Top 10 Diesels and Hybrids With the Shortest Break-Even Periods for 2011

From Edmunds.com

Choosing a hybrid or a diesel vehicle can often result in big fuel savings, but there's a catch: Most of these vehicles are more expensive than their gasoline-model equivalents and the price premium can take many years to earn back at the pump. Tax credits used to help defray the extra cost, but these credits expired at the start of 2011.

As such, it can be helpful to consider a green car's break-even period when evaluating choices. The break-even period is the amount of time it takes for the vehicle's fuel savings to offset its price premium.

These 10 hybrids and diesels offer the shortest break-even periods when compared with their gasoline-model equivalents. Our data assumes a national gasoline price of $3.11 per gallon, a national diesel price of $3.42 per gallon and an average of 15,000 miles driven each year. Fuel prices are obviously quite fluid and as they change, so, too, will each vehicle's break-even period. All other things being equal, steeper gas prices will lead to shorter break-even periods while cheaper gas will have the opposite effect.

In addition to its break-even period, we've listed the gasoline model with which each hybrid or diesel was compared. Note that in cases where the diesel or hybrid has no direct gasoline-model equivalent, we've compared it to its closest sibling. We've also included each diesel or hybrid's price premium; bear in mind that the Mercedes Benz GL-Class Diesel has a negative price premium (and a negative break-in period) because it costs less than gasoline models. Finally, our list also includes the yearly fuel savings earned by hybrids and diesels relative to their gasoline-model counterparts.

  1. 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Diesel

    Compared to: 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
    Price premium: -$961
    Fuel savings: $694
    Break-even period: -1.4 years
  2. 2011 Lexus HS 250h Hybrid

    Compared to: 2011 Lexus ES 350
    Price premium: $85
    Fuel savings: $990
    Break-even period: 0.1 year
  3. 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

    Compared to: 2011 Lincoln MKZ
    Price premium: $167
    Fuel savings: $1,093
    Break-even period: 0.2 year
  4. 2011 Toyota Prius Hybrid

    Compared to: 2011 Toyota Camry
    Price premium: $620
    Fuel savings: $882
    Break-even period: 0.7 year
  5. 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

    Compared to: 2011 Cadillac Escalade
    Price premium: $1,966
    Fuel savings: $1,102
    Break-even period: 1.8 years
  6. 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Diesel

    Compared to: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    Price premium: $1,428
    Fuel savings: $640
    Break-even period: 2.2 years
  7. 2011 Audi A3 Diesel

    Compared to: 2011 Audi A3
    Price premium: $1,432
    Fuel savings: $617
    Break-even period: 2.3 years
  8. 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Diesel

    Compared to: Mercedes-Benz R-Class
    Price premium: $1,433
    Fuel savings: $567
    Break-even period: 2.5 years
  9. 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Diesel

    Compared to: Mercedes-Benz M-Class
    Price premium: $1,427
    Fuel savings: $544
    Break-even period: 2.6 years
  10. 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid

    Compared to: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
    Price premium: $1,317
    Fuel savings: $476
    Break-even period: 2.8 years

Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and excerpted with permission. http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/top-10/top-10-diesels-and-hybrids-with-the-shortest-break-even-periods-for-2011.html