Through the mid seventies the economy of choice in this country was the Volkswagen Beetle. Designed in the 1930’s by none other than Ferdinand Porsche, this car was a true economy car. It got good fuel economy, used half as much motor oil as most cars, and its air cooled engine used no antifreeze. It was also inexpensive to repair, yielding the owner a total economic benefit.
The Beetle was displaced by numerous Japanese imports that offered better mileage, although the difference was usually within 5 MPG. If you examine the total operating cost of these cars, none of them were truly as economical as the Beetle. The American driver made the choice that fuel economy was more critical than the total savings of their driving experience. Most people didn’t realize that the money they saved at the pump was more than absorbed in the service bay.
If we fast forward to the present we are now having hybrids thrown at us with the promise of better fuel economy. The cost of buying, and maintaining, a hybrid erases any fuel economy benefit you may realize. When compared to cars like the Toyota Corolla or the Chevy Cruze, you must get eight trouble free years out of a Prius to simply offset the initial cost of the car.
The point is very simple: When choosing a car, you must decide what you want. If fuel economy is your only concern, then you may want a hybrid. Expect to pay more to keep such a car long term. If you want a true economy car, one that gives you a total lower operating cost, then you should stick to a conventional car.