The Essential Hybrid Buyer’s Guide
By Tony Franklin on October 19, 2018
Hybrids are the way of the future. Cars like the Toyota Prius have led the way to our market of Hybrids, Hybrid-plugins, and full Electronic vehicles today. What do these terms mean to you and your hunt for a new ecological and economic-friendly car?
As the name suggests, Hybrids are a mixture between gas and electric powered motor. They typically run about $3,000 more than similarly sized sedans. They can save you some in gas money, but if you pay more than $5,000 above the price of the same car with a gas engine, you may be challenged to make up the difference in cost. Surprisingly, the chief competition for hybrids is not gas engines, but diesel motors, which get close to the same mileage as hybrids.
Plugins have a battery which should be plugged in and charged electronically as well as run on gasoline. These hybrids use far less gasoline than the standard hybrid models. These can be money-savers on gas, but you need to install a home charger to keep your vehicle charged regularly. This means you will see an increase on your home electric bill.
These cars run without any gasoline at all. They run on an electric motor and have to be charged regularly, or they fail. They have the potential to save you a lot of money, provided you have access to a charger at home and/or live in a city large enough to have charging stations in them. These models are also more expensive to purchase right now, although Tesla is committed to producing an EV at the price of an average new sedan.
What do you need to look for in Hybrids
The three weaknesses in all types of hybrids are the very things you should look for when you are scanning over hybrid specs:
- Interior and Trunk Space - The battery and electric engines are large and heavy and take up additional space in the car. Most hybrids have to sacrifice trunk or rear seating space to compensate for those additional components. If you find a hybrid with standard or above trunk space, you can expect to pay extra for it.
- Handling - That extra battery brings extra weight with it. That potentially means more traction on smooth roads. It also means more momentum on slippery roads. It is not bad handling, but it takes a little getting used to when you are expecting something smaller and lighter than what you get with one of these vehicles. The newer models have improved handling, but again, the better it handles, the more you can expect to pay.
- Power - Hybrid and electric motors still cannot compete with gas engines. Some of the larger, newer hybrids have more power than others, but they are still not recommended to be used to tow significant weight. There is a reason why hybrids started as sedans and have not made headway with pickup trucks yet. If you want power, you are better off with a gas or diesel engine.
Cars to watch
Toyota has been a frontrunner with hybrid engines, and their legendary Prius is beginning to be outdone by the hybrid versions of the Camry and Avalon due to similar mileage with more space and better handling. If you are interested in a hybrid, especially in a bigger sedan or SUV model, you should definitely take a look at these Toyota models.
For a car to just get you around town economically, Chevrolet’s Bolt gets incredible mileage. It may not have the handling or the luxury of Toyota’s bigger models, but it competes with them in savings. The Ford Fusion trades a little of that mileage for a bit more comfort.
Finally, if you are looking for the cutting edge of EV, Tesla is definitely a company to watch. Their EV Model S has the best mileage - and currently some of the highest prices on the market.
As always, get the prospective vehicle inspected by a hybrid and EV trained technician. Some hybrids develop battery faults over time that cannot be repaired. The cost of these batteries is often comparable to the cost of engine replacements in gas and diesel engine vehicles.