Hybrid cars always cost more than their non-hybrid counterparts, even after tax credits. And it takes a while for gasoline-savings to make up for that premium. CNNMoney.com asked the automotive Web site Edmunds.com to compute how long it would take for 13 leading hybrids.
These rankings assume gas prices stay constant and you drive 15,000. If gas prices move higher, or if you drive a lot, the hybrids' premium would be made up for more quickly.
Also, we didn't include the effect of depreciation - which would only make hybrids look to be more costly. Most experts think that hybrid vehicles lose value faster than non-hybrid ones.
One interesting result is that vehicles from the same company, even vehicles that are very similar to one another, can vary greatly in their cost effectiveness.
Some hybrids really are cost effective enough that, as gas prices rise or if you drive more than 15,000 miles a year, it becomes a reasonable investment even on purely financial grounds.
All fuel economy estimates in this feature are combined city/highway fuel economy ratings calculated by Edmunds com from the EPA's city and highway estimates. These estimates may not match the EPA's own "combined" estimates for 2008.