Hybrid Vehicles: Benefits Beyond Gas Savings

As gasoline prices have plunged, so have sales of once hot high-mileage hybrid vehicles. Buyers concluded that the gas savings on hybrids would not recoup their premium prices. But if you have a secure job and think you might buy a car now, a combination of federal and state tax credits can make a hybrid choice more attractive. In addition, in many places hybrids get other perks such as using car-pool lanes and free or reduced-cost parking.

If you're interested in purchasing a hybrid, consider these factors:

  • Some states offer their own tax credits, allow car-pool lane use with only one passenger, and provide free or reduced-rate parking for hybrids with stickers.

  • Along with their sales volume, the selling prices of hybrids have fallen as well.

  • Check out the trade-offs including tax breaks. For instance, you no longer can get federal tax credits for Honda or Toyota vehicles, but some other companies' hybrids still command credits. Depending on what vehicle you choose and where you live, the cost comparisons may vary. To check out the situation in your state go to go.ucsusa.org/hybridcenter/incentives.cfm, maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Web sites of your state motor vehicles, energy, or tax departments also may list such incentives.

  • Check for possible insurance savings. Insurance companies Travelers, Farmers, and GEICO are offering 5% to 10% discounts on auto insurance for owners of gas-electric hybrid vehicles.

  • Don't assume gas will stay this cheap forever. After plunging from its $4-plus per gallon level to around less than $2 on average nationally, gas prices headed up again in January 2009. The government's Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., projects that gasoline will average about $2 a gallon over all of 2009. As gas prices rise, so do the weekly savings from high-mileage hybrids.

If you're lucky enough to afford the hybrid premium, you might want to buy one to help cut energy consumption and spew out less climate-changing gases. Then while feeling you are helping the planet, you also can enjoy stopping less often at the gas station.

And HUECU can help. We offer reduced rates to members who purchase fuel efficient vehicles with our Green Auto Loan . Get in touch and find out more about this and our other green initiatives today. You can stop by any of our branches , call us at 617-495-4460 or email CUMemberContact@harvard.edu for more information.

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