Volt to get 230 mpg (!), but it's not the best deal

VoltThe Internet, WalletPop included, was jazzed today over news that the Chevrolet Volt will be able to travel up to 230 miles on a single gallon of gasoline. With a mileage advantage of this size, it has to put the other high-efficiency cars to shame, right?

Not necessarily, according to Edmunds.com. In fact, The Volt won't come close to being the cheapest ride on the street.

Edmund's review of the Volt claim concludes that 230 mpg could be achieved by single drivers without cargo driving conservatively on non-challenging roads and going no more than 20-30 miles between charges, an unlikely scenario on a consistent basis. However, it did agree that 50 mpg or better is a reasonable expectation, making the Volt the most efficient car on the road.
The fly in this ointment is the Volt's anticipated sales price of $40,000, or $32,500 after the tax credit. Edmund's compared the overall cost of ownership of the Volt vs. other efficient models based on usage of 15,000 miles per year and gasoline at $2.53 a gallon. The results are illuminating.

It would take a Volt driver
  • 9 1/2 years to make up for the price difference between his car and a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid ($22,395)
  • 8 1/2 years to break even against the Ford Fusion Hybrid ($26,295)
  • 17.4 years before it would be cheaper to drive than a Toyota Prius ($22,750)
  • 15.3 years before it matched the cost per mile of the Honda Insight ($21,709)
This doesn't include the price of electricity used to charge the Volt or any difference in the cost of insurance.

The key piece of information here, imho, is that the purchase price of the car is the single most important factor in controlling the cost per mile to operate. Overpaying for a high-mileage car is a fool's economy.

And if you're looking to buy one to lower your carbon footprint, consider what you add to the world's load by buying a new car and trashing one that is still serviceable (thanks, Cash For Clunkers).
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