Car Buying

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Cars: What to Know Before Buying

Thinking of getting a hybrid car but unsure what to look for? Learn what you need to know — from maintenance to resale value — before buying a hybrid car.

Read time

6 minutes




Key takeaways

  • Hybrid cars are best for those who travel long distances but are less concerned about high-power performance, value fuel economy, and lower running costs.
  • Pros of hybrids are their lower environmental impact, require less maintenance, have lower running costs, may offer tax incentives, and can have a higher resale value.
  • Cons of hybrids are they often come with higher upfront costs, potentially high repair costs, higher insurance rates, slower acceleration, and still depend on fossil fuels.

Since hybrid cars first came onto the market in 1999, they’ve steadily increased in popularity and now constitute around 5.5 percent of light vehicle sales in the US. More car buyers are considering hybrid electrical vehicles (HEVs) because of their greater affordability as manufacturing processes become more streamlined. 

But what are the main pros and cons of going hybrid? 

There may be both environmental and financial advantages but there are also some undoubted drawbacks of hybrid cars. Would it be better to buy an electric car? What do you need to know before you buy a new or used hybrid car? 

And if you do decide on hybrid, should you buy — or are other viable options available?

What is classified as a hybrid car?

Hybrid electric vehicles have two different propulsion technologies incorporated into their build:

  1. An electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery pack (for lower speeds)
  2. An internal combustion engine powered by gasoline (for higher speeds)

One of the main criticisms of fully electric vehicles (EVs) is that they cannot perform well at higher speeds. HEVs are a compromise, providing the environmental advantages of electric vehicles while not severely impacting performance at higher speeds.

Another form of hybrid car that you may encounter is plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). These are vehicles with a larger battery pack that is recharged by plugging a charging cable into an external electric power source. 

PHEVs typically power the vehicle in full electric mode until the battery charge is almost exhausted, before switching to the combustion engine (or using a combination of what’s left of the battery and the combustion engine). Conversely, the standard HEV employs its high-voltage battery pack and regenerative braking to recharge the battery. Standard vehicles are powered entirely by their combustion engine.

Main pros of buying a hybrid car

Many people who consider buying a hybrid car are swayed at least somewhat by the environmental factors involved, often hoping for a reduced carbon footprint. So, let’s start with the real impact of HEVs on the environment…

1. Lower environmental impact

Hybrid cars are normally promoted as a “green option”. They offer the following benefits over traditional gas-powered cars:

  • Lower CO2 emissions - The tailpipe emissions of standard cars are reduced, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint.

  • Fewer other pollutants - Reduced methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gas emissions compared with standard cars.

  • Greater fuel efficiency - Less fuel is needed to propel hybrid vehicles because of the electric power source option, generally resulting in improved fuel efficiency.

  • Less dependence on fossil fuels - Standard gas cars rely totally on fossil fuels while hybrid cars have a high-voltage battery, electric engine and regenerative braking technology to recharge the system.

Note that electricity sources vary from state to state, so your precise level of dependence on fossil fuel will also vary based on your location.

2. Fewer maintenance requirements

The reduced wear and tear on a hybrid car’s combustion engine means that your vehicle may require less maintenance and fewer expensive repairs than a standard one. However, there is no guarantee of lower maintenance costs as there are many other things that can affect a car besides engine trouble.

3. Lower running costs

More electric-based mileage and higher-efficiency engines mean fewer trips to the gas station to fill up — which is better for the wallet. How much you will save depends on your driving habits, the model and your location — but most drivers can save money each month.

4. Favorable tax incentives may apply

The federal government currently offers a favorable tax credit for plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). This isn’t yet available for HEVs but can amount to up to $7,500 for PHEVs depending on the model of the car you buy and your tax status. State and local incentives may also apply.

5. A higher potential resale value 

Hybrid cars are growing in popularity and the recent rises in the price of gasoline have helped to spark interest in cheaper alternatives and more fuel-efficient cars. With demand for HEVs so high, you can expect a decent resale value when you come to sell it — providing current trends continue.

6. Less stress

More charging stations are being introduced daily across the US but there is still that lingering doubt in the minds of pure EV drivers that they may run out of charge. This is much less of a concern for hybrid car drivers because of the standard combustion engine as a backup.

7. Quiet driving experience

The quiet driving experience is another pro of hybrid cars. Electric motors run more silently than traditional gas-powered engines. Some cars are almost completely silent when driven at low speeds and while this is a plus for most people, there are some concerns about safety issues with cars that make no sound.

What are the disadvantages of a hybrid car?

The main cons of buying a hybrid car include the following:

1. Higher upfront costs

The initial purchase or lease price of a hybrid vehicle may well be higher than the standard option. The difference is reducing as manufacturing costs are streamlined but there’s still a difference. While you can expect to save money with tax incentives and lower running and maintenance costs, you’ll need to factor in the initial price differential.

2. High repair costs

The high-voltage system necessary for hybrid cars may be more expensive to fix if it develops problems. High-voltage batteries usually cost thousands of dollars so you wouldn’t want to replace one very frequently. 

Fortunately, many batteries last more than 150,000 miles but the inverters, electric motors and improved cooling systems also add a level of complexity to repairs when compared with standard car systems. This may require specialist knowledge to fix.

3. Higher insurance costs

Hybrid cars can be more expensive to insure compared with similar size/specification standard gas versions (on average seven percent higher). Fuel savings may be offset with higher insurance costs as insurance companies factor in that most HEV drivers cover long distances and are therefore considered higher risk.

4. Slower acceleration

You probably won’t be able to match the acceleration of a standard gas-powered car in your hybrid car. Generally speaking, hybrid vehicles have slower top-end acceleration than traditional models.

5. Fossil fuel dependence

You may use fewer fossil fuels in a hybrid car — but you are still dependent to some degree on them. With an electric vehicle, you use no gas though you are still likely to use some fossil fuels indirectly depending on the source of electricity you plug into.

Who are hybrid cars best for? 

Hybrid cars are best for people who work and travel considerable distances each week (hundreds of miles) but are not too bothered about high-power performance and acceleration. They will love the fuel economy and lower running costs and won’t have to worry too much about maintenance.

A hybrid car may also be a great option if you’re simply looking for a more environmentally friendly option with cheaper running costs and a higher potential resale value. You may also be able to take advantage of tax credits in your area. 

But bear in mind that the upfront and maintenance costs may be higher and you’ll still use some fossil fuel. If you want to cut out direct fossil fuel consumption, choose an electric vehicle rather than a hybrid.

Final thoughts 

Consider your main reasons for committing to hybrid and whether another option may be more appropriate. The total cost of buying and owning a car is higher than most people expect. If you’re looking to reduce the hassle and ongoing costs of owning a car, leasing or subscribing may be a better option. 

A car subscription allows you the flexibility to change the car you drive within months rather than years. An all-inclusive fee looks after the registration, insurance, maintenance and repairs and you don’t have to worry about wear and tear. FINN is a fast, low-risk and convenient option with no down payment or long-term commitment necessary. Browse cars today.

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Pick your next ride and select the term and mileage package that’s right for you.

Get approved in a few clicks

Submit your information and get the green light in under five minutes.

Enjoy free delivery to your home

FINN delivers your new car right to your door so you can focus on the road ahead.

Just hit the road and swap when you’re done

All that’s left to do is drive. When your term is over, you can return the car and pick out something new, or simply walk away.

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