“opting for models that promise better mileage through new technologies does not necessarily save money”

April 4th, 2012

The TImes, shockingly, notes that people don’t actually save money by buying a fuel-efficient car:

Except for two hybrids, the Prius and Lincoln MKZ, and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the added cost of the fuel-efficient technologies is so high that it would take the average driver many years — in some cases more than a decade — to save money over comparable new models with conventional internal-combustion engines.

That is true at today’s pump prices, around $4, and also if gas were to climb to $5 a gallon, the data shows.

Gas would have to approach $8 a gallon before many of the cars could be expected to pay off in the six years an average person owns a car.

I remember the first time I ever rode in a Hybrid was about 2005 or so. The owner said he would save a lot of money on gas because his car uses less fuel. I thought to myself, his car cost significantly more than a comparably priced non-hybrid. At $2 a gallon (I think that was the price back then), he would have to buy gas for years before he makes up that difference. Anyway.

So why do some buyers pay more for advanced technology that might not save them money? Many never do the math, analysts say, or they tend to overestimate how much the added miles per gallon translate into actual monetary savings. Some view the higher mileage as better for resale value, hoping to come out better on the back end.

“The price of the vehicle, you only pay it once and then soon forget about it,” Mr. Toprak said.

 So why do people drive hybrids? To be smug, of course:

Others clearly view saving fuel and doing something better for the environment as their ultimate goals, regardless of cost. The Prius, for example, became a success in part because drivers wanted to drive — and be seen driving — a hybrid.

“Fuel economy has become a social attribute,” said Tom Turrentine, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who has studied car buying habits and is the director of the university’s Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center. “People want to have good fuel economy because if they have poor fuel economy they might look stupid.”

Not to mention the fact that buying a new car requires the production of a new car–which requires A LOT of energy. Could it be that suing an older, fuel efficient car (such as my piece of crap) is actually better for the environment than creating a new car? Can’t we reduce, reuse, and recycle old cars?