Should You Consider A Hybrid?

hybrid

$4-$5 per gallon gasoline made a lot of people think about a hybrid vehicle for the first time ever. I get calls on the radio show from people all the time considering a hybrid who really should not be.

There are two reasons people buy hybrid vehicles. Most buy them to save money at the gas pump, while others buy them because they put out fewer emissions. Either reason is valid; it is important, however, for those wanting to save gas money that they understand the basics of how gas/electric hybrids work and to make sure it is the right vehicle for you.

By definition, a hybrid vehicle is a cross between a gasoline combustion engine and a pack of batteries. The mixture of the two, for some people, is a winning combination. We know that the traditional gas engine vehicle in some cases gets poor fuel economy and emits a higher level of ground level ozone. All-electric vehicles like Nissan Leaf use no gas at all, but have limited range. Thus the creation of hybrids that meld both technologies into a fuel saving, more environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

I have driven just about every hybrid offered today. Since I drove my first Prius many years ago, the technology has gotten dramatically better in some cars, while others never quite got it right and were dropped. There are a ton of new entries in the market from Acura, Ford, BMW, GM, Honda, and many others all the way to the over $100,000 Fisker. If you truly want a hybrid, there have never been more choices. You don’t have to spend a fortune either, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius C start at around $19,000.

The best use of a hybrid is for those people who drive in the city a lot, at speeds under 50 miles per hour. That is when most hybrids are running on battery and using little to no fuel. That is why when you look at the EPA fuel-economy ratings, the city mileage is generally higher than the highway mileage, the opposite of the majority of vehicles on the road.

With a hybrid car, once you get over around 40-50 miles per hour, the gas engine kicks in and the batteries are not in use. This is why when someone asks about a hybrid I always ask if they are driving mostly city or highway.

When considering a hybrid, you also have to look at the financial equation of the decision. Let’s look at the new Toyota Camry as an example, which is easy since it comes in a gas version and a hybrid version, unlike some of the others. Looking at the miles per gallon, the 4-cylinder gas version is rated at 28 miles per gallon combined city and highway driving versus the hybrid at 41 combined.

Using the average driver at 15000 miles per year, and assuming $3.50 per gallon, the savings on fuel is $50 per month, or $600 per year, certainly nothing to sneeze at. The rub is that the Camry hybrid cost $3905 more. So from a financial standpoint alone, it would take just a little over 6 and a half years to break even on the hybrid. After that amount of time, you start making money by having the hybrid.

If your primary concern is the environment, I totally understand that and it is a good reason to get a hybrid. I suspect, however, that more often than not, people buying hybrids would financially be better off with a gas engine and lower upfront cost of a vehicle. For you highway drivers, I generally suggest a diesel like the VW TDI.

If you are considering a hybrid, look at all aspects of it to make sure it is the right vehicle for your needs.

Photo Credit: Ford 
26 Comments
  1. Ted 5 years ago

    What about the Lincoln MKZ? you get the best of all world’s.Cost is the same for hybrid as for regular car?? Luxury ,good mileage in city driving,and ok to good mileage on the highway!!

    • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

      I am a HUGE fan of the MKZ, the only hybrid that there is no charge for the hybrid system. I don’t know why anybody would buy the gas version. This car makes a ton of sense! THANKS for listening to the show and taking the newsletter!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  2. Gary J. 5 years ago

    Jerry – I agree with your premise that each case is different. At the same time, using your numbers but assuming the price of gas goes to $5/gallon, the cost recovery time is 2 years sooner, or only about 4.5 years for the hybrid. So do we think gas will stay at $3.50/gal or edge closer to $5.00 over the next few years? Just sayin’ …… Thanks for your great column!

    • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

      You are correct Gary. Who knows where gas prices are going? I wish I did. I just want people to actually look at the numbers before deciding. I’ve seen some hybrids that it would take 20 years to break even on. THANKS for listening to the show and taking the newsletter!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  3. Buck Bourne 5 years ago

    Jerry, Will the Hybrid be worth much more at Trade – In time? This could off-set some of the extra cost of buying hybrid in the first place.

    • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

      Buck, in most cases YES. If you stick with a Toyota or Lexus, it will for SURE hold it’s value.

      Thanks for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  4. Gary P. 5 years ago

    Jerry, everything you said about one who drives mostly city miles makes better since. With that said what if one drives all city miles for months at a time does the battery run out and then turn to gas motor, meaning does engine charge enough for use as you use it. The hybrid car make sall the since in the world for my wife also because she may put less then 4k a year. I have listened long enough to know that you may suggest a all electric car but my concern is she might not charge it one day and run out and get that I’m stranded call.

    • Michele Sanders 5 years ago

      Gary,

      A hybrid makes perfect sense for her, the brakes regenerate power, and if it runs all the way down, the gas engine will take over. She can drive a good long way on just battery.

