Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is A Hybrid For You?


I thought a hybrid car was in my future. I really did until I started looking. First, know before you buy this year that tax credits are only for electric cars and plug in cars. The traditional egg-shaped Prius or Escape Hybrid won’t qualify. In fact, most hybrids you thought qualify, don’t. The car must be new and capable of being plugged in. Check twice because the tax rebate still might not do that much for you. At the most, it might shave a couple hundred or even a thousand off your taxes. Is this worth paying at least seven thousand more than a fuel efficient car?

I wanted a hybrid because of the cost of gas.  That way I could save money. My first stop was doing research. Certain electric cars had some proto-type problems such as catching on fire. They had a limit how far you could drive them before they ran out of power. What do you do when you run out of electric? I am betting your work or the motel where you’re staying does not want you to run an extension cord to your car.  The natural gas hybrid totally baffles me since I have yet to see one natural gas station anywhere.

I was ready to buy my first new car in over ten years and I wanted a hybrid. I trolled the Internet and called dealerships. There were plenty of higher end models to be had. Problem with that was I would never ever recoup money spend.  One Honda salesperson walked me through a comparison study hybrid and non-hybrid. The hybrid sticker prices would always be 6-8,000 more than the regular model. All maintenance was more expensive, and they tended to break down more since they were new technology. The hybrid was starting to look less attractive.

The Honda rep asked if I was planning on driving over 180,000 miles in six years? No, I would be lucky to drive a little more than a third of that. Only people who planned to drive that much with gas at five dollars a gallon could hope to regain the extra money put out on a hybrid.  The Hybrid I had my eye on had 44 mpg for city and highway. The non-hybrid model had a mpg of 40 on the highway, and even up to 44 with the econo boost button. Okay, did you catch that? The same highway mileage. City mileage dropped down to 34-38 miles depending on how much I was stopping.

A friend of mine was ready to commit to an hybrid at the dealership. A quick call to his insurance company found his insurance rate almost doubled. Sure, new cars cost more his insurance rep explained, but hybrids more so because if they get in a wreck they are usually totaled. It isn't easy to replace parts on a hybrid, as opposed to your traditional car.

The item that decided me was color and style. Even though I was at a large dealership I was told currently there were two hybrids in the state. I could put my name on a list and when one came available I’d get a call. No choice what so ever I could end up with a black sedan with black leather seats.

Because hybrids are such hot items, salespeople do not have to deal or give you inflated value for your trade-in.  My deciding factor was my brother-in-law’s hybrid. I’d driven it and liked the quietness of the electric engine. My brother-in-law keeps cars forever because he maintains them in such good condition; however, his hybrid seemed to be self-destructing after four years. It wasn’t even lasting the time of an average six-year car loan. Hybrids are not great trade-in values because they tend to be more like laptops with their dated technology.

I went for the gas efficient Civic with econo boost. It is very quiet inside almost like having an electric engine. Now, if I opted for the hybrid, I would be on a waiting list.  I might get a call in a couple months and told what type of car I could purchase.

Still want a hybrid? Do your research. Many manufacturers are putting out brand new hybrids without any type of track records. Other manufacturers are putting out cars with horrible service and performance records. A car doesn’t do you much good if it is constantly being repaired.

 Sometimes you have to give up some options. Buying a behemoth of car even if it is hybrid will not result in great gas mileage. Paying over forty thousand for a hybrid is no guarantee of anything. Expensive hybrids break down just as much as the cheaper cars. They just cost more to fix. Then there is the plug-in problem. When will hotels start checking for extension cords being run out of hotel windows?

Consider how much you drive, plus original sticker cost, trade-in value, and maintenance fees to decide if you can afford a hybrid. Don’t buy it because you think it is cool. Remember those tiny, but cute, Smart Cars.  They get the exact same mileage as a Ford Focus according to the fuel economy site. Remember earth shoes were cool once too, but you never seen anyone wearing them now.

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