If you're pondering a hybrid vehicle, consider these five points from eHow.com' s car expert Ron Cogan before you buy.
1. Examine your needs.
Do you commute long distances at highway speeds, or is more of your time spent driving around town? Most hybrids achieve their fuel savings at lower speeds, when battery-electric drive comes into play. A hybrid's gasoline engine also saves fuel by shutting off when the vehicle is stopped, which occurs in stop-and-go city driving.
2. Look at the differences.
"Full" hybrids like the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid and Honda Civic Hybrid get substantial city fuel economy gains through complex hybrid systems. "Mild" hybrids like the Saturn Vue Green Line use a simpler and less costly hybrid system to improve both city and highway fuel economy, and fuel savings are more modest.
3. Choose a model.
Eighteen 2008 model hybrid sedan and SUV models are available now or will be by the end of the year. Narrow your choices to models offering the features you need at a cost that fits your budget, then get behind the wheel for a real-world driving comparison.
4. Do the math.
Hybrids cost about $1,500 to $5,000 more than a comparable vehicle with a standard engine. Some justify paying the extra cost by figuring they'll make this up through gas savings over time. That may be possible -; especially with soaring gas prices -; but a full payback could take many years. For many, the $20 or more saved during each trip to the pump is enough to justify the purchase.
5. Don't forget the incentives.
The federal government provides tax credits of $250 to $3,000 for hybrid purchases. For more information, visit www.FuelEconomy.gov/feg/tax_hybrid.shtml.
More information about hybrids can be found at www.eHow.com or www.GreenCar.com.