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Hoodwinked by Hybrids? A Resale Comparison of Gas and Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are touted by many to save you money at the pump and earn you money on resale, but you may be throwing money away. We compared four of the best-selling hybrid automobiles with their gasoline-powered counterparts and found that the resale value on the hybrids is similar or much lower than the gas models. For the purposes of these comparisons, we used the value calculator for used cars at kbb.com. Each car that we compared for this hypothetical was a fully loaded 2011 model with an automatic transmission and 30,000 miles on the odometer, so the estimates are as comparable as possible. We estimated each car to be in excellent condition, to level the playing field. We also used the private party values, as opposed to the dealer trade-in numbers.

Toyota Prius

First, take the Toyota Prius. The Prius is the best-selling hybrid on the market, and it has held that distinction since it was first released in 2000 to the United States market. The Prius started the hybrid craze, and Toyota keeps improving the vehicle so that it stays at the top of the game. We compared the Prius to its gasoline counterpart, the Toyota Yaris. Toyotas consistently hold their value, so when these two were compared, the Prius came out close to the Yaris in resale value. When purchased brand new, the Prius would cost you around $27,000, while the Yaris could be had for a little less than $15,000. For current value, the Prius came in at just under $25,000, while the Yaris sedan was estimated to be worth $12,000.

2010-2011 Toyota Prius -- 12-21-2011

Photo of 2010-2011 Toyota Prius via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Honda Civic

Next up is the Honda Civic, which could be purchased in hybrid form or a gasoline model. The Civic retailed for about $23,000 for the hybrid, and about $22,000 for the gas model when brand-new. The current Civic hybrid retails for $17,000 and the gas model comes in around $18,000. This is much different from our Toyota comparison. The Honda Civic hybrid depreciated much more than the regular Civic.

2011 Honda Civic coupe -- 09-28-2011

Photo of Honda Civic via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Ford Escape

For the SUV fans in the crowd, Ford makes a great hybrid in the form of the Escape. A brand-new Escape hybrid cost buyers about $33,000 in 2011, while the gasoline counterpart could be had for about $31,000. Current values on the Escape are $25,000 for the hybrid and $23,000 for the gasoline model. This amount of depreciation is very similar, and doesn’t lend credence to the idea that hybrids maintain their value.

2011 Ford Escape Hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

Volkswagen Touareg

For the higher-end buyers, Volkswagen has come up with a hybrid Touareg SUV. This is the top of the line model in the VW lineup. The 2011 Touareg hybrid cost buyers a little over $61,000 for the hybrid model, as opposed to just over $56,000 for the gas model. Volkswagen, like Toyota, consistently retains a high resale value. When comparing values on this car today, both Touareg models come in at just over $40,000 for the resale value. This is a much higher depreciation rate on the hybrid.

Volkswagen Touareg hybrid -- 2011 DC

Photo of Volkswagen Touareg hybrid via Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Released.

As evidenced by the above figures, hybrids don’t do as well on resale as many claim. The hybrids we compared were similar or lower in resale value than their gasoline counterparts. While these vehicles can save you thousands at the pump, our research and a similar study from the New York Times shows that you will need to own them for many years to recoup what you paid at the dealer. Whether this cost is worth it or not is up to the individual buyer, but the benefits of going green are worth the added cost for some buyers.