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Are Hybrids Worth It?

By Michael O'Connor | April 24, 2023

Hybrids are typically worth the extra expense, especially if you plan on owning your hybrid for more than five years. This is also true for people who commute and put a lot of miles on their vehicles.

If you aren’t concerned about performance or speed, a hybrid can save you money at the pump and be overall better for the environment in their everyday operation. As long as you know what kind of driving you plan on doing and how long you are going to keep the car, it could be a good option for you.

While a hybrid vehicle is often worth it, they aren't for everyone. Knowing some of the reasons why hybrids are worth it and some of the reasons why they might not be can help you make the right decision for your particular needs.

As more automakers start producing hybrid versions of their most popular cars, it can be a big help to know if the time is right to buy one. That way, you can drive away secure in the knowledge that you have made the right financial decision.

Can a Hybrid Save You Money?

Yes. One of the biggest reasons why hybrid vehicles have become so popular in recent years is the fact that they get much better gas mileage than traditional cars. A hybrid car will get an average of over 50 mpg combined while the average gas vehicle gets somewhere around 25 mpg combined.

This increase in fuel efficiency makes hybrids very attractive to economy-minded drivers. Fuel economy is a big concern for people shopping for a new car and the fuel savings offered by a hybrid could make it well worth it.

Fuel consumption isn’t the only area where hybrids can save you some money on the true cost of ownership of the car. Many hybrids also have lower maintenance costs overall than traditional vehicles, especially for small things like brake pads and emissions equipment.

While these little savings may not seem like much at first, they can quickly add up over time. Many hybrid cars won’t save you much right away, and can even be a little more expensive upfront, but if you plan on owning the vehicle for more than five years, you can absolutely save money in the long run.

When Are Hybrids Worth It?

Before you decide that a hybrid is your best bet as a car buyer, it is incredibly important that you know what they have to offer and how you can save. While hybrid technology certainly uses less fuel, that is not the only reason to look into buying one of these vehicles. They have a lot of advantages over traditional gas-powered vehicles as well as electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Knowing what makes a hybrid worth buying can help you decide if one of them is right for you and your driving needs.

Lower Fuel Costs:
Lower fuel cost is one of the most common reasons that people look into buying a new or even used hybrid. Gas prices are constantly fluctuating but they generally trend upward as time goes on no matter what.

This means that a hybrid could end up saving you a lot of money over the years, especially if you are thinking about buying a hybrid SUV, minivan, or other type of vehicle that would otherwise be a gas guzzler.

Popular SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are currently available with a hybrid powertrain, which can save you a lot of money at the pump over the traditional internal combustion version.

Better for the Environment:
While it is always a good idea to save money, saving the environment is even more essential. As the world looks toward a greener future, buying a hybrid can help you reduce your carbon footprint and your dependence on oil.

While a hybrid doesn’t completely take you off of fossil fuels, it is a good step toward an eco-friendly existence. Hybrids not only use less gas, but they also produce far fewer harmful emissions and hydrocarbons that end up in the atmosphere, which helps protect the ecosystem in your area.

Less Maintenance:
There are a few components on a new hybrid model of a vehicle that will not wear out as quickly as they would with a traditional car. The brake pads on regenerative braking systems, for example, will last much longer than they will on a regular set of disc brakes. This can save you money over time and will keep your car out of the shop.

Emissions equipment such as catalytic converters also lasts a lot longer on hybrid cars. Since catalytic converters are such an expensive component due to the precious metals used in the chamber, this is a great way to save money on maintenance and repairs throughout the course of your ownership of the vehicle.

More Reliable:
Some types of hybrids are incredibly reliable and will have fewer breakdowns than the non-hybrid version of the same car. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, for example, was at the top of the list for most reliable vehicles in 2022 according to Consumer Reports.

The same goes for the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Toyota Prius, which are known to be exceptionally reliable. This is due to the simpler gas engines that are in the vehicles and the fact that the power comes from multiple sources instead of just the combustion engine, putting less strain on both the gas and electric motors.

Knowing that your vehicle will keep running for many years to come can make buying a hybrid well worth it.

Lower Insurance Payments:
Some insurance companies will offer lower rates on a hybrid than they would for a traditional vehicle. In some cases, this is because people who are more practically minded will be more likely to buy hybrid vehicles.

Generally, hybrids are purchased by people who are safe drivers who want something sensible. Hybrid owners are less likely to be teenagers or people who are interested in speed and power, which means insurance companies are taking less of a risk when insuring the vehicles.

