Hybrid cars a popular, alternative option

Amanda Garrett

The second generation of Toyota’s fuel-efficient hybrid cars, the Prius, has at least a six-month waiting list. Emeritus Professor of Sociology Eugene Wenninger traded his Lexus for a keyless Prius because he believes it has excellent gas mileage and a lo

Credit: Beth Rankin

$2.05. $2.19. $2.25.

As gas prices continue to soar, car buyers are beginning to turn their attention toward hybrid cars, which are primarily battery operated.

Used models of the Toyota Prius, which was the first hybrid car to be marketed in the United States, are selling for as much or more than new models in the same parts of the country, according to a study by Kelley Blue Book and Harris Interactive.

The average price for a new Prius is between $21,000 and $26,000, said Jeff Hardman, finance officer for Don Joseph Toyota in Kent. Brand new Priuses are made to order, and the new models can take anywhere from two to six months to arrive.

“We usually don’t see as high a mark-up on used Priuses as they see in some other parts of the country,” said Hardman, who also owns a Prius. “Our used prices are always under the prices for the new models, but when we get a used car, it usually disappears in a day or two. We never have any sitting around.”

Priuses get around 55 miles to the gallon compared to around 20 miles a gallon for regular vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Prius keeps mileage low by running on a battery-engine and being heavily insulated, Hardman said.

Since the Prius debuted in 2000, the Ford Escape, Honda Insight and Lexus RX 400 Hybrid have joined the ranks of hybrid cars sold in the United States. Although hybrid cars help gas prices, car companies and the government aren’t doing enough to solve the energy problem, said Dan Nelson, Chair of the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club.

“Hybrid cars are only one part of a larger answer,” said Nelson, who owns a Prius. “It would be no problem for the car companies to simply increase the required mileage from an average of 20 miles a gallon to 40 miles a gallon. That’s a perfectly feasible solution.”

Don Joseph Toyota was the first Toyota dealership in Ohio to sell Priuses, Hardman said.

“We had to put in a substantial investment in training and tools in order to sell the Priuses,” he said.

Contact news correspondent Amanda Garrett at [email protected].