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Is A Hybrid Vehicle The Right Choice For You?

The idea of a hybrid is very appealing. They’re becoming more prevalent. They’re loaded with the latest tech, and their MPG appears to reigns supreme. Still, is it worth it? What are some benefits of going green on the road, and can you reap them?

Let’s talk first about elements outside of price and costs. You know, the other “green” element. There’s a lot of merit in limiting your fuel dependency and subsequently your fuel usage. Switching to a hybrid vehicle is a bonafide environmental boon. For some eco-friendly drivers, minimizing their negative impact on the environment is enough to make the switch to a hybrid. If you have the environment in mind, you can go even further than just a hybrid. There are plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) as well as full-on electric vehicles (EVs). These options severely diminish gasoline use and in the case of the EV, ditch it entirely. If you’re looking to really reduce emissions or just skip those frequent gas station trips, plug-in electric models are the place to start.

The main drawback regarding PHEVs and electric vehicles is the distance they can travel before needing a charge. Some electric vehicles can travel for 70 miles on a charge while others, like the Tesla Roadster, can travel over 200 miles. If your commute to work isn’t far and you can plug in for a charge from your normal parking space, you should explore PHEV and EV options.

What if you’re not interested in a model that you need to plug in? What if you live in the city and you aren’t guaranteed a parking spot at all, let alone one in the same spot every day? A hybrid vehicle might be just the ticket. Hybrids really shine in cities because the stop-and-go nature of traffic patterns lends itself expertly to the hybrid recharge design.

Hybrids are equipped with a braking system that stores the energy generated when you brake the vehicle, and uses that to recharge the vehicle’s battery. In some models, the electric motor also controls all low-speed driving. At low speeds a gas-powered engine is very inefficient. This makes hybrids ideal for city and town driving, or any place where stop-and-go is the modus operandi. On the other hand, on longer drives at steadier speeds (you know, highway driving) you won’t see as much benefit from a hybrid.

Prices will vary. Typically, the MSRP for the hybrid version of a vehicle is at least over one thousand dollars more expensive. It’s worth sitting down and pricing some things out. How many miles will you drive in a year? What’s the price of gas? There’s a powerful comparison tool at fueleconomy.gov that let’s you compare hybrid vehicles to their non-hybrid counterparts. With gas at the current low prices (outside of most major cities, anyway) the monetary return from a hybrid’s fuel efficiency accrues more slowly. This means it’ll take longer to make your money back. If you’re the kind of person who only likes to own a car for several years, it’s likely you won’t make up the difference in MSRP prices through savings on gas alone. If you’re someone that likes to hang on to cars for a long time, say at least eight years, you can expect to make up the MSRP difference in gas savings.

There are a few other incentives to consider. Some larger insurance companies offer small discounts for driving hybrid vehicles. Plug-in and electric vehicles, depending on the size of the battery, can qualify for a hefty federal tax credit. The bigger the battery in the car the bigger the tax credit. There are some great state incentives too, so look into that. Some states, like Delaware, offer rebates on a purchase or lease, as well as on recharging equipment. Other states, like Florida, let you use the carpool lane with only one passenger. Google your state’s hybrid incentives and see what perks you’ll have access to.

No matter the green you want to save, Earth or money, hybrids can help. A hybrid vehicle won’t be the right fit for everyone. Consider your commute and your driving habits. Consider how long you’d want to own the vehicle. Compare hybrids to combustion engine models. If your style lines up with a hybrid’s best features, go take one for a test drive!

image credit: By jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson) (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/7619457920/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons