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

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


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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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



  • pgw1 pgw1 Posts:

    Whatever your gonna pay premium on a diesel you get back at resale value, cant believe they wouldn't know that..

  • pgw1 pgw1 Posts:

    And where's the resale figured in? Diesels always sell for more......

  • samm43_ samm43_ Posts:

    I don't get the point of this article. In addition the good resale value comment above (below?), it does not take into account the different climates, so in the colder climates the hybrids will look considerably less impressive. And real-world is where diesels shine the best. Especially in freezing temps the hybrid will be using gas to move the car AND charge the batteries. And where is the TDI mentioned? Could it be that it would look so impressive that it might have single-handedly made this article moot? But before we push for diesel supremacy, we need to push government for less unfair intervention. At the very least, make emission minimums the same for diesel as it is for gas, not make it MORE difficult to reach even cleaner regs than gas! This unfair legislation is all very contrived to ensure they have enough gas gallonage burned to ensure they get the tax base they have been used to all these years to operate and fix roads and pad pension plans. (Has anyone's road been fixed lately?) This would be proven if hybrids were sold in greater numbers. They would then have to tax THEM in other ways to fill the $ void. And it is these very (grossly unfair) emission regs on diesels that make them so expensive to get them clean enough for this country. It adds dollars, weight, complexity and now with urea injections, (and burning MORE fuel to burn particulate deposits on the smaller displacement engines in lieu of urea) more maintenance hungry.

  • ncskibum ncskibum Posts:

    Although the EPA rates the Prius as a larger vehilce than the Corolla, that is really the truer comparison. Especially since the sticker used to say Toyota Corolla Prius. In that case, the payback for the Prius versus the Corolla LE is 6.6 years.

  • jim85035 jim85035 Posts:

    where is the volkswagen?

  • Yes, everyone here is wondering why the most popular diesel car in the USA was not mentioned. I purchased a new 2009 Jetta Sportswagen for a company car and drove it about 9000 aggressive, trouble free miles averaging 53 mpg. All with no maintenance required- not even an oil change required and than sold it for about what I paid for it about a year later. I may buy another. The thing about hybrids is that the expensive $3500-$8000 battery starts to die from the time it's created and continues to die, whether you make use of it or not. A good diesel car will be ready no matter how much or little you drive it..especially in the long run. Diesel fuel also has a longer shelf life than gasoline, especially when it includes mpg robbing ethanol in it. See more on

  • dank5 dank5 Posts:

    seems like the prius to corolla is a better bet. would be more interesting to see the camry hybrid vs. camry comparison. also, it's not clear if all the comparisons are with equivalent options.

  • ostrom888 ostrom888 Posts:

    Once again, no love for the Honda Insight!! I just drove from Nevada to San Francisco, up and over a 7ooo' pass, and got 48 mpg for the whole trip. The Insight is way cheaper than the Prius, and rates it lower in costs over the first five years v the Prius. I paid 21k for the mid-model Insight. New Prius is at least 5k more. Rides smooth, and feels good to drive. More than I can say for teh Prius reviews.

  • wzulaufjr wzulaufjr Posts:

    I also wanted to note the comparison of the Prius to the Camry. It makes the article seem less believable. Like always,Toyota seems to recognition they don't deserve. At times, I wonder how much they pay the media to be included in article suchs as this. Why was the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf not included? Seems as though the Honda Insight vs the Honda Civic would have made this list.

  • jorobbie2 jorobbie2 Posts:

    Answerman brought up strong point. Estimated battery life and replacement costs need to be calculated and subtracted from any fuel savings for 'hybrids'. Seems like someone just filling space with such a 2-dimensional evaluation. If these articles are supposed to assist with making a choice...this one missed.

  • kellyinwa kellyinwa Posts:

    Please compare to the Prius to the Corolla which is the appropriate size car.

  • Shouldn't the Camry gas be compared to the Camry Hybrid?

  • jpickett2 jpickett2 Posts:

    All of these seem like pretty fair comparisons model to model, But I think the toyolet is way off. Compare it to a camry? How about compare it to a Corolla or Yaris, comparably sized vehicles.

  • txpdelta txpdelta Posts:

    If I didn't know better, I'd say they forgot to mention that this article was half sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. I was wondering about VW also, but there is an Audi listed.

  • Astounding that you leave out the VW Jetta TDI ,as the least cost highest mileage option car in the class it blows away all the competition. Whats up here Edmunds? Someones asleep at the wheel.....

  • jber3 jber3 Posts:

    Surely the Jetta TDI has a better payback being only $25K and $10K cheaper than the Audi A3.

  • ulysses1174 ulysses1174 Posts:

    Does anyone have thoughts on natural gas conversions or production cars? I was talking to a rep for my local utility about his company NGV and he said the cost per equivaliant mile was around 2.75 which I thought was great. The problem is I can't find any for sale to a non fleet purchaser or find out much info on conversion.

  • gregf41 gregf41 Posts:

    This article is great advertising for Mercedes, this is how I got the link this arcle since I own a Mercedes and receive news flashes. However, my Merceedes is neither a diesel or hybrid. My 2012 VOLKSWAGON Jetta is a diesel. A fabulous car for a diesel, and I would put it well above any of the non german cars above for quality. How this car didn't make this list is beyond me, it's almost like Mercedes paid for the testing...

