Consumer Reports Recalculates, Finds Hybrid Savings

March 08, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Consumer Reports has issued an "update" to its annual auto issue. In the original version, it was stated that hybrid cars and trucks can cost up to $13,300 more to own over five years than similar vehicles and that no hybrid model today pays for itself in fuel savings. The revised article corrects a miscalculation for depreciation that had added from $3,000 to $6,000 to the cost of hybrids. With the corrected math, Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius saves an owner about $400 over five years and Honda Motor Co.'s Civic Hybrid saves $300.

Other models, such as Ford Motor Co.'s Escape and Honda Accord hybrids, still cost more to own than regular vehicles, but by a smaller margin than in the original calculations. According to Consumer Reports, hybrids have shown excellent reliability in the Annual Car Reliability Survey. And owners rate them among the best in Consumer Reports Annual Car Owner Satisfaction Survey.

Consumer Reports notes that the rising price of gasoline and concern over U.S. dependence on oil have generated a lot of interest in hybrids, and with good reason. They typically deliver the best fuel economy in their classes. The Prius and Civic Hybrid delivered 44 and 37 mpg, respectively, in "real-world fuel-economy tests," which is the best gas mileage Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger vehicles. The Ford Escape Hybrid, which achieved the best fuel economy of any SUV the publication has recently tested, can save an estimated $660 per year in gasoline costs.

Several hybrids, the Honda Accord, Lexus RX400h, Toyota Highlander, and Toyota Prius, are outstanding overall packages that score at or near the top of their categories in Consumer Reports. Not only do the Accord, Highlander, and RX400h provide moderately better fuel economy than their conventional counterparts, but they also provide notably quicker acceleration. The Highlander and Prius are among Consumer Reports "Top Picks" for 2006.