Most (and least) cost-effective hybrids

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

Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda Civic Hybrid
Hybrid value rank: 7
Time to recoup premium in fuel savings alone: 7.4 years

Typical cost: $22,337

Compared to: Civic LX sedan

Hybrid cost premium: $2,734 (Based on "True Market Value" and $2,100 hybrid tax credit.)

Overall mpg vs. non-hybrid: 43.3 vs. 32.3

Annual fuel saved: $368 (119 gallons)

To find out if you qualify for the hybrid vehicle tax credit, check with a tax accountant before you buy your car. If you pay the alternative minimum tax, you can't take the tax credit. Also, if the tax credit would cause you to pay the AMT, you can take only part of the tax credit.

One factor's data does not take into account is depreciation, or how much value a vehicle loses between the time it is purchased as and when it is later sold as used. Most used car value experts, including Kelley Blue Book, say that hybrid vehicles will lose value more rapidly in the coming years than non-hybrid vehicles. That would mean that most vehicles on this list will actually take longer to earn back their extra cost than is indicated here.

The Honda Civic Hybrid, however, is expected to hold its value better than other hybrid cars, according to Kelley Blue Book. It will still probably lose value considerably faster than a non-hybrid Civic sedan, however.

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