Should I buy an alternative vehicle?
There are many factors to consider when buying a new car: price, miles per gallon, environmental impact, maintenance costs, interior space, ride, personal taste and more. The availability of hybrids, electrics, and other alternative vehicles can complicate this decision even further for many people.
An Excel spreadsheet was developed to help you organize your thinking as you consider the purchase of an alternative or conventional vehicle. Car purchase decisions are highly personal, and there are no absolute answers to be determined from using this tool. In the end, you may have excellent reasons for choosing a car which will cost you more; however, this tool should help you perform analysis to support your decision.
How it works
- Enter information in the yellow cells for each type of vehicle you are considering. For vehicle types you do not wish to consider, leave the columns of yellow cells blank. As you enter the key figures for each type of car, results are shown in the graph at the right.
- The tool calculates differences in costs of ownership and operation and differences in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Experiment with various scenarios and see how the graph responds. For example, note the effect of higher gasoline prices and miles driven per year on the costs of ownership and operation of the various vehicles.
Alternative vehicle decision tool (823 K XLS)—Learn more about key input factors below.
Listed below are the cells (shaded yellow) in which you can enter data. Default values currently populate the yellow-shaded cells.
Car pricing and performance assumptions
- Purchase price of conventional car—default value is set at $19,000
- Purchase price of hybrid car—default value is set at $24,000
- Purchase price of electric car—default value is set at $34,780
- Purchase price of extended range electric car—default value is set at $43,000
- Amount of down payment, if financed—default value is set at $5,000
- Interest rate charged on car loan—default value is set at 5%
- Availability of an income tax credit on a new hybrid—see this IRS page to determine if the model you are considering is eligible for this credit; default value is set at $8,500 for the two electric models, assuming $7,500 for the car and $1,000 for its charging station.
- Cost of battery service in year 8—default value is set at $2,000 for the hybrid and $8,000 for the extended range electric vehicles. Used batteries are currently available from salvaged vehicles for prices at half those costs. Battery life has been an infrequent issue for hybrid and electric vehicle owners, to date.
- Miles per gallon of gas expected for the conventional car—default value is set at 29
- Miles per gallon of gas expected for the hybrid car—default value is set at 45
- Miles per kilowatt-hour is 4.0 in electric mode for the electric vehicle and extended range electric vehicle
- Miles of annual driving expected—default value is set at 15,000
Gasoline price and discount rate assumptions
- Price of gasoline represents an average gasoline price for the 15-year life of the car—default value is set at $4.00
- Price of premium gasoline that is needed for the extended range electric vehicle is assumed to be $.25 higher than regular unleaded gasoline.
- Price of residential electricity purchased is assumed to be $.0974 in Minnesota. You can enter alternative prices for other states. Consult the tab "ElectPrices" for your state's average price.
- Cost of gasoline engine maintenance is assumed to be $60.84 every 3,000 miles, including oil, antifreeze, and service.
- Discount rate you consider appropriate for your money—this number represents the rate of return you expect on your money; default value is set at 6%.
Ready to get started? Download the tool. (823 K XLS)
Still have questions? Contact Extension educator Douglas Tiffany at email@example.com or 612-625-6715.