Toyota Prius and hybrid versions of Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Tahoe,
Ford Escape, Saturn Vue, and Toyota Camry pay back price premium after one
year

YONKERS, N.Y., Sept. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — With gas prices
soaring, Consumer Reports’ latest analysis of owner costs shows that
drivers can save anywhere from $500 to $4,250 over a five year ownership
period by choosing selected hybrids rather than similar conventional
gasoline-powered vehicles.

Six of the 12 hybrids CR experts looked at — Toyota Prius and hybrid
versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Escape, Saturn Vue,
and Toyota Camry — can save consumers about $500 to $4,250 even without
tax credits, and pay back their price premium after only one year. For
several of these hybrids, owners can save even more by taking advantage of
federal tax credits.

CR experts compared the five-year owner costs of 12 hybrids with those
of similar conventional vehicles using Consumer Reports’ new-car owner-cost
estimates, introduced in the April 2008 issue.

The Toyota Camry hybrid, which gets 34 mpg overall in CR’s tests, saves
the most money, about $4,250 over five years compared with a similarly
equipped four-cylinder Toyota Camry XLE, which gets 24 mpg.

The Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid can save about $3,000, while the Toyota
Prius and Chevrolet Tahoe save $2,000 and $1,500 respectively, when
compared to their non-hybrid counterparts. With tax credits, the Vue and
Tahoe come out ahead by about $4,500 and $3,700. Federal tax incentives are
no longer available for Toyota and Lexus hybrids.

The report, “Which Hybrids save you money” is available in the
redesigned October issue of Consumer Reports, on sale September 2 on
newsstands and online at http://www.ConsumerReports.org.

The October issue of CR also features an analysis of how drivers can
save gas and money by opting for a car with a stick shift. In recent tests,
Consumer Reports found that cars with a manual transmission can improve gas
mileage by a notable 2 to 5 mpg, compared with an automatic transmission,
and can cut a car’s price by $800 to $1,200.

It would take many years for most hybrids to pay back their premium
price just on fuel savings alone. But fuel costs are a relatively small
part — 25 percent — of the overall owner costs in the first five years.
Other factors include depreciation, insurance, interest on financing,
maintenance and repairs, and sales tax.

Cost estimates were based on driving 12,000 miles per year and paying
$4 per gallon for regular gasoline and $4.20 for premium.

“Most of the hybrids tested by CR have done really well, but hybrids
have higher initial upfront costs,” said Rik Paul, automotive editor,
Consumer Reports. “If you can afford that initial cost, you can be better
off buying one, and driving one might make you feel greener.”

The Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, and Saturn Aura hybrids will cost
drivers a little more than their conventional counterparts — from $250 to
$750 over five years — but some consumers might find it worthwhile to
drive a more environmentally friendly car. With federal tax incentives, all
three come out ahead after just one year.

Three hybrids — the Lexus GS 450h and RX 400h and the Toyota
Highlander Hybrid — cost more than their counterparts in the first five
years. They show five year losses ranging from about $1,250 for the
Highlander to $5,500 for the GS.

Hybrids vs. Conventional Cars

Interest in hybrids has been on a parallel trajectory with gas prices.
Hybrid sales jumped almost 40 percent last year. According to a recent
Consumer Reports survey, 32 percent of active car shoppers are considering
a hybrid for their next vehicle. And this past summer, automakers had a
difficult time keeping up with demand for the most popular models.

In addition to being thrifty with fuel, hybrids emit less pollution,
with some models classified as Partial Zero Emission Vehicles by the
California Air Resources Board. They also release fewer greenhouse gases
because each gallon of gasoline not burned prevents the emission of 19
pounds of carbon dioxide.

The Bottom Line

With higher gas prices, many hybrids now provide a definite benefit in
overall owner cost, despite an initial price premium. Still, if saving
money right out of the gate is important, some conventional cars provide
good fuel economy and cost less than hybrids. Consumer Reports advises
people to decide what type of vehicle is right for them and then to choose
one that gets good gas mileage for its class and rates highly in CR’s road
tests and reliability, safety and ownership-cost ratings.

OCTOBER 2008

(C) Consumers Union 2008. The material above is intended for legitimate
news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional
purposes. Consumer Reports(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert,
independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair,
just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to
protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect.
To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside
advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the
interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our
information products and services, individual contributions, and a few
noncommercial grants.

SOURCE Consumer Reports

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