Continued high gasoline prices and federal tax credits will allow owners of some hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) to recoup the added cost of the technology in a reasonable amount of time, according to Edmunds.com's latest Fuel Economy Guide, which compares the transaction prices and annual fuel costs of HEVs and their non-hybrid counterparts.
The study finds the higher purchase price of a Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Prius can be recovered within three years of ownership, while the breakeven point for the Honda Civic Hybrid, Saturn Vue Green Line and Toyota Camry Hybrid comes within six years.
Annual fuel savings for HEVs range from a modest $294 for the Escape to $671 for the Prius, when compared with the gasoline-only Toyota Camry LE sedan.
However, while the Prius takes only 2.1 years to recover its premium over the Camry, it requires more than 13 years of ownership to make up the difference with the less-expensive Toyota Corolla LE.
Other HEVs with long breakeven points include the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (15.5 years), Lexus GS 450h (15.1) and Honda Accord Hybrid (11.3).
The results are based on drivers covering 15,000 miles annually with $3-per-gallon gasoline. They also assume the vehicles were sold at Edmunds' True Market Value price and achieve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's combined city/highway fuel economy rating.
Driving 25,000 miles annually reduces the breakeven time by about 60%, Edmunds says.
The study also figures in federal tax credit amounts, which are offered in full to buyers until an auto maker has sold 60,000 units of a particular HEV.
Credit amounts, which can range as high as $3,150 for the Prius, are cut in half after the 60,000-unit-mark. They fall to 25% in April and zero next October.