Will High Gas Prices Turn Consumers to Hybrid Vehicles?

As gas prices climb ever higher, car dealers wait anxiously: will hybrid car sales spike as well? While everyone cheers the Arab awakening, the continuing unrest in the great oil-producing region has skyrocketed gas prices. In the U.S. most consumers are now paying over $3 a gallon, while Californians with their high fuel-efficiency standards are paying upwards of $4 a gallon.

At the moment, buyers are flocking to small, fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid cars. Will the trend last? If consumers are merely reacting to headlines of the moment, then, perhaps not. But, most consumers are looking at a complex web of factors when they purchase a car or truck. Besides the short-term outlook for oil production and thus gas prices, consumers are fairly savvy about the long-term outlook as well. Peak oil is most likely upon us. Car buyers figure that into their calculations and often wind up with hybrid cars and hybrid trucks for that very reason.

Another major issue for vehicle buyers is cost. Autos today are extremely pricey with the lowest-cost vehicles clocking in at around $13,000. Average car cost is somewhat higher. In fact, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association the average new car sold in the U.S. costs $28,400. The average income is $46,326, so buying a new car is obviously an extremely important financial decision, second only to buying a house.

As a result, car buyers certainly expect their vehicles to not only last for an average of 10 years, but also to be as fuel efficient as possible. The craze for SUVs of a few years ago has definitely cooled at least partly due to the average gas mileage-17.4 miles to the gallon. typical car averages 24.8 miles to the gallon. Owners of older SUVs have long ago calculated they might as well keep the cars until they wear out because $28,400 will buy a lot of gas!

Even owners of regular gas cars are feeling the pain these days as the typical car averages 24.8 miles to the gallon. So,for those contemplating the purchase of a new car, the pendulum is clearly swinging towards the smaller, fuel-sipping models and especially hybrid cars and hybrid trucks.

Besides saving money on fuel and, by the by, also saving the environment, the cost of hybrid cars has been declining in the past few years as the technology matures. Today, the average hybrid car costs between $19,000 to $25,000, about the same as gas cars, and can be expected to save money over the long run.

Many hybrid vehicles now cost the same or slightly more than their gas-only counterparts. Toyota Camry hybrid, for instance, costs just $500 more than the gas Camry. With the hybrid’s 33 mpg, payback should occur in about a year. For the more expensive Prius, of course, making 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway, payback over the gas Camry is more than 2 years. Of course, car owners these days keep their cars longer, so most new hybrid car owners will still have the car and its savings in gas long after the payback period is over.

Most Americans are thrilled by events in the Middle East despite the consequent rise in gas prices. We can just be thankful that we have comparably-priced hybrid cars and hybrid trucks to buy. It looks as though consumers will be buying those hybrid vehicles.

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