  • gpronger gpronger Posts:

    Seems more like a list of luxury hybrids with the Toyota thrown in so Edmunds can say that wasn't the case. Completely agree with the VW missing.

  • It's curious that the Prius was compared to the Camry, when Edmunds traditionally matches it to the more comparably sized, and cheaper, Corolla. That certainly inflates the price/benefits. Its a shame that the VW price comparisons suffer because the base model diesels are better equipped than the base model gas engines. The Golf/Jettas should fall in line with their Audi sibling.

  • spikevfr spikevfr Posts:

    theanswerman - you realize that there are Prii out there with over 300,000 miles and still on the original battery? Or that Consumer Reports tested one with about 200,000 miles on it last year and found virtually no difference in the performance? Or that far from $3,500 - $8,000 a new Prius battery runs about $2,300 -- if you were to need one, which most owners do not. Plus you get $400 from Toyota from turning in the old one. Or that -- again, if you needed one, you could buy one for under $1,000 from a crashed car?

  • spikevfr spikevfr Posts:

    Ninja - the interior space of the Prius is closer to the Camry than that of the Corolla. Plus the Prius has *far* more amenities than the Corolla. Used to even offer stuff that the Camry didn't offer. Ulyses - Honda used to sell a NG Civic, plus that super rare NGV that they offered for lease only a while back. jpickett - the Prius is closer to the Camry, not the Corolla or certainly the Yaris. kellyinwa - no it isn't, the Camry and Prius are midsized vehicles the Corolla is a compact. And the Prius has content way above the Corolla. jorobbie - most hybrid drivers will never replace the battery, as they are designed to last the life of the car. Heck Hyundai actually offers a lifetime warranty on their hybrid batteries. So replacement cost is $0

  • hybridguy4 hybridguy4 Posts:

    Great comments. I own a hybrid and love it. I also am interested in getting a diesel. The reason the VW is not in there is that it likely doesn't quality in the top-10 quickest payback vs the gasoline verson. I'm very interested in either the Jetta Sportwagon, or the A3. Time to trade in the turbo Outback.....

  • alex556 alex556 Posts:

    Where did these numbers come from? From every source I can find, the Prius is far more than $620 more than the Camry -- more like $6000. Also, picking the Camry as its "closest sibling" is an interesting choice, as it makes the Prius look more cost effective. The Prius has no exact non-hybrid version, but it's midway between the Camry and Corolla. Picking the larger, more expensive Camry makes the price premium smaller (though I'm still not sure where you found a Prius that cheap). But the Camry has its own hybrid variant, so I think the Corolla would have been a much more reasonable choice as the non-hybrid Prius. Of course, with these corrections, the break-even period would be over 10 years, and the ever-popular Prius wouldn't have made your list at all.

  • sharonw1 sharonw1 Posts:

    i love my honda insight and don't see it listed. I get 41 mpg in the city and 51 on the highway. I love it!

  • spikevfr spikevfr Posts:

    the answer man - 2009 VW Jetta SportWagen Diesel auto is 29/40/33 and the stick is 30/41/34 so hard to beleive you are getting 53, *and* driving it "aggressive." And 9,000 miles with no repairs? Great, almost any car does that these days. And they all should. My current car is 155,000 trouble free miles, previous car didn't have a repair till 180,000 miles and only had two repairs in 240,000 miles. As for hybrid battery replacement, very very few ever need to be replaced. There are cars out there with over 300,000 miles on the original hybrid battery. Consumer Reports tested one of them and found virtually no difference from new. And most are cheaper than your range. pgw1 - same with the hybrid, it adds to resale value

  • spikevfr spikevfr Posts:

    “We found that diesels typically have slightly higher insurance, repair and maintenance costs,” says David Wurster, president of Vincentric, which specializes in calculating total cost of ownership and chose diesels for its most recent alternative fuel analysis.

  • spikevfr spikevfr Posts:

    alex 556 - looking at the Toyota website, the Camry starts at $22k and the Prius @ $24k, so not anywhere near $6k. Not sure where they got the $600 number, maybe trying to option the two as close as possible? As for the comparo, it is based on the cars classification, probly the EPA one, which uses interior volume to classify cars. The Corolla is a compact and the Camry and Prius are midsized, based on interior space of 104.4 cu.ft., 118.1 cu.ft. and 115.3 cu.ft. respectivly. So the Prius is about 3' smaller than the Camry but 14 cu ft larger than the Corolla. So it is clearly closer to the Camry than Corolla.

  • europa912 europa912 Posts:

    Think of how short the break-even period would be for the diesels if diesel fuel cost 60 to 70 cents less than regular fuel, as it does in Germany. I am upset with our government for their blind dependence on battery powered cars. What are the plans for disposing of all the worn out batteries that will be covering the planet in the future. I can't help but think that we are headed for another government mandated disaster.

  • THE average of these ten cars to break even is 1.6 years. Given that the average car owner in America replaces a new car every three years, that's more than half the period of owner ship at a loss. Then they go buy another one and starts it all over again, with a huge hit on trade in because that battery needs replacing before any reputable dealer can resell it. Ridiculous. I'll stick to my 32mpg 1970 VW beetle.

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