It’s time for a change. Maybe you’ve been saving for a while, or perhaps your old car has finally broken down for the last time. One way or another, you’re in the market for a new auto, and you’ve been hearing a lot about hybrids. Will a hybrid really save you money? How long will it last? What are your options? These are great questions, and car-buyers owe it to themselves to learn the answers before they make a purchase. Below are a few things to consider when buying and owning a hybrid car.
What is a hybrid?
A hybrid is any car that uses a combination of two or more drive sources. Rather than a traditional gas engine, which runs completely on fuel, or an electric car, which runs on electricity, a hybrid combines the two to maximize your mileage. Some hybrids can be plugged into a charging station; while most simply use the gas motor and brakes to keep the battery charged. Hybrids range from tiny coupes to full-size SUVs, so there’s something on the market for practically everyone.
As you weigh the options, there are a few important things to consider. A smart shopper can find the car that best fits his or her driving needs – and wallet! – by keeping the following factors in mind:
Miles per Gallon: This is the big selling point of a hybrid. In the hands of a good driver, current hybrids can reach as much as 50-53 highway MPG, and even hybrid SUVs will generally get you close to 30 MPG. Compared with their standard gas-engine peers, that can equal some big savings. Unlike normal cars, which get their best mileage on the highway, many hybrids shine in stop-and-go traffic where they can get the most out of their electric motors, making them great for city-dwellers. Miles per gallon do not tell the whole story, however, which is why it’s also important to consider.
Annual savings: Hybrids usually cost more up-front than their non-hybrid equivalents. Battery technology continues to improve, so this will most likely change. For now, expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 more for a new hybrid. In order to decide if it’s worth it to you, it’s important to consider the total savings the car will bring you. For example, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will save the average driver a full $7,000 over 5 years, while other models take much longer to repay your initial investment (source: Forbes). Take into account gas prices and your own driving habits as well – the more you drive, and the higher gas prices climb, the faster you’ll rack up the savings.
Financial incentives: The federal government loves hybrids and offers a variety of tax incentives for buyers. Some states and municipalities offer similar tax breaks, and there are other savings to be had: many insurance plans charge less for hybrids, some cities discount parking, and other companies and government bodies have their own incentives. If you are looking to finance a car and cannot afford to pay in cash, there are multiple financing options out there that may give you a discount on interest for buying a hybrid. Places like, Auto Credit Express can help you determine the best interest rate and monthly payment that is right for your budget.
Maintenance and resale: Hybrids typically cost the same to maintain as regular cars, and sometimes even less; the electric motor reduces wear-and-tear on the engine, and hybrid breaks tend to last much longer with the same pads and rotors. In general, this ecofriendly vehicle come with warranties to cover the major battery packs and other hybrid components but, if your warranty is expired and the battery fails, expect to pay a few thousand dollars to replace it.
How long you plan to keep the car is also a factor. If you’re someone who likes to upgrade your car every few years, be aware that hybrids don’t always hold value as well as comparable models. This varies with demand, though; in 2008, when gas prices spiked above $4, more fuel-efficient alternatives resale values went through the roof.
Upgrade options: Like all cars, most hybrids can be modified and upgraded for better efficiency and comfort. In addition to the regular array of cabin modifications, cargo racks and flashy rims, many hybrids can be converted to plug-in models, allowing them to run on pure electricity for part of each day. Some companies are selling solar panels that can be installed on the roof of your car for similar mileage savings.
So, is a hybrid right for you? Only you can answer that question. But if you’re doing your research and keeping the factors above in mind, odds are good that you’ll end your search with a car that does everything you need at a price you can afford. Good luck shopping!