Going Green at the Pump: The Real Cost of a Hybrid


(Image by Carlos Perez, via Flickr.com)

December 2011 saw more hybrids sold in any month since March, according to Hybridcars.com. All, told, hybrid sales increased by 8.7 percent compared to November 2010, moving over 31,000 hybrid cars. Many people are attracted to these vehicles for their fuel efficiency. Particularly considering the sting you feel in your wallet when you fill up at the pump. Of course, financial reasons aren’t the only cause for increased hybrid sales. There’s also the feeling of social and environmental responsibility. Still, those perusing the hybrid market will want to know just how much a hybrid will cost, so we’re running the numbers and breaking them down to give you a birds-eye view of the true cost of a hybrid.


For the purposes of this article, we’re discussing the cost of owning a 2012 model hybrid for a year. Because there are not so many hybrids on the road, we are solely focusing on the top five as rated by U.S. News and World Report. The figures cited assume a 5 percent down payment with a 4 percent APR on a 48-month term. Further, we assumed the cost of gas to be $3.50, rounded down by less than two cents from AAA’s current figures on the Fuel Gage Report. Finally, the figures assume 15,000 miles of driving per year, rounded down slightly from Federal Highway Administration figures. The difference is split between city and highway MPG. The price of the car is based on the MSRP for the base model of the least expensive version of the vehicle. Cars.com provides the calculator we’re using for the cost of the car, while the cost of fuel based on MPG comes from Road Trip America. Figures do not include insurance or sales tax.

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid(Image by Arvind Govindaraj, via Flickr.com)

Ford Fusion Hybrid

MSRP: $20,705
MPG: 41 City / 36 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year: $6,691.76

U.S. News and World Report named the Ford Fusion Hybrid as the best hybrid vehicle for the 2012 year model. The magazine further named it as the best affordable mid-sized car for that model year. Consumer Guide named it it’s favorite model of Fusion. The non-hybrid has long been a go-to vehicle for those seeking an inexpensive but reliable form of transportation.

2012 Chevy Volt(Image by Andrew Plumb, via Flickr.com)

Chevrolet Volt

MSRP: $31,645
35 City / 40 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year:
$9,545.48 ($1,400 in fuel)
Second on U.S. News and World Report’s list is the Chevrolet Volt. However, the magazine named it as the best upscale midsized car for its model year. While touted as an “extended-range electric” by Chevrolet, the car runs on a hybrid motor, though it does get 35 miles out of its electric motor. The motor takes between 10 and 12 hours to charge, making it less efficient in this respect than the Prius Plug-In, one of its main competitors.

Note: The price of the Volt could be reduced by as much as $1,400 per year if you never drove it more than 35 miles in a single trip.

2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid(Image by Michael Gil, via Flickr.com)

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

MSRP: $25,850
35 City / 40 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year:
Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid came in third on U.S. News and World Report’s hybrid car best of list. However, the Sonata Hybrid does not have the distinction of being first in its overall class. Indeed, it came in 7 out of 19 for affordable midsized cars. Still, the Sonata Hybrid is great for the person who wants a little more style than what’s generally offered by a hybrid. U.S. News and World Report noted that test drivers didn’t notice any significant performance difference between the Sonata and the Sonata Hybrid. If you want a hybrid but don’t want to feel like you’re driving a hybrid, this just might be the car for you.

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid(Image courtesy of Toyota.com)

Toyota Camry Hybrid

MSRP: $25,900
43 City / 39 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year:

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is one of three hybrid models that tied for fourth place. It also placed tenth among affordable midsized cars. U.S. News and World Report notes that many reviewers thought the car boasted the best transition between electric and hybrid power-trains of any hybrid vehicle. While the Camry doesn’t offer much in the way of style, it does boast a low annual coast, approaching that of the bargain basement Ford Focus Hybrid.

2012 Toyota Prius(Image by Toyota Motor Europe, via Flickr.com)

Toyota Prius

MSRP: $24,000
51 City / 48 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year:

The Prius is basically synonymous with the term “hybrid.” This is the iconic car that kicked off the trend. It’s also a great value, getting close to the nearly untouchable Ford Focus Hybrid. The car earned the 10th spot out of 19 on U.S. News and World Report‘s rankings of midsized affordable cars. Everyone knows the Prius as the quiet little car with the high fuel efficiency. Still, the iconic nature of the car might be a bit of a drawback — everyone knows a Prius from a mile away.

2012 Toyota Prius V(Image courtesy of Toyota.com)

Toyota Prius V

MSRP: $26,400
MPG: 44 City / 40 Highway
Cost of Driving For a Year: $8,045.36

The Toyota Prius V is the station wagon version of a Prius. It will cost you an extra $800 per year for that extra storage space, too. The car ranked fourth out of four on U.S. News and World Report’s list of affordable wagons. That said, it was the only hybrid on the list.

If now seems like the best time to buy a car, and a Hybrid is on your radar, share your story and experience in the comments below.

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Published March 6, 2012 Updated: December 27, 2012
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