Increased Availability:
In the early days of hybrid vehicles, it was harder to find a one in a body style that suited your specific needs because there were very few of them on the market.

Now, there is a wide variety of options available to you for hybrid vehicles with many automakers producing several different models. This means that hybrids have become more affordable than ever before and you have a lower upfront cost once you decide to buy one.

Drawbacks of Choosing a Hybrid:

While buying a hybrid can save you money over time, they won’t always be the right choice for every single driver. There are downsides to buying a hybrid that can make them not worth it for some people. Knowing these disadvantages can help you weigh the pros and cons and make the right choice for your particular wants and needs.

Savings Can Take Time:
Most hybrid vehicles take around five years before they make up for the slightly higher sticker price with fuel and maintenance costs. If you are not planning on owning your hybrid for more than a few years or if you are leasing it, you may not see these savings at all.

Because of this, you should think about what your plans are for your hybrid and if you plan on keeping it long enough to actually reap the benefits of owning one.

Higher Purchase Price:
Generally, a hybrid version of a certain vehicle will cost more than the gas version of that same car. The technology and the specialized car battery mean that hybrids are more expensive to produce and will cost more at the dealership.

This is why it can take a few years before you actually start to see any savings with a hybrid vehicle. The higher upfront cost can be difficult to justify, especially if you are only planning on owning the car for a short period of time.

That said, the latest versions of many popular hybrids on the market are quickly closing the price gap between them and their gas counterparts so this isn't as big a hurdle as it was even five years ago.

No Tax Incentives:
When you buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle, you can sometimes get a tax credit from the state and or federal government, which can help pay for the extra upfront cost and the total cost of ownership over time.

With a regular hybrid, though, you aren’t eligible for any of these credits. In some states, you even have to pay a biennial fee for owning a hybrid, which, while it isn’t usually more than a few hundred dollars, can still add up. If you are looking to take advantage of some of the tax incentives on offer, an EV or PHEV could be a better option for you.

Battery Replacement:
Though it's rare, occasionally hybrids need to have their batteries replaced. While most models on the market today have substantial warranties to cover the battery, replacing one out of pocket can be expensive -- anywhere between $2,000 and $8,000 and sometimes more.

Knowing what the status of the battery warranty is and what kind of shape the battery is in if you are buying a used hybrid are both incredibly important when it comes to deciding if it will be worth it to buy the car.

Harmful Battery Materials:
Hybrid cars are known for being eco-friendly and good for the environment. But, the nickel-metal hydride batteries in them require large amounts of cobalt, which must be mined and can be incredibly harmful to the environment.

Lanthanum is another rare earth element in hybrid car batteries that is difficult to mine for and can cause all kinds of environmental issues. Plus, hybrid batteries need to be disposed of once they wear out and this can be difficult to do responsibly.

What Qualifies as a Hybrid Vehicle?

When searching for a hybrid car, you will probably be faced with a few different options. Generally, you will see cars that are classified as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric vehicles. These three different types each have their own style of powertrain that have their own sets of benefits and drawbacks.

They all also vary in how worth it they will be in the long run. For the most part, though, hybrids are going to be the most common types that you see with many automakers producing hybrid versions of their popular models.

Hybrid cars have a combination of a standard internal combustion engine and an electric motor with a battery pack. The gas engine helps charge the hybrid batteries and many of them also have regenerative braking, which takes energy produced when the brakes are applied and puts it into the battery pack.

Unlike a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, a hybrid can not run under electric power alone. Because of this, they do not need to be charged at night and simply charge themselves using the gasoline engine when the vehicle is in use.

Many top automakers now make hybrid vehicles and even offer hybrid versions as a trim level for their most well-known models. Brands like Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Hyundai have all become known for their hybrid vehicles and are putting more and more research and development into the segment.

This means that there are a lot of traditional hybrid options out there for you to choose from if you decide a hybrid is worth buying over a conventional car.

Final Thoughts:

When shopping for any kind of vehicle, it is crucial that you know what your specific needs are and how a particular car can suit those needs. The same is true for a hybrid vehicle. As long as you know the upsides and downsides and can understand what a hybrid has to offer in the long run, you can end up saving money and reducing your carbon footprint. With a good base of knowledge on the pros and cons, you can have peace of mind that you have made a good decision on your vehicle purchase.