If you're interested in ditching your gas guzzling vehicle in favor of a hybrid, be sure to consider whether or not it's worth the cost. Keep in mind that you probably won't get much money for your less fuel-efficient vehicle. Factor in, too, taxes and other fees that are involved. "It could take years worth of cheap fill-ups to recoup those costs, if you recoup them at all," says AuWerter. Don't let gas prices dictate your purchase.
Don't let tax breaks influence the process either. "There's a really great federal tax credit when it comes to hybrid cars, but... for starters, it doesn't apply to all cars," says AuWerter. Big tax discounts only apply to the first 60,000 cars sold by the auto maker; that eliminates Lexus and Toyota hybrids immediately. AuWerter adds that the Honda Civic is hovering dangerously close to the 60,000 mark, but there are other car companies that still qualify. For a list of these hybrids, visit www.SmartMoney.com.
Take a look at state and local perks as well. Some states allow hybrid owners to use car pool lanes; others offer discounts at toll booths. Some employers even offer incentives to hybrid owners. See what perks are offered in your area before you make your purchase.
Don't rule out other fuel-efficient cars, though. Do the math and figure out what type of car is best for your driving needs. Do you primarily drive in the city? Hybrids tend to get better gas mileage in the city as apposed to on the highway. Also, a hybrid SUV won't be as fuel efficient as a compact, gasoline-powered car. In addition, hybrids tend to be more expensive than traditional cars. AuWerter suggests visiting www.Edmunds.com to crunch the numbers. Keep personal preferences in mind and buy the car that works best for you, even if it's not a hybrid.
For more information on purchasing a hybrid vehicle, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun