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Time to Buy a Hybrid?

These are interesting times for those who have toyed with the idea of buying a gas-electric hybrid. According to some analysis by Edmunds.com, hybrids have become much more attractive in terms of pricing, incentives and as a hedge against prices rising at the pump.

But before you say it's time to buy that Escape hybrid, remember that the mileage you're expecting may not be as great as you once thought.

First things first: if you are looking for a hybrid, prices have come down. This is mainly because the automakers are building more of them and there is less demand. They still sell at a premium to comparable standard models. But it's not as exorbitant as it was a couple years ago. In the early part of the year, buyers still qualify for a tax credit. And yes, some dealers are even offering small incentives to move hybrids. Edmunds.com breaks down the numbers for each model, and in some cases, the deals now are much more attractive than a year ago.

That said, I'm curious if we will see a big push for hybrids as we did a year ago, when a spike in prices sent people off to dealerships to put their names on waiting lists. Since then, the public has come to realize that hybrids provide somewhat better fuel economy, but not the huge savings many first imagined. With the new EPA mileage tests, hybrids often get substantially lower mpg than first advertised. So it takes longer to recoup the savings in gas that you spend paying a premium for the hybrid.

My gut says we're entering a stage where we will see more hybrids (Nissan has one coming out), but the days of people clamoring at showrooms for a gas-electric car may be gone. At least as long as gas stays under $3.00 a gallon.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

Autos