Letters to Lonnie- Grannies Volt

Grannies VoltDear Lonnie,

I am in the market for a new car and my college student grandson says I should buy a Chevy Volt. He says it will save me money and I will help save the environment. I’ve seen the car on TV and it sounds nice, but the price seems pretty steep to me. I only drive about 8000 miles a year for shopping and church. I also make a trip to Hattiesburg every year to see my sister and go to the family reunion.

What do you think?


Caring Grandma



Dear Caring,

I have a question for you, is your grandson going to be helping to pay for the new car? If so, the following might not apply. If not, he needs to go sit in a tree and eat his tofu.

To purchase a hybrid car (one that uses gas and electric power) is really more of a lifestyle choice instead of an economic one. The savings in fuel generally doesn’t offset the additional price and ownership costs of the vehicle. Let me explain.

You said that you drive 8000 miles a year. The Chevy Volt is rated at 93 MPG and costs just shy of $40,000. We will call it $37,500 to be fair. The similar sized Chevy Cruze costs about $20,000 with options and is rated at 30 MPG combined city and highway driving.

If we say that gas is going to cost you an average of $5.00 a gallon over the next 6 years then fuel for the Volt will cost you roughly $2,600 over that time span. (8000miles X 6 Years = 48000 miles. Divide that by 93MPG = 516 gallons used. 516 gallons X $5.00 a gallon = $2580 in fuel costs.)

Using the same math, the Cruze will costs $8000 in fuel over the same 6 years. That is a difference of $5420 or $904 a year you will save in gas cost. Unfortunately, it costs you $17,500 to save that money at the pump. Allowing for gas to go up higher over time, it will still take somewhere between 12 and 20 years to save enough on fuel to offset the higher price of the car. We also have not touched on the higher insurance and tax costs of the more expensive vehicle.

(Now before some of you tell me how Grandma might not ever put gas into it, remember she takes that yearly road trip to Mississippi which is a 1500 mile round trip. While running on gas, the Volt only gets about 35 MPG, so I think I’m being generous with my numbers.)

All that being said, if you like the Volt or any other hybrid and can comfortably afford it then buy it and I say God Bless You. It’s a wonderful technology that may change the world for the better. But as we sit today, the math doesn’t work for hybrids being money savers.

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