How to Choose the Right Hybrid Car

How to Choose the Right Hybrid Car
  • Opening Intro -

    If you're considering buying a new car and a hybrid vehicle is on your list, then you're in good company.

    Hybrids, particularly the Toyota Prius, are growing in popularity, delivering exceptional fuel economy while emitting lower amounts of noxious emissions.

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Buying a hybrid vehicle is not a slam-dunk however, as there are many types of hybrids to choose from including the plug-in variety.

1. Determine your budget. Just as you would with any car, you’ll need to set a budget for your hybrid. Hybrid vehicles cost more than gasoline counterparts because you’re paying for a battery system that costs several thousand dollars. Those costs are passed on to the consumer, monies that will take many years to recoup, if at all.

2. Know your size. Why buy a hybrid vehicle solely based on its fuel economy? You have certain needs in a car and size certainly does matter. Some hybrids such as the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Prius V are big on utility, offering ample storage space. Other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius C are subcompacts while the Chevrolet Yukon Hybrid can seat up to nine and still deliver best in segment fuel economy. Base your hybrid purchase on your needs including seating capacity, storage room and other factors.

3. Consider your amenities. Most hybrid vehicles come well-equipped, offering a trim level comparable to premium editions of comparable gasoline-powered cars. For example, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is on par with Fusion SEL, offering dual-zone climate control, a 10-way power driver’s seat and a 110-volt power outlet, among other amenities. If you want luxury, Lexus offers five models. If you want value, then a Toyota Prius C or a Honda Insight may do.

4. Standard or plug-in. Beginning in 2012, several plug-in hybrid models are now available, joining the Chevrolet Volt. These models include the Toyota Prius Plug-In, a model that has an electric-only range of 15 miles before the gas engine kicks in. That compares to the 35-mile range of the Volt, but at a price some $7,000 less, the Prius is more affordable. Still, you’ll pay about $7,000 more for a plug-in Prius than for the standard model. Several models such as the Buick Regal eAssist and the Chevrolet Malibu eAssist are partial hybrids, offering some of the benefits of electrification, but with a lower price and reduced fuel efficiency. By the way, plug-in hybrids qualify for a federal tax incentive amounting to $7,500 for the Volt and $2,500 for the Prius Plug-In.

5. Buy now or wait. There is always a reason to wait to buy a new car. With hybrids, the technology continues to change as do the models available. The 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid is the last hybrid for this model line, with the 2013 Ford C-MAX taking over beginning later this year. You may be able to find a good buy on an Escape or you may prefer to wait for the C-MAX which will offer more interior room and an updated hybrid system. The Ford model will also be sold as the C-MAX Energi, a plug-in variety that will also qualify for a federal tax incentive.

6. Know your warranties. Every new vehicle is covered by bumper-to-bumper warranties and most include an anti-perforation or rust warranty and roadside assistance. The powerplant — engine and transmission — are covered too. By law, the hybrid system must also be covered with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty standard. Some states extend that warranty further for 10 years or 150,000 miles whichever comes first. Under this arrangement if your battery pack dies, it will be replaced by the manufacturer at no cost to you.

7. New or used. Once you inspect the price of a new hybrid, you may decide that the cost is too much for you. Fortunately, there are used hybrids on the market, vehicles with plenty of miles left on the battery system to provide years of fuel efficient transportation. Look for a vehicle with an additional warranty on it, preferably a manufacturer’s certified used car. Shop for an auto loan with your dealer, bank or your credit union.

Final Thoughts

A hybrid vehicle can deliver good fuel economy, but buyers must know that published fuel estimates are simply a guidance point. Hybrids have more difficulty meeting posted mileage ratings in certain conditions, such as in extreme cold. Some drivers, however, have reported that they regularly beat fuel mileage estimates through careful driving.

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