      Let me know how I can help you!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  5. chris 4 years ago

    Hey Jerry,
    i have a comment on the Prius, i drive all Highwayy miles in Northern Ca. I run between 75-77 miles per hour. my distance is 72 miles each way. I know you have said that Hybrids are for people who drive in the city. i Avg. 45-47 MPG and its all Highway miles. Am i missing something here about what you have said about City being better than Highway miles? I am consistent on the MPG.
    Please let me know your thoughts.
    Thanks for your Great Show,
    Chris

    • Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Generally, I am afraid of hybrids for high mileage drivers, not because of fuel economy, but because I hate to see people run out of the hybrid battery warranty too soon.

      For most, hybrids are best for people driving under 50 MPH, but Prius is the exception, it gets great highway mileage too.

      I appreciate you listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  6. KEN BROWN 4 years ago

    WHATS THE BEST CAR FOR ME. WHENI RETIRE I WOULD LIKE TO
    TRAVEL THE STATES A LESURELY PACE. PRUIS OR GAS POWERED
    CAR. WILL BE STAYING IN PARTS OF COUNTRY FOR A LEAST A FEW WEEKS A
    TIME. THANKS

    KEN BROWN

    • Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Ken, I would get a gas powered car. Hybrids are most efficient at speeds under 50 MPH when the car runs on battery. For a lot of traveling, I would go with a fuel-efficient gas model.

      THANKS for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  7. Bill McKenny 4 years ago

    I am someone who takes very good care of my vehicles and I keep my cars for a long while -> +10 years.

    This is something I have always wondered about hybrids:

    If I purchase a hybrid car my understanding is that I may need a new battery pack after 8-10 years and this could run to $1000s of dollars – likely costing more than the vehcile is worth. As these cars also have fuel efficient gas motors, would it be possible and potentially less expensive, to perform a ‘bypass’ of the battery pack on the vehicle, retro/reconfigure the gas motor, and just run the car, in its latter days, as a simple 4 cylinder gas powered car ?

    Once the battery pack is spent, it would make sense to me to just remove/eliminate it and run the car only on the 4 cylinder gas motor. I realize there would be re-configuration needed but I am wondering it this is at least feasible and possibly more affordable ?

    • Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      To my knowledge, this cannot be done. Generally, the batteries will last 150,000 miles or so, and miles seem to be a bigger factor than time. I don’t think your plan will work or I’m sure I’d have heard of other doing this.

      THANKS for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  8. Don Wagner 3 years ago

    Ford Fusion. Whom could I see and where is a reliable dealer? Where is Charlie Gilcrest located and would it be to my advantage to see him?
    Super radio show, I enjoy listening to you and Kevin.

  9. Jesus serrano 2 years ago

    What do you think of the 2014 Toyota pruis? Is it a good car.

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      Yes, this is one of the best hybrids you can buy. I recommend them constantly.

      Check for the closest Car Pro dealer to you from this website, under Certified Dealers.

      Good luck.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  10. Wayne Willems 2 years ago

    Hi Jerry,

    I own a 2006 Lexus RX400H with 65,000 miles. I am primarily a city driver in Dallas, TX. You said above that the hybrid batteries generally last 150,000 miles. Can I count on my battery lasting that long?

    Love the show and the newsletter.

    Wayne

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      Wayne, nothing is written in stone but that is my experience. Hope this helps.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  11. Tony Grice 2 years ago

    Hi Jerry,

    I am just returning to the US from South America where gas is cheap ($0.99 per gallon) and I am looking for a good, reliable and economical car. I have the opportunity to purchase a 2010 Prius with 60K miles for $9000.00. Do you think this is a good buy?

    Thanks,
    Tony

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      That is limited information, but if it has a clean history report, that sounds like a good deal based on what you’ve told me.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  12. Nate S. 2 years ago

    In 2012 I purchased a 2009 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid. It has now reached about 95,000 miles. If it were not a Hybrid I would have no issue with keeping it and continuing to pay it off HOWEVER

    I am getting nervous with the higher mileage and the fact that I still owe roughly $18,000 on it. Should I trade it in for something else, Sell it or just not worry about the battery?

    If the battery does go out, what are the typical charges for this vehicle?

    Thanks in advance for your expert assistance.

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      You should have another 50.000 miles or so before you have to worry about the batteries. When the time comes, it will probably cost $4000 or so to get a new battery pack, but the rest of the vehicle will most likely be in good shape.

      I would hang on to it. I appreciate you listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  13. Richard Bishop 2 years ago

    Jerry
    I really enjoy the show. I am thinking about trading my 2008 Avalon in for a 2012 or 2013 Avalon hybrid. Unfortunately most of my driving is highway and on trips I get about 29-30 mpg. I have a friend who has a 2014 Camry XLE hybrid and he’s getting around 40 mpg (and he has a heavier foot than I do). I wonder if it will be worth moving to a hybrid.
    Thanks,
    Richard

    • Michele Sanders 2 years ago

      Richard, generally for mostly highway driving, you don’t get the full benefit of a hybrid. I usually recommend hybrids when a driver is mostly in town and can run on the batteries.

      I have great Toyota dealers all over, check CERTIFIED DEALERS on this website.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

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