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Hybrid Cars Pros and Cons: An In-Depth Evaluation

Before you make that purchase, examine the pros and cons of hybrid cars.

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Finding a vehicle that’s fuel-efficient is at the top of everyone’s list these days. Technology has made it possible to purchase a non-hybrid car featuring 30 mpg or more. Even then, you still have to think about maintenance costs and repairs. For those reasons alone, consumers are taking the plunge and purchasing hybrid vehicles. Before you set out to find yourself a new vehicle, you deserve to know the hybrid cars pros and cons. These facts will guide you into the decision that’s best for your needs.

What is a Hybrid Car?

Hybrid vehicles utilize two engines to produce the best results possible. First, it features a standard internal combustion engine (a conventional gas engine), but complimented with an electric motor as well. The power for this engine comes from the rechargeable battery pack installed in the vehicle.

Because it gets better gas mileage and produces fewer emissions and contributes less to air pollution, it’s environmentally friendly and helps you save money. Even though many people assume that hybrid cars are the same thing as electric vehicles, the truth is, they are quite different.

The hybrid car uses electric motors to assist with necessary functions. The primary engine is still the internal combustion gas-powered engine.

The Pros Of Hybrid Cars

As we evaluate the hybrid cars pros and cons, you’ll notice that many of these advantages are ones you’re already familiar with. In fact, they might be part of the reason you’re considering switching to a hybrid in the first place. Other pros might not be aspects you’ve given any consideration to. It’s important to evaluate all your options before moving forward on that next vehicle.

1. Cleaner Energy

The hybrid electric vehicle uses a combination of electricity and gas for its power. Because of this, the hybrid emits less pollution than a typical gas-only car does. Many people fall back on this reason to top their list when examining the pros and cons of hybrid cars on the environment.

2. Incentives to Purchase

Some hybrid vehicles still qualify for government incentives and federal tax credits. On top of that, various states offer rebates as well. If you’re going to buy a car, you might as well take the free money they give you to get one. Tax incentives and tax breaks are definitely things to consider when shopping for a new car! And if you’re thinking about owning a hybrid, research what cool bonuses you get for your trouble!

3. Regenerative Braking

Hybrid vehicles contain a unique design because they utilize regenerative braking to help with power. Instead of wasting braking energy like most vehicles, the hybrid captures it and then feeds it into the battery. This system increases the electric motor’s charge which also helps it consume less fuel. This also helps to extend the brake life.

Regenerative braking helps your hybrid to love city driving. Unlike gasoline engine vehicles that do better on the highway, the hybrid car is a great city commuter. The EPA mileage ratings rise higher while driving in the city thanks to the innovative braking system. Every time you stop, you generate additional electricity which is then used when you accelerate or drive at low speeds. That’s why you’ll see massive savings if you strictly use your hybrid to get around town. Gas prices aren’t getting any cheaper!

4. Reduced Dependence on Fuel

Because a hybrid electric car is efficient, you have less dependence on gasoline. This also reduces your need for oil which further keeps the prices down. If more people drove hybrids and learned how to do so efficiently, it would reduce our oil consumption dramatically in the country. That would further lead to lower gasoline prices.

5. Lightweight

Most hybrids utilize lightweight materials for their construction. This helps them to further consume less energy as the full-weight gasoline-powered counterparts.

6. Contain Smaller Engines

This almost goes hand-in-hand with the last pro because it also helps to keep the weight down. Because a gasoline-powered engine doesn’t need to run the car 100% of the time, it can utilize a smaller option. This means that automakers can pick highly efficient engines to run instead of going for the biggest and most powerful.

On top of that, it’s important to consider that you get two engines in a hybrid vehicle. Both complement each other perfectly and lead to the innovative nature of these vehicles. The electric engine is perfectly configured to produce all of its torque at 0 RPM. This allows you to get through those intersections in a jiffy.

7. Higher Resale Value

Hybrid vehicles are in demand, and that’s not going to change any time soon. You’ll find that on the used car market, hybrid cars lose their value at a significantly lower rate than the non-hybrid vehicles do. This means, when you go to sell your hybrid in a few years, you can expect to recoup a larger portion of your investment than you would from a regular vehicle.

8. Changes the Way You Drive

When you get behind the wheel of a Jeep, how do you want to drive it? Most likely, you strive to take it off-road and see what it’s made of. It’s the same thing if you sit in a Lamborghini. You’ll want to drive it like a sports car; it’s just natural.

When you drive a hybrid vehicle, your mindset changes to care about efficiency. Most hybrid cars come with a display which shows the average miles per gallon. They also let you know how much energy you recoup from the braking system.

As you accelerate or brake gently, your vehicle naturally gets better fuel mileage. In most hybrids, you can see the fruit of your efficient driving in the numbers displayed in front of you. This offers you a new challenge as you set out to learn a new way of driving.

9. It’s Quiet

If you’ve never driven in a hybrid, chances are you’re in for a real shock the first few times you start it up. There’s nothing at all making noise when you turn the key. It’s strangely quiet. Even when you begin to move, you’ll have to remind yourself that the car isn’t just rolling down the hill.

10. Vehicles Stay Warm

You often hear mechanics warn about engine wear when starting it cold. They become hard to crank in comparison to an engine that’s already warmed up. Some hybrid vehicles store coolant to specifically prevent cold starts. The system keeps the fluid warm for a specified number of days to help ease the wear of a cold start. Like most modern vehicles, you also don’t need to run the hybrid to get it warm. In fact, it’s better to get in and start driving so the electric motor kicks in.

11. No Emissions Tests

If you live in an area that requires emissions testing, you won’t have to worry about that with a hybrid vehicle. Of course, this isn’t true everywhere, but most regions don’t require emissions testing on hybrid and electric cars. To be sure, simply check with your local DMV to see what they need to register the car.

12. Durability

As soon as you mention purchasing a hybrid vehicle, you’ll start hearing from everyone and their brother about the cost to replace batteries. Their concerns are unfounded. In fact, a 2014 study by AutoTrader found that hybrid batteries typically lasted 10 to 15 years and up to 200,000 miles. That’s not too shabby at all.

This goes to prove that hybrid batteries are durable and long-lasting. You’ll also hear that replacing them is extremely expensive, which also isn’t true. Most replacement batteries cost around $2,500 for replacement. Of course, you always have the option of swapping it out for a used one to save some costs.

What’s important to look at here is the overall maintenance and repair cost of your hybrid is already significantly reduced. This added expense, when it occurs will still probably cost you less overall than your 10 to 15-year old gasoline-powered car does.

If you plan to purchase a new hybrid car, you also have the warranty to back you up. Given the superior consumer reports and long warranty terms, we wouldn’t worry about the cost to replace a battery.

13. Less Maintenance

This brings us right into our next point on the hybrid cars pros and cons list. When you drive slowly or you are stopped, your gasoline-powered engine doesn’t run at all. City driving put the least amount of wear on a hybrid car which is why you don’t need to change the oil as often.

In addition, your brakes will last longer thanks to the regenerative braking system. You could essentially drive around most of the day without using your conventional brakes or gasoline-powered engine; especially if you are in stop and go traffic. Think of all the money you’ll save on regular maintenance.

14. Drive in the HOV Lane

If you drive a low-emission or hybrid vehicle, it’s possible that you might be allowed to drive your car in the HOV lanes. This is true even if there’s only one person in your vehicle. Of course, this rule varies by state so you’ll want to check your local laws before doing it. For instance, in California, all you need to do is apply and attach the decal they give you to your car’s window.

Hybrid Cons

By now, you’re probably thrilled and ready to purchase your next hybrid car. Before you run out to the dealership, it’s important to look at the other side of our hybrid cars pros and cons list. You have to get the complete picture if you want to make an informed decision.

1. Lower Performance

Some of those advantages listed earlier in our hybrid cars pros and cons list equate to lower performance. The smaller engine and the fact that they’re built for economy means that they don’t typically have fast speeds.

The acceleration lag places it behind most gasoline-powered vehicles when compared strictly by performance standards. In addition, they won’t come equipped with performance enhancements of sport-tuned suspensions.

The placement of the battery also affects the handling. That’s due to the imperfect weight distribution. If you plan to purchase a hybrid car, make sure you take the time to test drive and see if the handling is acceptable to you. Of course, some hybrid vehicles pride themselves on performance, but you’re going to pay for it.

2. Higher Prices

While the automobile industry continues to work on this, hybrid cars still tend to be more expensive. Because you’re saving money on fuel and maintenance, people feel it’s a fair trade-off. Don’t forget to factor in those incentives we discussed earlier when figuring out the purchase price. The higher cost for buying a hybrid car is the price you pay for advanced technology.

