Gas Prices Up; No Need to Run to Buy Hybrid

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As gas prices continue to climb and climb, many people are likely considering trading in their traditional gas vehicle for a hybrid or electric car in an effort to save money. But that may not be the best idea.

"When gasoline goes north of $4 a gallon, it changes the types of cars people shop for," David Thomas, Cars.com senior editor said in a news release from PR Newswrire. "We saw this in 2008 where the bottom fell out of the SUV market, and people gravitated toward smaller — and often hybrid — vehicles. While we certainly support fuel-efficient vehicles as a principle, the mistake we see many people make is automatically thinking an electric or hybrid vehicle will inevitably save them more money than the car they currently own."

The experts say the reason is simple -- timing.

"Rarely does bad mileage justify shelling out for a new car," adds Cars.com senior editor and green automotive technology expert Joe Wiesenfelder. "Bear in mind when considering the economics that the trade-in value of any guzzler plummets at times of high gas prices, while transaction prices for efficient cars skyrocket. If the equation makes no sense based on sticker prices, then it definitely falls apart based on transaction prices."

Wiesenfelder said if you insist on buying a more fuel-efficient car, it doesn't necessarily have to be a hybrid or electric.

"Buying a Leaf or Volt now is no more logical — and probably less — due to the market realities. The new compacts like the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are a better choice in the long run due to lower price and respectable mileage."

However, Wiesenfelder said there are some advantages to owning a hybrid or electric car. There are tax incentives, and preferred parking and HOV privileges in some cities.

"People often talk about hidden costs, but for these vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, we've found a number of hidden savings. I especially see the Leaf as being exceptionally cheap to own and maintain; the main cost is up front, but powering and maintaining should be lower. Of course, batteries are a question mark, but the warranties are long and the success of the Toyota Prius with its type of battery is reassuring."

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