While there are plenty of environmental (and political) reasons to buy a hybrid car, money isn't one of them -- at least for now.
According to a study from Cargurus.com, gas prices would have to reach about $7 in order for some hybrids to break even in terms of expense as compared to their non-hybrid cousins.
The website analyzed 43 hybrids from 2003 to 2010 and found that on average most hybrids cost 17 percent -- about $6,400 -- more than their gasoline-powered counterparts.
That said, with gas prices increasing the way they are currently, investing in a Toyota Camry Hybrid or a Ford Escape Hybrid would actually be the most cost-efficient thing to do in the long run.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid would need gas to rise to about $4 a gallon -- which it's already at in some parts of the country -- to break even. The Ford Escape Hybrid showed a break even point of $2.50 per gallon.
Currently the Camry hybrid costs about $3,300 more than the non-hybrid version, while the Ford Escape Hybrid is $3,500 more than the conventional model.
On the other hand, gas would have to cost $15 per gallon for the cost of a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid to break even.
Curiously, the Prius was not included in this study because it doesn't have a gas-powered equivalent.
While cost is something that always comes up when there is a discussion about hybrids and electric vehicles, it is important to note that at a time of increased political and environmental uncertainty, fuel-efficient cars have plenty of advantages over their gasoline-powered counterparts, beyond just price. They produce less emissions (for the same distance traveled) and they help cut our dependence on foreign oil (eventually allowing us to become energy-independent as a country).
As U.S. president Barack Obama said at a press conference last week, "We've got to make our economy more energy-efficient and energy-independent over the long run."
Update: The total cost of ownership for the hybrid and non-hybrid models was compared for each vehicle to determine the total cost of ownership premium for hybrids. This total cost of ownership included the initial purchase price, lost value in terms of depreciation and total gas costs over the time period analyzed.