While I love electric vehicles I know they’re not for everyone. If you don’t have a place to plug in, need to regularly drive long distances, live in the midwest, or need more vehicle type options – hybrids can be a good solution to reduce emissions and lower your operating costs.
Hybrid Emissions vs Other Vehicle Types
Hybrids can be significantly more efficient than a conventional gasoline powered car. For example a Hyundai Elantra gets 35MPG, while the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid gets 58MPG. That means buying 170 fewer gallons of gas each 15k miles and reducing emissions by around 3200lbs CO2.
Believe it or not the emissions of a hybrid can be lower than an EV depending on where you get your power. For example in coal generated power markets (the midwest) a hybrid can have lower emissions than an EV. Though in most of America an EV will have lower emissions than a hybrid.
Some Hybrids Are Great Values
Hybrid drivetrains have historically cost a lot more than their conventional gas counterparts, but the cost difference is becoming smaller as the batteries and electronics have gotten cheaper. For example the RAV4 Hybrid XLE AWD costs only $800 more than the conventional RAV4 XLE AWD. According to fueleconomy.gov the RAV4 Hybrid will save the average driver $450/year, so in less than 2 years the extra cost of the hybrid has paid off.
Hybrids also tend to be a bit unloved which means sometimes you’ll find great deals for cars sitting on lots. This is because the market for the Eco-conscious is going EV and other buyers tend to not understand the value of a hybrid. For example I found a Kia Optima Hybrid EX for $25,549, thousands less than the MSRP on a conventional Kia Optima EX. While its not the most efficient hybrid on the market, its a great price for a well equipped family sedan with 41MPG.
Obviously each hybrid will be different, but there’s definitely some good deals out there.
Should I Be Worried About the Batteries?
The internet is full of horror stories about $4000-5000 hybrid battery replacements, but a bit of research can help you understand and avoid that cost. First you have to understand that hybrid batteries tend to carry long warranties – commonly 100,000-150000, though Hyundai is notable for a lifetime battery warranty. So unless you keep cars a long time you may never be out of battery warranty.
If you need a new battery avoiding the dealership repair shop is also a great idea. For example I found a new Prius battery replacement for $2300 at a reputable independent repair shop, you can also save even more with a bit of DIY skills – its really just a few bolts and electrical connectors to remove many hybrid batteries.
Consider the worst case – the battery dies at 100001 miles. During this time you’ve saved $3000 in gas on the RAV4, so a $2300 battery repair still isn’t too bad. Realistically the battery will last far longer, but worst case still isn’t that bad.
My Favorite Hybrids
Hyundai Ioniq – While Prius is practically synonymous with hybrids the Ioniq is better looking, better equipped, gets better gas mileage, has better battery tech, has a lower MSRP, and has a much better warranty. 58mpg, starting price just over $21k.
Kia Niro – admittedly the Niro has no real competition in the subcompact crossover-ish hybrid category. But if you need a bit more space than a Ioniq for the Niro is the natural choice. 50mpg, starting price around $23.5k.
Compact AWD Crossover
Toyota RAV4 – if you need a compact crossover with AWD the RAV4 is in a class of its own for efficiency and performance. Unfortunately the interior quality is really lacking for the price. 40mpg and a starting price around $28k.
Admittedly there’s plenty more hybrid categories but these are a couple of my favorites in the hybrid market.