Can You Really Save Greenbacks with a Green Car?

The competition amongst automobile manufacturers to create eco-friendly vehicles is about to heat up, thanks to the agreement they entered into this year with the Obama administration that will set the new standards for fuel consumption at 54.5 mpg (average) across each automakers fleet of vehicles. And with the leaps and bounds that have been made over the last few years in the way of hybrid, electric, and alternative fuel vehicles, there are now green vehicles that have got even staunch gas-lovers looking to save a few bucks on a more fuel-efficient vehicles (although the state of the economy is probably a contributing factor, as well). However, one must ask if the elevated sticker prices that are associated with these technologically advanced vehicles really allow for the savings that are promised. So here’s a breakdown to help consumers decide.

For starters, there is the up-front cost of purchase to consider, and there’s no denying that an eco-friendly car is sure to cost you more than its petroleum-powered brethren, possibly by several thousand dollars (depending on the make, model, and engine type you choose). While most engines can be retrofitted to accommodate biodiesel for as little as a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, you could be paying significantly more for a brand new electric car with any kind of decent range. So there’s that to think about. Of course, there are government rebates to offset the cost of purchasing eligible vehicles (currently plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars only). You could qualify for up to $7,000 in federal rebates for the car, with an additional $2,000 for installing a charging station. And some states even offer additional rebates (California takes the cake with up to $5,000).

And from there you only stand to save, right? Not quite. While nearly all of these vehicles will save you something at the pump, there’s no denying that some are better than others. For example, if you max out an electric vehicle with a range of about 70 miles each day, you might spend in the neighborhood of $10 each week on electricity for your car. But your regular hybrid may not end up saving you much over time since it uses gas power just as much as (if not more than) electric. Still, it will save you some at the pump. And when compared to the $50 a week you’re probably shelling out for fuel now, it sounds like a pretty good deal.

Well, at least until you have to take your car in for repairs. Here’s the rub. Parts for your hybrid and electric vehicles can be a lot more expensive than those for a standard petroleum-fuel engine. It’s no surprise considering the technology is new, it’s still being perfected, and there are few manufacturers making these engine parts. Add in that they haven’t exactly been standardized and you begin to see the problem. Then there is the cost of technicians, who have to be specially trained to work on your alternative engine. And insurance providers may even charge a little more simply because the cost of repairing or replacing your car is bound to be higher.

Despite all of this, studies have shown that on average, drivers that opt for green vehicles do not tend to spend significantly more for comparable services like insurance, maintenance, and repairs. This is good news for anyone looking to save with the purchase of an eco-friendly automobile. So if you can pony up the extra dough up front, you’re definitely going to save over time. The only real question is: how long are you willing to wait?

About the Author

Sarah Danielson writes for Kanetix, where you can browse quotes to find the best coverage. Compare at Kanetix.