If the price of gas at the pump is stretching your wallet, as it is for many people who are learning to deal with high gas prices, you may be looking to ditch your gas guzzler of an SUV and get a hybrid.  And the hybrid everyone's going for is the most fuel efficient one, the Toyota Prius (TM), which gets 48 miles-per-gallon in the city and 45-miles-per-gallon in the country. This is about double the miles-per-gallon for comparable non-hybrids, says Bill Kwong, spokesman for Toyota.

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The gas savings on the Prius, approximately $1,200 per year at 40-miles-per-gallon under normal driving conditions, might seem tempting, says Matt Hardigree, associate editor of the blog devoted to car culture, Jalopnik.com. But, the Prius is as pricey as a year of undergraduate education at a private college. The list price for a $21,500 for a base model and $23,770, says Wade Hoyt, another spokesman for Toyota. Tacking on extras like leather seats, or a GPS navigation system, will raise the price to the mid-$20,000 range.

That's if you can even get one. If you're trying to save money on gas get in line. Toyota allocated only 180,000 Priuses for both 2007 and 2008, so there are a limited number of vehicles, he says. Contributing to the limited production is the difficulty of the company to make enough batteries for it. (This is a green car, remember.)

No problem, buy used and save some cash! Whoops, gotcha there, too!

While the supply is there, somewhat, resale prices on the Prius are not exactly a deal right now. The New York Post (NWS) reports this week that used Priuses are selling for a higher price than new ones. The Post interviewed a former SUV owner who paid $23,995 for a resale or, $2,500 over the list price.

Indeed, a search on Kelley Blue Book, which lists the prices for used cars, found that prices for used cars and new cars in the greater NYC metropolitan area are only a few thousand dollars apart. And, not in the right direction: For example, a used 2007 model with only 14,500 miles is selling for $23,995 in Woodridge, NJ and a 2006 model with 24,400 miles is going for $24,990 in Westbury, NY.
So, if you own a Prius is now the time to sell and cash in? Not so fast, says Hoyt, I wouldn't invest in it the way you do in gold! It's only a car.

Plus, this could easily reverse itself, it has before. He points out that last year at this time, Toyota offered special options for the Prius, such as discount navigation, to spur sales. The company is planning for extra battery production next year, he says, so resale price hysteria may deflate.

Bell thinks the vehicles aresmart buys, even if it wasn't for the fuel efficiency. The overall cost of ownership is good because Prius engines last longer and the brakes aren't used as much as in a non-hybrid, so they also last longer, he says.