Will Hybrid Sales Surge Along With Gasoline Prices?

CHICAGO (CBS) — As gasoline prices keep climbing, every driver is looking to keep more money their pockets.

As Dorothy Tucker reports, some are so fed up that they’re trading in their traditional vehicles for hybrids.

Darryl Lloyd is looking at the Prius.

“I was holding off, but once [gas prices] hit the $4 a gallon [mark], this started looking a lot more interesting,” said Lloyd, who had his eye on a royal blue model at Grossinger Toyota.

The spike in gas prices–the average is $3.75 across Chicago–is prompting scores of consumers like Lloyd to look at alternatives to traditional cars.

Grossinger, which usually sells 25 Prius cars in a month, sold 14 last weekend alone.

And even though the Chevrolet electric Volt hasn’t hit the showroom, interest is high.

“Pretty much in the last week, we’ve had e-mail inquiries, people calling for them.” said Brian Weinberg, director of retail operations for Grossinger. “People have been coming in wanting to drive them.”

But these cars cost more than traditional cars. So, is it worth it to buy one now?

“Buying a Prius will eventually pay off,” says Phillip Reed, senior consumer editor for Edmunds.com.

Here’s why: A Prius, the most popular hybrid, averages $24,000 and gets a 50 miles to the gallon. Most compare it to the fuel efficient Toyota Camry, which cost $22,000 and get 25 miles to the a gallon. That’s a $2,000 difference, but experts say you begin to see the savings in about a year.

“If gas prices keep going up, you may be very happy that you got it even though you paid a little more than you expected,” Reed said.

What about an electric car?

The Nissan Leaf is the most economical at $27,000 with tax breaks. That’s only $3,000 more than the Camry, but experts say until they hit the road, there are too many unknowns. For example, will it really get 99 miles a gallon, and how much will it really cost in electricity to charge the car?

The Volt will be selling for around $40,000.

Electric cars are expected to hit the showrooms this summer. But there won’t be many on the market. Dealers say if you want one you should order it now.

  • Pen

    Yes hybrid automobile sales will increase because of wealthy and higher income families.
    The average two income family can barely afford a new or used automobile, the underemployed and unemployed cannot. What are struggling families supposed to do for transportation? Please don’t suggest carpool or public transportation which is a viable suggestion for city dwellers and not an option for those living in the suburbs and urban areas?

    • Philip Livingston

      Trade in for a more fuel efficient option. There are plenty of compact and sub-conpact vehicles on the market that if driven correctly can achieve MPG’s in the high 30’s. Also, google hypermiling techniques to boost mileage, i.e. increasing inflation in tires and keeping both RPM’s down to below 2,000 and speeds on the highway at or under 55, all dramatically increase fuel efficiency. A car moving at 70mph must deal with double the wind related resistance than that of a car moving at 50mph, thus your mileage suffers commensurately with speed.

      Don’t fret, there are plenty of options…

  • Allan Birmantas

    I bought a used 07 Prius in Jan of 2010, and boy am I glad.I had no idea that gas prices were going to skyrocket so fast,but I bet now the used Prius prices have gone up just like the gas.

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