Hybrids almost always cost more than comparable conventionally powered models.
But the Toyota Camry Hybrid will save enough in gas to recoup that extra cost in well under two years, which makes it an excellent deal.
Indeed, we can't understand why anyone would buy a Camry without the gas-saving, environment-friendly hybrid powertrain.
Unfortunately, we can't say the same about most other hybrids, some of which need more than a decade of savings to recoup their higher initial price.
We got our information from the car-shopping Web site Edmunds.com, which recently studied the most popular 2009 and 2010 hybrids to see which ones made financial sense.
It compared the sticker prices of hybrid and nonhybrid models, and assumed gas would cost an average of $2.53 a gallon over 15,000 miles of driving a year.
The 2010 Camry Hybrid was the clear winner, needing just 1.4 years to recover the additional $477 it costs over a comparable gas-engine-only Camry.
The top-selling hybrid, Toyota's 2010 Prius, pays back its $1,489 premium over a Camry (there's no conventionally powered Prius model) in a respectable 2.1 years.
Although Toyota likes to compare the Prius to the Camry, we think it's much more similar in size and performance to a compact Corolla than a midsize Camry.
And when Edmunds compared the Prius to the Corolla, it needed a whopping 11.3 years to recoup its extra cost.
Unfortunately, it's also typical of pretty much every other hybrid on the market.
The well-reviewed Ford Fusion Hybrid requires 8.1 years to recoup its extra cost over the standard Fusion.
The Lexus' RX 450h, which TV ads tout as a technological marvel, takes 10.1 years to recover the hefty $5,844 premium over a standard RX 350.
Nissan Altima Hybrid requires 11.4 years, and the Honda Civic Hybrid 13.3 years.
You'd have to drive Chevrolet's 2009 Silverado Hybrid pickup 16.4 years before the savings on gas would offset its additional initial expense.
One thing we noticed about the Edmunds report: The new Honda Insight is only available as a hybrid and isn't compared to any gas-powered car such as the Civic.
As a result, we can't tell you how the least-expensive hybrid on the market stacks up.