5 Things...

you should know before buying a hybrid

by Honda

The Civic HybridHonda

1. Advertised mileage is a pipe dream.

In Consumer Reports road tests, the Civic Hybrid got only 26 mpg in the city–46 percent below the estimated EPA rating. But both carmakers and the EPA say the discrepancy is the result of the EPA's 19-year-old lab-based mileage tests, which don't accurately simulate real-world driving.

2. You might have to wait.

The Toyota Prius is currently the hardest car to find on an auto lot, with a three- to six-month wait list. Other hybrids aren´t as rare, but they´re still scarce enough that you probably won´t get any special deals.

3. It´s not about the money.

Even with gas savings and tax breaks, it could take you eight years or more to recoup a hybrid´s higher sticker price. You´d have to drive the Honda Civic Hybrid more than 140,000 miles just to break even with the cheaper Civic EX.

4. Resale is tougher.

Because the technology is still rapidly evolving, hybrids are likely to depreciate more quickly than conventional cars. To gauge what you´ll get in five years, check out the True Cost to Own calculator at edmunds.com.

5. They´re not so hot in the cold.

Toyota found that the Prius got 26 percent worse mileage at 20