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Most (and least) cost-effective hybrids

How much it costs to save a gallon of gas varies widely, even among closely-related vehicles.

Saturn Aura Green Line
Saturn Aura Green Line
Hybrid value rank: 9
Time to recoup premium in fuel savings alone: 9.4 years
Typical cost: $22,140

Compared to: Aura XE

Annual fuel savings: $116 (38 gallons)

Hybrid cost premium: $1,095 (Based on Edmunds.com "True Market Value" and $1,300 hybrid tax credit.)

The Saturn Aura Green Line has the same hybrid drivetrain as the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. It also gets the same fuel economy and it even has exactly the same sticker price. The difference is that a four-cylinder Aura, something that's new for the 2008 model year, costs about $500 less than a comparable Chevrolet Malibu. With relative fuel savings of just $116 a year, $500 added to the cost differential almost doubles the time it takes for the Aura Hybrid to pay for itself.

Last year, when the only alternative was a V6 Aura, the Aura Green Line was a bargain. This year, with a 4-cylinder on the lot that gets the same horsepower - actually, a little bit more - there's little benefit to the Green Line, either in terms of the environment or your bank account.

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