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Focus on Why You're Buying

The Hybrid Price Premium

Hybrids have typically cost $2,000 to $5,000 more than comparable models. But in 2010, Lincoln introduced its MKZ luxury hybrid without any premium over the nonhybrid version [source: Motavalli]. This may be the beginning of a trend that will encourage other car makers to follow suit.

Knowing why you're buying a hybrid makes your decision easier. Some buyers want to save money, but savings aren't always easy to calculate. Most hybrids cost more than comparable gasoline-only models. Calculating whether savings on fuel will make up for this premium requires some investigation.

For example, a 2010 Honda Civic hybrid cost $3,281 more than its equivalent gas model and saved an average driver $432 a year in fuel costs. That's a 7.2 year payback period. A Toyota Camry hybrid, with a much smaller premium, pays back the difference in only 1.3 years [source: Fallon]. Keep in mind that if fuel prices rise or you drive more miles each year, the payback period shrinks.

Saving bucks is not the only reason to opt for a hybrid. Plenty of buyers are interested in reducing emissions. An ordinary Civic emits 6.3 tons of greenhouse gases a year, while a hybrid version only puts out 4.4 tons [source: Clarke].

Maybe you are looking for cutting-edge technology -- hybrids are definitely high tech. Maybe you want to reduce dependence on foreign oil. If all Americans drove hybrids, the United States would use about 15 percent less gas overall [source: CarBuyingTips.com]. Or maybe you've just fallen in love with the vehicle's look or design. Knowing your motivation for buying will point you toward the features you want in a hybrid.

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