Green Car Rip-Offs

Break even for basic hybrid power train seen as 3 years at $3 gasoline, but carmakers are adding costly options, says Union of Concerned Scientists.

Published: 02-Feb-2010

DETROIT -- Over the next few years automakers will be rolling out a variety of electrified vehicles to help them meet sharply higher government fuel economy requirements. But absent higher gas prices or larger consumer incentives, the new technologies are still too costly to justify. What's worse, you're often paying for more than just better fuel economy.

All things being equal, a hybrid power train adds about $3,000 to the cost of a car in exchange for a 25% improvement in fuel economy. At $3 gas it would take about eight years to break even on the purchase, says research firm CSM Worldwide.

But hybrid versions of vehicles typically carry an even higher premium. Why? A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that too often the price includes thousands of dollars' worth of luxury features you might not otherwise have chosen, like DVD players, keyless entry systems and leather interiors.

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