Having a green car can really help you feel better about how your driving habits impact the environment. Plus, green cars tend to help you save money on gas, right? After all, if you have a greener car that gets better gas mileage, you don’t have to fill up as often.
However, sometimes a green car won’t save you as much as you thought. Consumer Reports recently analyzed 2011 models of green cars, and their “non-green” counterparts to get an idea of what is likely to really save you money.
Could You Save More In The Long Run With a Non-Green Car?
The Consumer Reports comparison made a few assumptions when running its comparisons:
- Gas costs $4 per gallon
- Insurance costs
- Cars driven 12,000 miles a year
- Original cost
It seems as though some green cars offer better savings than others. The report found that the Chevy Volt, the electric car that gets the equivalent of 61 miles to the gallon, would cost more after five years than the Chevy Cruze ILT. The costs are apparently higher to maintain the Volt, even though the Cruze only gets 26 miles to the gallon. Clearly, there are other factors at play here, just beyond the fuel savings.
On the other hand, Consumer Reports found that the Toyota Prius Two offers handy savings over the Toyota Corolla after five years. Even though the Prius costs more than the Corolla initially (the Volt costs much more than the Cruze initially, and it is difficult to recoup that cost), the savings over time add up to a difference of $1,500 during the first five years. That’s not bad at all.
I know that my family has saved, thanks the Prius. With the Prius as our main car for my husband’s commute to work (I work from home) and our main errand and travel car, it’s easy to save up. We use less gas for our second car, which I use to take my son to and from school/activities, and that is used for camping trips, and winter driving when the snow and ice threaten.
What About Other Types of Green Cars?
Whether or not a car is a hybrid, or electric, or neither, is not the only measure of “green” cars. In some cases, there are cars that are made with partial zero-emissions. These vehicles (referred to as PZEV) are made in a way that at some point in the process, there are no environmentally damaging emissions. While my husband and I have a Prius (which is a PZEV on top of being a hybrid), we also wanted something for camping, and for winter driving. We went with a Subaru Outback. While not entirely “green”, the PVEZ label does help a little, since we know that somewhat green processes were used to create the car.
I don’t know that having a PZEV actually saves you money, though. Indeed, you might actually end up spending more for the specific processes. I know that our Outback had a higher initial cost than some of the other cars we might have bought for similar purposes. (Although I expect loss due to depreciation to be less of a cost, since Outbacks tend to hold their value fairly well.)
Another Cost Consideration With a Green Car: Home Power
It’s also important to note that there are other cost considerations that might come with a green car. One of those has to do with charging an electric battery, or charging your plug-in hybrid. While you might pay less in gas, are those savings offset by a higher electricity bill at home? (And, if so, does that electricity come from a coal or oil burning plant that adds pollution to the air?)
Sometimes, we are so eager to save money on gas that we forget that we might be paying more in other quarters, whether it’s a higher sticker price (along with the higher interest paid on a higher loan, if you borrow), or it’s higher energy costs at home because you plug in your car. If money is important to you, run the numbers before you buy a “green” car — just to make sure the savings are really there.
Is Sustainability More Important Than Saving?
Of course, for some it is more important to get something that is more environmentally friendly, even if it costs more money. There are those willing to pay a higher initial price for something that will truly reduce their impact on the environment. If that is important to you, find out what you can about the construction process, as well as look at the fuel consumption savings and environmental impact.
What do you think? Are green cars all they’re cracked up to be? Would you pay more for a car that truly reduced your impact on the environment?