KBB: Volt, Insight Offer Lowest Cost Of Ownership Over 5 Years

There are a lot of EV and hybrid-haters out there who throw out some softball arguments against such vehicles, along with legitimate gripes. But some of those gripes don’t necessarily ring true anymore. Kelly Blue Book, the go-to guide for used car values, has put together a best-of list for the five-year estimated ownership costs of every class of vehicles, including electrics and hybrids. Some of the winners may surprise you.The total cost of ownership compares eight different factors in the true cost of owning cars over a five-year period, with the two highest costs associated with owning a vehicle including depreciation, which accounts for 44% of ownership costs, and fuel, which accounts for a staggering 26% of ownership costs. In the subcompact segment, the Nissan Versa got KBB’s nod. For sports cars, it was the Mazda MX-5 Miata by a wide margin.

With fuel costs playing such a deciding factor, in many cases fuel efficient cars were simply cheaper to own over the long term. That made the hybrid and electric car categories especially tight..sort of.

In the hybrid category, it was Honda, not Toyota, that was tops. In fact, Honda was in a three-way race with itself, with the Insight, CR-Z, and Civic hybrids all squaring off. But it was the Insight, with a five-year total cost of ownership of $32,884 that came out the victor. The Insight, classified as a compact car, cost just $1,400 more over a five-year period than the winner of the compact class, the Kia Soul. That works out to just under $300 a year, or about six tanks of gas. If you drive more than the average person, that is the kind of discrepancy that can be wiped out in a few weeks.But the real upset wasn’t in the hybrid category, but the electric vehicle category, a two-way race between the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF. Though the LEAF costs less upfront and depreciates less, somehow the maintenance costs and lower insurance puts the Volt ahead with a five-year cost to own of $40,629, versus the LEAF’s $42,089.

The real story here is that over five years, these cars (both situated in the compact class) only cost about $10,000 more over five years than their conventional compact cousins. The best direct example is the Versa ($29,252) versus the LEAF’s $42,089. That’s about a $13,000 difference, which is a lot…but these are first-generation vehicles. Once prices for EV’s go down, and prices for gas go up, those numbers are going to get closer and closer with each year until there is perhaps a negligible difference. And from there? Well I can’t predict the future friends, but I would say that electric cars stand a pretty good chance of finding ready and willing customers as the cost of ownership closes the gap with conventional gas-powered cars.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.