Hybrid SUVs

ford_escape_hybrid_2005.jpg We’re thinking about buying a hybrid SUV.

Sometime this year we’re planning to replace our 1992 Ford Taurus with another vehicle. I’d like something that’s safe (ABS, front and side airbags) and a little bigger than our other car (a 1998 Toyota Camry). A compact SUV seems like the right thing for us, but the mileage is typically only about 22-24 mpg. Luckily, three car manufacturers have announced hybrid SUVs.

Our options seem to be to get the Ford Escape Hybrid which comes out this summer, or wait for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid or the Lexus RX 400h, both due out later this year or early next year.

We test drove a regular gas (non-Hybrid) 2005 Escape yesterday, and much to my chagrin we both really liked it. Even though Ford hasn’t been the most reliable car manufacturer historically, the Escape has good enough reliability so Consumer Reports actually recommends it (subscription required). Based on my past experience with the Taurus, I’m very hesitant to buy a Ford. But we both liked the Escape more than the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.

My gut says to wait for the hybrid Higlander, since Toyota has been making hybrid cars for a few years now, Toyota is #1 overall for reliability, and the fact that we’ve been so satisfied with our Camry. But if the 9-month waitlist for the Prius is any indication, we might not be able to get our hands on a Highlander for quite some time. Do I really want to keep pumping money into the Taurus for another year?

8 thoughts on “Hybrid SUVs”

  1. Michael, you’re definitely on the right track here. Hybrids are a bright spot in today’s technological world – an advance that saves people money and helps the environment, by being less wasteful (i.e. more efficient).

    I understand your dilemma in choosing a car – the one you really want isn’t available quite yet, so do you hold out or buy something that might be almost as good.

    I personally don’t mind selling cars, so if it were me I would buy an Escape now, and sell it in a year to upgrade to a Highlander. The Escape may not depreciate as quickly as other cars because it’s a hybrid.

    If you’re the kind of people that don’t like buying or selling cars, and do it as infrequently as possible and just hold on to what you have, then it would come down to buy the Escape now and live with it long term, or live with the Taurus for a little while longer and then get the Highlander.

    I would suggest that perhaps you could place an order/deposit for a Highlander now, and try to eke six more months out of the Taurus without dropping too much change into it… and if it does blow up in that time, then just get the Escape then. If you can’t get ahold of either car at that point, perhaps a used Prius? They’re supposedly quite roomy.

    If you do order a Highlander now, or place a deposit for one, then try to ensure that it’s refundable, just in case the Taurus does go.

    Hope this makes sense, I’m running on fumes myself right now!

    Good Luck!

  2. I’d go for the Escape. My parents have a non-hybrid Highlander and it just seems a bit bigger (and not in a good way) than our own “compact SUV” the Santa Fe (and others we test drove a few years back if my memory serves me… CRV, RAV4, Escape.) The Highlander is prob more expensive too. Maybe you should try to get on an Escape waiting list since I’m sure it will be popular. Yay for the environment!

  3. Aren’t SUVs still less safe because of their high clearance and propensity to roll over? Wouldn’t you rather get a nice, comfortable minivan? Mmmmm . . . minivan.

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