.

    OTOH, my husband (6'4", 200lbs) and I drive a standard Honda Civic, at 32mpg city. If we get another car, we will just be looking for another one over 30mpg. SUVs are not needed; if we decide we want space, we'll get a van.

  • Wuff_Pack May 27, 2008

    My only issue with hybrids is that if you do primarily highway driving, you really are running only on the gas engine. From what I've read about them, they are only good if you drive in a lot of stop and go traffic.

  • reb in NC May 27, 2008

    Additionally, researchers say that a Prius battery will last for at least 180,000 miles. There's no reason to believe that the company is inflating its figures, for the simple reason that Toyota issues an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on their batteries. Company representatives say that very few batteries have failed and that some fleet cars have already racked up 200,000 miles and the batteries are still going strong. The Prius batteries are also completely recyclable, and Toyota's recycling program even issues a $150 credit when they're finally retired.

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