High gas prices and general economic uncertainty are motivating consumers to look for the least expensive cars to own and operate. However, a new study by Edmunds.com shows that when you compare many compact and subcompact vehicles with hybrids the compact is a better choice. The least expensive vehicle to operate, according to Edmunds, is the gas powered Chevrolet Aveo. It has a base price of $12,170 and an EPA rating of up to 34 miles per gallon, which gave it a per-mile operating cost of 42.7 cents, or $6,405 a year (based on 15,000 miles and a fuel price of $4.06 a gallon). The competition, the Prius Hybrid, costs 50.3 cents per mile or $7,545 a year to operate, even though it has the best fuel economy of any car on the market. The study also takes into account the purchase price and depreciation, based on five years of ownership, 10 percent down payment and financing rates for buyers with good credit. “When consumers think about cars that will save them money, hybrids are typically top of mind because of their fuel efficiency,” said Jesse Toprak, Edmunds.com executive director of Industry Analysis. “But when you take a look at the real-world costs of car ownership, you realize that many subcompact and compact cars are actually a much better value proposition.”
When all of these factors are considered, some popular vehicles look less appealing on a cost-per-mile basis than their fuel economy would suggest.