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Hybrid Vehicles Can Put Money in Your Pocket

Once You Get Past the Sticker Shock, a Hybrid Can Add Up to Savings

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Sideview

The 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid is an example of hybrids that can help you save money over time due to excellent gas mileage.

Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation

Popular consumer watchdog publication Consumer Reports states that one out of every car-buying consumer is seriously considering a hybrid vehicle as their next car purchase. With that much growth in popularity, there has to be more appeal to hybrid vehicles than just good green living.

Although Consumer Reports has predicted that only some hybrid owners would expect savings based on total cost of ownership over time, market researcher IntelliChoice reported much stronger results. Its studied concluded that all hybrid currently on the market will help owners save money. This latter study includes factors related to fuel, financing, insurance, license fees and state taxes, depreciation, and repairs and maintenance.

What many consumers are reacting to are the economics of a hybrid vehicle. Sure, that initial purchase price may send you into severe sticker shock, but most consumers have become savvy enough to realize there is more to be taken into consideration when comparing the cost of owning a new vehicle than just that initial outlay of cash.

Below are some of the primary reasons more consumers are turning to hybrid vehicles for their next car purchase:

Maintenance and Value

Think about it: your potential hybrid vehicle does not rely solely on a complicated gas combustion engine. For the first four or five years of new hybrid car ownership, you can expect to spend about as much on repairs and maintenance as you would if you had bought a conventional model. However, if you're planning on holding onto your car for longer than that--a decision an increasingly number of car-owning consumers are making--your payoff with a hybrid car will be greater than with a conventional model.

Why is that? One of the biggest factors is that they tend to hold their value during that first five years better than their similarly equipped conventional models. Expect resale value to be strong as hybrids continue to grow in popularity.

Gas Mileage

Ask a hybrid owner about the economics of his or her green car choice and they are likely to tell you about the great gas mileage. Visiting the pump less frequently is perhaps the most readily identified factor bolstering the economics of hybrid car ownership. These savings are particularly significant when gas prices have climbed to above $3 a gallon, as we are seeing today with many creeping close to the $4 mark and beyond. It all comes down to some pretty awesome gas mileage. A hybrid able to chalk up over 40 miles to the gallon will start returning cost savings to its owners after only about five years.

Tax Incentives

A discussion of hybrid vehicle cost savings potential would be incomplete without discussing the opportunities through tax incentives. Tax incentives can really tip the scales in favor of a hybrid vehicle. Even if you buy a hybrid with mediocre gas mileage compared to other available hybrids, you could still come out ahead because of a tax incentive for hybrid vehicle purchases, bringing down the net purchase price of your hybrid vehicle even further. Talk to your accountant or tax preparer to see if you would qualify for a tax break since not every consumer is eligible, such as those paying the Alternative Minimum Tax. An even bigger factor--federal rebates are only coming into play until an automaker has produced 60,000 producers.

Whether or not your own analysis predicts significant cost savings if you choose a hybrid version over a conventional vehicle model, there are other factors besides those related to finances that have influenced consumers in their ambition to purchase hybrid vehicles. These include such big picture considerations such as reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil; creation of new jobs related to hybrid technology, research, maintenance, and manufacture; and fewer toxins emitting into Earth's atmosphere. It's difficult to put a price tag on these incentives.

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