Hybrid cars still aren't good enough! I have a 1998 Honda Civic LX that I bought in 2004 for $6000. I've driven it about 55,000 miles since then. Does it make sense to buy a new Civic Hybrid instead of another used Civic? Let's see.
A new hybrid costs about $17,000 more than a ~2005 Civic LX. My current car gets about 33mpg (and fading), so we'll assume that a newer one will get about the same mileage. At what point would I break even on the hybrid?
$17,000 x 1gal/$4 x 33mpg = 140,000 miles
That means, at my current driving level, it would take 10 years to pay back the difference of the hybrid. If gas goes to $8/gallon, then it's still 5 years (and besides, I think I'd be using my car much less at that point).
Not only is the cost too high, but the technology is still advancing enough that it's probably smart to wait for 50mpg or better technology. Also, I'm guessing that it'd be a bad idea to buy any used hybrid in the next few years until we start to see the technology plateau. There's not much fuel-economy difference between a 1998 Civic and a 2005, but I'm hoping the 2015 Civic will be much improved over today's hybrid (hell, I thought we were supposed to be driving hover cars by 2000!).
Sure, if you've got a gas-guzzling SUV or just about any American car of the past 20 years, it may be a good idea to replace it with a new hybrid, but for me, it just doesn't make sense yet. I wish that weren't the case, and I hope I have better options when I look to replace my car someday. Come on, Honda and Toyota! Get to work!