At this point the average consumer understands that hybrids generally take quite a few years to pay back their cost premiums-it's just the cost to "go green." Fleets are equally environmentally conscious these days, or more so, as they have an opportunity to curb larger amounts of greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants. But by controlling hundreds or even thousands of vehicles, the task of lowering the added costs of owning and operating hybrids is even more important.
With this in mind, the lifecycle cost experts at Vincentric put together a cost-of-ownership analysis of hybrid models. Last November, Vincentric analyzed 27 models from 2011 and 2012 model years using data from its October 2011 database update.
The Vincentric data measures eight cost elements for more than 2,000 vehicle configurations, including depreciation, financing, fees and taxes, fuel, insurance, maintenance, opportunity cost and repairs. Each month Vincentric re-compiles its database to take into account current market conditions.
For the hybrid analysis, Vincentric assumed 15,000 annual miles driven over five years. The hybrid report uses U.S. averages, although states can be selected for a more specific analysis. Fuel prices are based on a weighted average over the previous five months.
The hybrid/internal combustion engine (ICE) engine cost differential is an ever-changing equation. Wild swings in fuel prices are a major factor, as are available tax credits and rebates, which have gone away for the most popular hybrids. Here is a list of the few hybrids that can still take advantage of a federal tax credit.
These days, federal, state and local governments are concentrating on breaks for the Next Big Thing in auto technology, plug-in hybrids and electric cars.
In looking at Business Fleet's hybrid analyses using Vincentric data over the years, starting in the Wild West days of the 2006 model year, we see that in general hybrids have not closed the pricing gap with their traditional ICE-powered counterparts. In this latest analysis of 27 hybrid models, Vincentric's data shows the average price premium for a hybrid is $8,494. Mitigated by an average fuel cost savings of $3,505 and taking into account other costs, the average cost of ownership for hybrids is $4,643 more than the straight gas models. Nonetheless, four have total costs of ownership that are lower than their ICE cousins:
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (-4,438)
2011 Mercury Milan Hybrid (-$2,100)
2011 Honda Insight (-$1,627)
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid (-$481)
One of those-the Mercury Milan hybrid-is no longer on the market. It should be noted as well that Vincentric compares the Honda Insight to the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius to the Toyota Corolla, which aren't exactly "apples-to-apples."
The following hybrid models don't return a better cost of ownership, but are next in line in the total cost differential:
2011 Lexus HS 250h ($281)
2011 Toyota Prius ($851)
2011 Lexus RX 450h ($1,591)
2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid ($1,966)
2011 Mercedes-Benz ML 450H ($2,616)
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($2,640)
2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid ($2,664)
2011 Mercury Mariner Hybrid ($2,867)
2012 Honda Civic Hybrid ($2,982)
Vincentric also calclated the models that provide the greatest benefit over their gas-only counterparts:
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (-$6,294)
2011 Lexus CT 200h (-$5,218)
2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid (-$5,087)
2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (-$5,049)
2011 Lexus RX 450h (-$4,851)
2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid (-$4,698)
2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid (-$4,698)
And Vincentric also calculated the hybrid vehicles with the lowest overall fuel costs:
2011 Toyota Prius II ($5,955)
2012 Honda Civic Hybrid ($6,714)
2011 Lexus CT 200h ($7,102)
2011 Honda Insight ($7,153)
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid ($7,187)
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid ($7,655)
One vehicle jumps off these lists-the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. Lincoln might not be the first automaker that comes to mind for hybrids, yet its MKZ fuel sipper returns the best cost of ownership differential over its gas-only brother. It's not hard to understand why, as the MKZ hybrid is offered at the same price as the standard MKZ. It also offers the most fuel economy savings of any hybrid-ICE vehicle in the report.
Click here for Vincentric's full hybrid report.
Lifecycle costs for luxury hybrids can swing wildly when compared to their gas-only counterparts. Some models (such as the MKZ hybrid and Lexus hybrids) fare well, while others, such as the VW Touareg Hybrid and BMW X6 ActiveHybrid have prohibitive cost differentials.
There are many more factors than cost when it comes to driving hybrids, including, of course, relative benefit to the environment, differences in performance and car features. The Union of Concerned Scientists created a "Hybrid Scorecard" that analyzes which hybrids deliver the most environmental savings combined with the best cost and feature benefits to consumers.
In its latest scorecard, published last July, the UCC backs up Vincentric's data in crowning the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid a winner in many categories. The MKZ Hybrid bests all others in the Environmental Improvement Score, is only one of three vehicles given the Superior Value rating and is not listed as having any "forced features."
All in all, analyzing hybrids' lifecycle numbers is a worthy task to see what vehicles return the best bang for the buck. The endeavor should make you take a look at some hybrids you never would have considered.