With gas prices below $2 per gallon, times have never been tougher for hybrid vehicles. To get their superior fuel economy ratings, hybrids need electric motors and batteries, which drives up the sticker price when compared to gasoline versions of the same car. Once upon a time, higher fuel costs made the savings you get in a hybrid make financial sense in a few years, but now it could take a decade or more to make up the difference.
Hence the hard luck sales reports for hybrids we are seeing every month in America. At fueleconomy.gov, the EPA offers consumers a neat tool showing how long it would take to recover your investment in a hybrid, and frankly the numbers are scary in the case of several models. Here are the five hybrid cars on the market that take the longest to make back the premium paid over the gas model, thereby representing the least value for the 2016 model year.
Note: Fueleconomy.gov based these numbers on the $1.72 national average assuming 15,000 miles of driving per year with 55% done in city settings. In California, gas prices were considerably higher (at $2.32) than the national average, which would make the payoff period shorter by over 25%.
5. Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
The high-end Camry Hybrid ($30,140) can run a buyer a premium of $3,830 over the top-of-the-line standard model ($26,310). Even with economy that is 12 miles per gallon better than the gas version, the Hybrid XLE will take nearly 14 years to pay back the premium at current gas prices. This choice is likely to be an act of environmental consciousness than one of financial prudence (assuming stable gas prices), and we say bravo if you decide to take the plunge.
4. Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
Choosing the Camry Hybrid SE ($27,995) over the gas model ($23,840) means paying a premium over $4,000 for the jump from 28 miles per gallon combined to 40 miles per gallon combined. Granted, that is a huge jump, and Mother Earth will thank you. On the other hand, Suze Orman may scold you for the decision, as it would take 15.1 years for the purchase to even out at the average gas prices in America.
3. Toyota Highlander 4WD Hybrid
There is no shortage of four-wheel-drive SUVs flying off U.S. dealership lots these days, but the premium you would have to pay for the Toyota Highlander 4WD Hybrid make this model a tough sell at $47,870 over the AWD Limited model ($41,650) — more then $6,000, to be precise. According to fueleconomy.gov, it would take 17.1 years at current gas prices for the buy to make financial sense. The new RAV4 hybrid with four-wheel drive makes for a better buy.
2. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
There is a lot to love about the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and if money is not your primary motivator in the purchase process, the Hybrid SE ($26,000) or Limited ($30,100) are excellent cars. However, they will take a very long time to justify the premium over the standard gas model ($21,750), even with a bump of 11 miles per gallon in combined fuel economy. You’ll wait 18.4 years to see the scales even out.
1. Subaru Crosstrek XV Hybrid
In the grand scheme of things, the $1,300 premium consumers pay for the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid ($26,395) over the 2.0i Limited ($25,095) is not a big deal. However, the improvement in hybrid fuel economy isn’t much, either, tallying 2 miles per gallon better than the gasoline edition. With gas prices as they are, it would take a hybrid buyer 22.4 years to even out the score financially. If love is indeed what makes a Subaru what it is, that would entail a deep, long-term relationship type of love.