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Hot Hybrids: Paying More to Save on Gas

Friday, 9 May 2008 | 1:29 PM ET
Toyota Prius
Source: toyota.com
Toyota Prius

Here's one to make you scratch your head and say, "what the heck is going on here?"

I suspected that higher gas prices have probably kept demand and prices up for hybrids, so I asked the folks at J.D. Power's Power Information Network and Kelley Blue Book to run the numbers.

What I found comparing the last 2 months with March/April of last year is what you'd expect with higher gas prices: hybrids are selling for more. Not only that, but the increases and gap in prices between hybrids and comparable standard models means hybrid owners will take longer to recoup their money in gas savings.

  • CNBC Slideshow: Paying More for Hybrids -- in Pictures

Seven of the 10 hybrids on sale the last two months are selling at a higher price compared to the same time last year.

Here's the list of transaction prices according to the Power Information Network.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid (up) $5,482

Saturn VUE Hybrid. (Up) $3,261

Ford Escape Hybrid. (Up) $2,327

Mercury Mariner Hybrid. (Up) $2,053

Lexus RX 400H. (Up) $576

Toyota Prius. (Up) $301

Nissan Altima Hybrid. (Up) $ 78

The 3 hybrids selling for less:

Lexus GS 450H. (Down) $2,215

Toyota Camry Hybrid. (Down) $749

Honda Civic Hybrid. (Down) $22

With gas at almost $4 a gallon, I'm not surprised hybrids are selling for more. But here's the kicker: the latest data shows people buying most hybrids will take even longer to make up the "premium" or higher price they are paying compared to standard models. For example, according to Edmunds.com, Prius owners will need 3.5 years of gas savings to make up the premium they are paying now.

According to Edmunds.com, the following five all take longer to "break even" than a year ago.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid. 12 years

Ford Escape Hybrid. 7.3 yrs

Saturn VUE. 7.1. Yrs

Mercury Mariner Hybrid. 6.4 Yrs.

Honda Civic Hybrid. 4.8 yrs

Now, I don't begrudge someone who wants to pay more to drive a hybrid. Just as I have no issue with someone who wants to tool around in a HUMMER. To each their own, as they say. But these numbers show many buyers don't have a problem with paying more, and taking longer to make up the difference that comes with a hybrid.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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