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Will buying a hybrid really pay off?


Hybrid Costs
The dashboard of this Ford Escape Hybrid shows how the electric motor works in tandem with the internal combustion engine to save energy and reduce harmful emissions.
The dashboard of this Ford Escape Hybrid shows how the electric motor works in tandem with the internal combustion engine to save energy and reduce harmful emissions.
Kristen Hall-Geisler

One not-so-nice aspect of buying a hybrid is that initial hybrid premium, which can end up costing you several thousand dollars more than a conventional car. This amount has come down from the premium of the early days of hybrids, but it's still a significant factor when making a decision to buy a car, even with financial incentives.

Another cost to consider is fuel. When gas is cheap, it will take longer to recoup the initial higher purchase price of a hybrid. When gas is expensive, the premium is recovered more quickly, but everyone will still feel pain at the pump, no matter what their drivetrain might be.

A common misconception is that the batteries will have to be replaced eventually -- and when they do, they will be prohibitively expensive. Well, the expensive part is correct. The high-tech batteries used in hybrid vehicles, whether they're old standby nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or cutting-edge lithium-ion, are quite pricey. That said, car makers have tested their batteries in labs and on the streets to make sure the consumer gets his or her money's worth. Battery packs have lasted nearly 200,000 miles (321,869 kilometers) in some of the original Honda Insights, and Ford guarantees their batteries for up to 10 years or 150,000 miles (241,402 kilometers) -- though their test vehicles have never required a battery change.

Let's take a look at some examples to show how this all works out in the real world.


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