3. Repair Cost

If and when you need repairs, you can expect the hybrid vehicle to cost more. Of course, many things are covered by your warranty, so you might not need to think about this for quite some time. Even still, it’s crucial to think about the fact that there just aren’t as many mechanics with the equipment or skills to repair hybrid vehicles yet. This makes the price jump up significantly.

4. Demand is High

If you plan to purchase a used hybrid car, you’ll find that they sell like hotcakes. More people are turning to hybrid technology which leaves a lack of available vehicles on the used car market. In addition, some sellers up their price because they know they can get it.

Some dealers face such a high demand that they have to put customers on a waiting list. Depending on where you live and what car you want, you might need to have some patience before purchasing.

If you face having to pay more for your car because of the demand, you’ll still recoup your costs in gasoline purchases over time, so keep this in mind.

5. Reduced Highway Mileage

If you want the maximum fuel economy out of your hybrid car, you’ll have to drive slower on the highway. Most manufacturers agree that keeping speeds at 50 mph or lower is the best way to run your car. Of course, most of us aren’t going to sit in the right lane and only drive 50 mph. Because of this, you can expect less fuel efficiency while traveling outside of the city.

6. Hybrids Vary Greatly

Just because a vehicle has a “hybrid” tag on it doesn’t mean it’s the same as all the others. For example, Honda has used a mild hybrid system where the engine shuts off when the car stops, but it won’t run on an electric motor by itself. You might also find some vehicles where the heat or air conditioning systems stop running when the gas engine quits. While that might be okay if you live in fair conditions, most people in Alaska or Florida are going to dislike this setup. Some even have different engine combinations, with some relying on fuel cells and others are natural gas cars too.

Make sure you evaluate the car you want to buy and determine what systems run on battery and how the hybrid works. This ensures you get exactly what you want.

7. Lack of Third Row Hybrids

If you have a larger family, you’re out of luck in the hybrid market. There’s a real lack of bigger hybrid vehicles right now. Sure, you could go with a Highlander Hybrid SUV, but you’re only going to get 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city. That’s not really what hybrids are supposed to offer, even though it is better than typical SUV models.

Hopefully, as hybrids continue to grow in popularity, the automakers work to make cars that suit everyone’s needs.

8. Weaker 12-Volt Battery

Do your research before purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Many of them use the conventional 12-volt battery to supply power to your accessories. Just like other vehicles, if you leave your lights on, you might need to jump-start the battery in the morning. The only difference is that many hybrid car batteries seem to be weaker than the gasoline-powered counterparts. Of course, you could replace it with something better. Toyota users found that purchasing a $180 aftermarket battery fixed their problems with the weak Prius stock option.

9. Hybrids Cost More to Insure

There are several reasons that hybrid cars tend to cost more for insurance. First, the vehicles typically have a higher price tag, which means they will cost more to replace. Second, the parts also tend to be more expensive, so your insurance company needs to factor in the cost of repair. It’s even harder to find mechanics that work on hybrids, and they cost more. Furthermore, the driver profile of a hybrid car tends to be someone commuting in the city which also raises insurance rates. Shopping your car insurance rates will help you to find the best company and hopefully save extra.

How Good is a Hybrid Car’s Gas Mileage?

After looking through the hybrid cars pros and cons, one of the first questions you’ll consider is how good the gas mileage really is. This all depends on how you drive. If you spend most of your time on the highway, you might not see that much of a difference, and the hybrid car might not be best for you. If however, you spend your time driving in the city for work every day, you could see over 50% better fuel mileage than with a typical car. Of course, this varies by model, so you’ll want to do your research before making a purchase.

What Hybrids Should You Look For?

There are many hybrid models currently available in the United States, with the most popular of them being the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Chevrolet Volt, to name a few.

Final Thoughts on Hybrid Cars Pros and Cons

With the complete evaluation between the hybrid cars pros and cons, you should have a better idea now what’s best for you. Of course, most of the myths related to these vehicles were dispelled during the hybrid cars pros and cons list. It might have brought up some other things you haven’t thought about.

Overall, most people are satisfied with their hybrid car purchase. Take some extra time and read through the hybrid cars pros and cons from active users to determine if these will work for you. If you currently own one, we would love to hear your own hybrid cars pros and cons. Leave us a comment and let us know.

About Brian Jones

Brian Jones spent over 30-years at various dealerships as an ASE Certified Master Tech. These days he works with those dealerships to create quality automotive content while spending more time with his family near Dallas, TX. In his spare time, you'll still find him playing with tools, cars, and many other "manly" gadgets. Brian's passions include traveling, pickup trucks, and anything related to motorsports.