Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published July 21, 2009, 06:00 AM

AUTO NEWS: Study shows significant savings in alt-fuel cars

Eco-politics aside, there's a real cash advantage to opting for hybrid and diesel vehicles over gas-powered offerings, despite the costlier price tag, according to a survey.

By: Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO — Eco-politics aside, there's a real cash advantage to opting for hybrid and diesel vehicles over gas-powered offerings, despite the costlier price tag, according to a survey.

"The longtime knock against 'green' cars, trucks and SUVs is that their sticker prices do not justify the gas savings," said James Bell, editor of automotive industry research Web site IntelliChoice.com, which conducted the study.

"The point we make is that it is not just about fuel," he added in the release.

Of the 51 alternative-fuel cars and trucks tested, 35 delivered cash savings over a five-year period when taking into account several factors such as maintenance, repairs and retained value. In some cases, the savings were huge.

Take the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, which costs about $2,000 more than its gasoline-powered counterpart. Owners who buy the so-called greener version of the sedan save more than $6,200 in the first five years, the study showed.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s flagship Prius hybrid is another extreme example. When pitted against the entry-level equivalent Camry sedan, the savings approach $5,000. And the sticker price is only an extra $1,805.

Bell pointed out that clean diesel technology performed even better than the hybrids in the study and could be a real "game-changer," especially if the Obama Administration re-examines the legacy of higher tax rates on diesel fuel.

Obviously, the differences are even more pronounced if gas prices go up, thanks not only to the direct savings on fuel but also due to the fact that these vehicles see their resale value surge in times of rising gas costs.

The formula holds up better for smaller cars and crossovers, however. For the bigger trucks and SUVs, like the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, the savings still lie in the standard, gas-quaffing versions due to the big MSRP difference.

And it doesn't always work out with the sedans, either. The study showed that the Chevy Malibu Hybrid costs about $3,000 more than the non-hybrid version, and actually costs $250 more to own for five years.

Tags: