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Are Hybrids Worth It?

By Michael O'Connor | January 7, 2022

Are Hybrid Cars Worth It?

Yes, they can be. But a lot depends on your use case. If you're going to be driving enough miles per year, and the price of a gallon of gas is high enough in your area, you can recoup the initial upfront cost of a hybrid in several years, especially if the hybrid model doesn't cost much more than its gas counterpart (which is becoming more common).

With the automobile market moving away from large, high-powered sedans and gas-guzzling SUVs, there is a lot of talk about eco-friendly, alternative vehicles like hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars.

With bigger advances in battery technology every day, more and more people are choosing to ditch their old internal-combustion engines and try something that can decrease their carbon footprint and potentially save them some money.

Hybrid vehicles may not be right for every driver, though. There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about purchasing one of these vehicles and making sure that all your needs are met can be difficult.

By understanding what you should be considering when shopping for a hybrid, you can find out whether or not one will be the best choice for your particular circumstances.

No matter what type of hybrid you want, there are now options from nearly every automaker including Honda, Ford, BMW, Chevrolet, Kia, and many, many more.

17124 2021 Niro PHEV (1)


What to Consider When Shopping for Hybrid Cars:

Purchase Price

2021 Prius Prime Red 002 (1) (1)

One of the most important considerations to make when deciding whether a hybrid is the right choice for you is the actual price of the car. Most hybrid vehicles are going to have a higher sticker price than a traditional vehicle, which can affect the overall cost of owning the car. This is generally because hybrid vehicles cost more to manufacture than traditional internal-combustion cars. However, this also means that a hybrid will have a higher resale value, which can work to your advantage when the time comes to move onto another vehicle.

Maintenance Costs

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid 001-source (1)

With a hybrid vehicle, one of the most intriguing benefits is the lower cost of fuel and the money you can save on gas. This extends to the fact that there are some things to think about when it comes to the care and maintenance of one of these vehicles. One of the biggest concerns of people thinking about buying a hybrid is the price of a battery replacement. However, hybrid batteries are designed to last for the entire life of the vehicle and most automakers offer a standard warranty on the battery for 100,000 miles or 8 to ten years. Also, since many hybrids use regenerative braking, you can end up saving money on brake pads and other braking components throughout your ownership.

Gas Savings

Because of the fluctuating price of gas, saving on fuel costs is one of the biggest factors that come into play when deciding on a hybrid vehicle purchase. Some of the best hybrids on the market when it comes to fuel efficiency can get up to 58 miles per gallon. Because of this, you have to make fewer trips to the pump and use less fuel overall, which can save you a lot of money over time, especially when gas prices are extremely high.

This is truer for people who drive often and will be less of a consideration for those who only need a car every now and then. For example, if fuel prices are at $3.50 a gallon and you drive 20,000 miles a year, an average hybrid will only cost about $1,350 a year in gas. A traditional internal combustion vehicle will cost around $2,400 to operate with the same mileage, which is a fairly significant savings due to the better fuel economy.

Cost of Energy

While a traditional hybrid vehicle doesn’t require any external power that isn’t generated by the engine or braking system, a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, can also be charged using household power. The cost of energy in your particular area should be a concern when choosing whether or not to get a plug-in or standard hybrid vehicle. The major benefit of a plug-in hybrid is that some have a range of 25 miles or more using purely electric power. However, they are often more expensive than a standard hybrid and you will need to compare the cost of energy in your area with the cost of fuel to determine whether it would be worth the extra money.

Tax Incentives

Sometimes, the extra cost of purchasing a plug-in hybrid can be covered by an available federal tax credit. The federal government offers credits of up to $7,000 for certain plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, which can help offset some of the additional costs that you might end up incurring by purchasing one of these cars. It should be noted, though, that there is a limit on these credits and many models are no longer eligible. It also does not apply to standard hybrids, so it may or may not be worth it for the particular model you want.

Your Driving Habits

Whether a hybrid vehicle will be worth the extra money they cost will depend heavily on your particular driving habits. For the most part, hybrids will be better for people who drive longer distances as commuters or travelers. They get the best mileage on the highway and this is when you will see the most savings on your fuel. If you simply need something for driving every now and then or if you only ever make small trips, you might not make up the extra cost of purchasing the car with your fuel savings. By taking note of your particular driving needs and what you are doing on a weekly or monthly basis, you can decide if a hybrid will be the best choice for you.

Your Goals

You also need to consider what your specific goals and reasons are for purchasing a hybrid vehicle. If you are simply trying to save money, you may or may not end up fulfilling this goal with a hybrid, depending on your circumstances. However, if you want to drive a hybrid for the lower emissions and the more eco-friendly operation, a hybrid will help with this no matter what your driving habits are and how expensive fuel is in your area.


Pros and Cons of Driving a Hybrid Vehicle

To fully understand the usefulness of a hybrid for your lifestyle and habits, it is best to examine the pros and cons of hybrid ownership. By looking at the benefits and drawbacks side-by-side, you can get a good idea of how you might best be served by one of these vehicles.

Pros:

Eco-Friendly
The reason for buying a hybrid that is perhaps the most relevant to every consumer is the fact that they are very eco-friendly. Due to their lower reliance on fossil fuels and a small amount of emissions, they are much better for the environment when it comes to their day-to-day use. While there are some issues with the sustainability of the car battery materials, a hybrid will generally be a more responsible vehicle for you to own if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint with your car.

Lower Fuel Costs
No matter what the cost of fuel is in your area, you will still be paying much less for it over time if you drive a hybrid vehicle. Even the least fuel-efficient hybrids will get somewhere in the ballpark of 30 to 40 miles per gallon. This is in comparison to the average mpg of a traditional internal combustion vehicle, which is just 25 miles per gallon. This can not only save you money but can also reduce your dependency on limited fossil fuel resources.

Small Engines
Because hybrid cars have electric motors that work in conjunction with the standard engine, those engines can be much smaller. This is one of the reasons they are so fuel-efficient and have such reduced emissions. You can end up getting the same amount of power from a much smaller powertrain, which is not only better for the environment, but also much simpler to maintain and repair.

High Resale Value
Due to the demand for more efficient vehicles, hybrids almost always have a higher resale value than standard cars. A used hybrid will hold its value for longer because of the smaller engine, which gets less use, but also because they are more and more sought after as time goes on. If you are planning on reselling a hybrid after driving it for a while, this should factor into the initial cost of the purchase and should be kept in mind.

Cons:

Lower Performance
If you are looking for a vehicle with a lot of horsepower that is a lot of fun to drive, a hybrid may not be the car for you. While there are certainly some hybrids that are built for performance and excitement, such as the Hyundai Ioniq SEL, most, like the Toyota Prius, are simply meant to be reliable economy cars. As it stands, the most high-performance cars are still going to be non-hybrid vehicles with gas engines.

Higher Up-Front Cost
Even though they are getting less expensive as the years go by, hybrid versions of cars are still more expensive than their gasoline-engine counterparts. This makes them less accessible to people who might want to make the move to a hybrid to reduce their environmental impact but don’t have the funds to pay for it. This is especially true because of their higher resale value, which makes them more expensive, even when they are used.

Battery Production Issues
While a hybrid may seem like the perfect solution to environmental issues, they are not without their own set of problems. Although the production of hybrid batteries is getting better, the materials used in their manufacturing can have an incredibly high impact on the ecosystem. Materials like nickel, copper, and lithium all require mining, which can be disastrous to the areas surrounding the mining site. In fact, the production of a new lithium-ion battery pack accounts for around two to four percent of a hybrid car’s total emissions throughout its lifespan.

Higher Repair Costs
Hybrid vehicles are getting more popular but there are still issues when it comes to finding qualified hybrid mechanics. A hybrid’s engine is the same as a standard engine but the hybrid components mean you will need to take your car to the dealership or a certified mechanic if you start to have problems with it. This means that repair costs will be higher and that you might have a harder time finding someone who can work on your car when things go wrong.


Is a Hybrid a Better Deal Than a Fully Electric Car?

You can’t talk about hybrid vehicles without considering the fact that fully electric vehicles are also becoming more popular. These cars put out zero emissions from the tailpipe and have zero fuel consumption, which makes them perfect for city driving or even long-distance driving if you buy the right model. However, like a hybrid, an EV has some hidden costs that can impact the savings on fuel.

One of the biggest cost considerations with an EV is the charging station. Fully electric vehicles usually can’t be plugged into the wall like a plug-in hybrid can. They either need a 240-volt outlet like the ones used for dryers and other large appliances, or a specialized charger. This electrical work, along with the cost of energy, can add up quickly.

However, many electric vehicles are still eligible for federal tax credits, which can help offset some of the initial cost of ownership. Plus, some EVs, like the Tesla Roadster, are incredibly high-performance and can be a lot of fun to drive with exceptional acceleration times and astounding handling.


Final Thoughts

The best way to know whether a conventional car or a hybrid model is the best choice for you is to consider everything about their purchase, maintenance, and performance. While there is no right or wrong answer and there are pros and cons to every vehicle purchase, you should understand your needs and make a decision based on your particular situation. By doing the right research and taking note of your habits as a driver, you can give yourself the best chance at making the right choice.