Please enjoy this post from staff writer, Mitchell Pauly. Mitchell blogs over at SnarkFinance.com.
Toyota Prius’ are cars for people who grew up with diets similar to that of a hamster. They are the same people who believe their children should receive participation trophies and are all destined to be “special” in their own unique way. Toyota has spent untold millions creating this image in ads featuring the Prius driving through cartoon country sides while a child’s voice coos on about how it’s the “planets favorite hybrid”. Well, let me let you in on something: If the Prius is Earth’s favorite hybrid than Dennis Rader is America’s favorite husband.
Hybrid Cars: Charlatans
You may not know what makes a hybrid car different from a regular car as a matter of technical fact, so let me explain. A hybrid car utilizes a nickel metal hydride battery to give itself an “electric” component. For a Toyota Prius (and many other car manufacturers) the nickel itself is mined and smelted in or near Sudbury, Ontario placing the local environment at risk and possibly displacing the local Native American population. After refinement, it is sent to China (where most mining is still done) to be turned into nickel foam, after which it is sent to Japan to finally be made into a battery. Sounds green, right?
All this movement to create a hybrid battery pollutes the environment. CNW Marketing rates cars “to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage.” According to CNW Marketing, an H3 Hummer costs $2.07 per “lifetime” mile, while a Prius costs $2.87, largely due to the fact it costs more to create, not drive. The validity of CNW’s research is as suspect as Lindsey Graham’s sexuality, but the larger picture is valid: A car has an impact on the environment before and after people are done driving it. Next time you move to purchase a car—assuming you care—look at the lifecycle environmental impact of the car.
Hybrid Cars: They Don’t Save You Much Money
Hybrid cars save you money at the pump, but run you the “hybrid premium” at the dealer. A hybrid currently costs more than equivalent non-hybrid in-class options, with the only advantage being the rapidly-eroding fuel economy gap. Part of this is to recoup the uniquely hybrid specific costs, part being a premium charge or what I like to call a “douchbag tax”. Looking at the full cost of ownership, this premium places hybrid-owners immediately in the hole vs. their non-hybrid driving neighbors. The gap is bridged via fuel savings—with the length of time required to bridge the gap being extended by gas prices going down. Another factor is the efficiency of the battery, which like all batteries diminishes over time (meaning the MPG the car can reach will diminish).
I am not going to try to place any hard numbers here: I can’t forecast fuel prices and the prices of cars and interest rates are variable. Still, I’m sure you get the idea. Hybrid cars aren’t quite as green as people would have you believe, and they don’t actually save you much money compared to equivalent non-hybrid options. You are better off getting a used Honda Civic or similar. Trust me: They will cart you and your family to all the events you can schedule between trips to Whole Foods just as well as any hybrid. And if you can’t afford your dream car, give yourself some options with a car loan that can be paid off relatively fast.
 So pretentious is this ad that it adds a letter to “favorite”.
 He is the famous BTK killer, BTK standing for “blind, torture, kill”. So that’s fun.
Editor’s Note: I have a Toyota Prius and love it. We bought it used for around $16,000, which was only slightly more than the used Hondas we looked at. It is a great car!
Would you ever buy a hybrid? Why or why not? If you have one, do you like it?