Most (and least) cost-effective hybrids

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

Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid
Hybrid value rank: 4
Time to recoup premium in fuel savings alone: 5 years

Typical cost: $25,075

Compared to: Escape XLT

Hybrid cost premium: $2,310 (Based on "True Market Value" and $3,000 hybrid tax credit.)

Overall mpg vs. non-hybrid: 31.4 vs. 24

Annual fuel savings: $458 (148 gallons)

The Ford Escape Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market today. It can run on electric power only all the way up to about 25 miles per hour. It also offers a smooth ride and decent handling in normal driving.

One concern for both this vehicle and the Mariner is the lack of electronic stability control, an important safety feature available on other hybrid SUVs. This feature will be offered beginning with the 2009 model year, so we advise waiting if you possibly can.

Interestingly, the closely related Mercury Mariner Hybrid, which is virtually the same vehicle with the same fuel economy and the same additional cost for the hybrid, based on sticker price, has a higher hybrid premium. That is because the's "True Market Value," an estimate of what people actually end up paying for the vehicle, is closer to full sticker price for the Mercury version.

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