Paying premium for the ultimate status car: A hybrid

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I've never really been a status symbol kind of guy. I usually shop at discount stores, wear cheap sneakers and, until my wife started openly mocking me, used to buy Wrangler jeans. I would argue that I have my own distinctive style. Others might refer to it as "charity chic."

This goes double when it comes to cars. Historically, my rides have tended to display a certain flair, a certain je ne sais freaking quoi, a certain verve.

Of course, others might refer to this elusive quality as "rust."

That having been said, I loved my 20 year old Mercedes, my 15 year old Mustang and my ten year old Cadillac Seville, even as I squeezed the last few miles from each of their engines. If people weren't impressed with the amazing awesomeness of my rides...well, let's just say that cool is a state of mind; some have it and some don't. I never really understood the idea of buying a ridiculously expensive car that looks like pretty much every other ridiculously expensive car. Hummers? Give me a break--why not just buy a surplus tank? BMWs? Save the money and take her to a nice restaurant!

My idiosyncracies aside, prestige automobiles are a very real trend and the cars that people drive often say a great deal about who they are, or at least who they think they are. However, now that gas is starting to rival single-malt scotch in terms of price, people who have used Hummers, Ferraris and Bentleys to overcompensate are finding themselves generating more sneers and fewer smiles. Under these circumstances, a very strange trend has developed. The latest prestige rides are hybrids. In fact, the demand for hybrids has reached such a level that the waiting list for a Camry hybrid in Long Island is six to eight weeks. In New York City, the wait for a Toyota Prius is two to four months.Shoppers are now finding that used hybrids with low mileage are fetching thousands of dollars more than the sticker price on new ones. For example, according to an article in the New York Post, Joe Abutel, a former Hummer driver, recently paid almost $24,000 for a 2007 Prius with 28,300 miles and a small dent in the hood. That price, by the way, is $2500 more than the cost of a brand-new Prius.

As gas prices aren't looking to drop any time soon and the country isn't going to develop a decent public transportation grid overnight, it seems likely that hybrids will continue to hold their value. However, if you can't afford to pay extra for a Prius and don't want to be seen driving around in an old Geo Metro, never fear: I hear you can get a great deal on a used Hummer!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He looked really cool in that old Mustang...

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