While hybrid sales are down, we purchased a safer hybrid SUV saving fuel and CO2 emissions

Last night President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union speech that auto sales set a record in 2015. Over 17.5 million cars and trucks were sold in the U.S. according to the Wall Street Journal. With gasoline prices below $2.00 per gallon, there is a great increase in people buying large fuel inefficient vehicles and hybrid sales are down. So why did we choose to purchase a hybrid vehicle last month?

First of all we are a one car family. It's a challenge at times to carpool but we like to think it keeps our family closer by going places together. We do save a significant amount of money having just one car avoiding many additional expenses. 

We've been looking to replace our 2006 Toyota Matrix for over a year for many reasons including older safety equipment (only two front airbags), poor fuel economy of 20 mpg, and terrible performance going over mountains. The one thing we really liked was that we paid the loan off many years ago making the overall costs of running the car very low. 

We spent many months watching new car videos and strongly considered the VW "clean diesel" prior to the cheating scandal. We considered plug in electric cars but in rural Colorado a bigger car is needed just to get noticed on the highway! We also really like the reliability of Toyota vehicles and got to know many people at our local dealership.

So we discovered a new Rav4 Hybrid compact SUV had all the features we were looking for - at least it appeared on the YouTube videos but they were not available for test driving until December 2015. So first we rented a 2015 Rav4 to test out the features driving into the mountains for the weekend and we really like the performance and extra space for our growing family. 

Speaking of performance, the standard non-hybrid Rav4 has 176 horsepower (hp) while the hybrid model comes with a 4-cylinder 150 hp gasoline engine with 141 hp electric motor for a combined 191 hp of added power. Check out the details on Car and Driver's review. So the added performance of the hybrid plus the improved fuel economy were major factors in our decision: standard non-hybrid model 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway compared to the hybrid model of 34 city/31 highway.

In our case we mostly drive around town with more frequent breaking which regenerates the electric motor providing additional fuel economy. Price difference is about $4,000 more for the hybrid so is it really worth it? We drive on average 15,000 miles per year -- say the hybrid gets an average of 8 mpg better than the non-hybrid then the amount of gasoline consumed is 469 gallons/year for the hybrid and 625 gallons/year for the non-hybrid. At $2.00 per gallon for gas it would take 12.8 years to break even but at $3.00 per gallon of gas it only takes 8.5 years to break even on the extra cost of the hybrid. So is there more to compare than just mpg and cost - what about the environment?

It  amazing to consider that for every 1 gallon of gasoline burned in a vehicle, 20 pounds of CO2 are emitted according to FuelEconomy.gov. So using the same difference in gasoline consumption in the two vehicles equates to a savings of 3,120 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per year by driving the hybrid. It sounds like a lot but I will need to do more research in future blogs to determine the positive impact - for now it feels good and we can tell people we are trying to 'go green!'

To make the deal more affordable, we found Costco's auto buyers program to determine dealer costs below the MSRP. The extra cost of the hybrid only added about $75 per month to the auto loan. We also got a good deal by trading in the Matrix and this turned out better than any offers we could get by advertising on Craigslist. 

We're especially amazed at the advancements in safety features made over the past decade. Now we have eight air bags which like insurance we hope never to use, backup cameras with bird's eye views, and most impressive are the radar assisted blind spot monitors on the side mirrors. The other evening I backing up the car in a parking lot at night with big vehicles parked on both sides of me and the radar alerted me to a car passing by before I could see the headlights. 

Overall, we are happy with our purchase and glad we made the decision before interest rates go up any higher and snow fell in Colorado!