Are you considering buying a car with a hybrid engine? There tends to be three main reasons why people drive a hybrid – A) because they are concerned about the environment; B) because they want to save some money on fuel costs, or C) a bit of both. But while the environmental benefits of hybrids are pretty clear to all (lower levels of harmful CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere), the potential financial benefits are a bit more hazy.
At the moment, and probably for the foreseeable future, a hybrid will usually cost significantly more that the same model with a regular petrol or diesel engine. That is to be expected, because you have to add in the cost of a more complex drive train, and larger, higher-quality batteries. But it does tend to put a few people off, especially when most modern cars are now clearly designed with economy in mind. For instance, if you purely want to spend less on fuel, then check these used Kia deals here to see how stop/start technology can keep your bank balance looking healthy.
Nevertheless, hybrid cars are all the rage. There are now over 70 different hybrid cars available in North America, and 40 in the United Kingdom, both diesel and petrol, and some manufacturers including General Motors expect most, if not all, new cars to use electric as at least part of their power mix by 2020. It’s not totally about the power mix either – makers of modern hybrids are now routinely adding regenerative braking and stop/start systems to save fuel. But while the cost of hybrids is falling year on year, it will still be some time before they stop being more expensive than conventional cars.
Generally it is accepted that a hybrid can increase fuel economy by about 20-25%, on average, but obviously that can differ vastly between makes and models – with some cars the difference between a hybrid and a conventional version of the same model is barely noticeable in fact.
Ask anyone with knowledge on the subject, and they’ll tell you that really the best way to determine if a hybrid will benefit you, rather than the environment, depends on how much you drive, how you drive (fast and aggressively, or more slowly and cautiously), and of course how long you expect to hold onto the car for (will you have plenty of time to make your money back).
Hybrids are considered to be ideal for urban driving, the electric motor taking over when there’s a lot of stopping and starting involved, while the smaller petrol or diesel engine is most suited to faster motorway driving. The advantage is particularly clear if you live in London, where some hybrids are eligible for significant discounts on the congestion charge.
There is also a host of other considerations you must take into account when buying a hybrid – will it deliver lower insurance premiums and lower road tax (as it produces lower CO2 emissions)? Will it require more regular, or more expensive maintenance because of its dual engine? Will it have a higher resale value? And what is the cost of petrol or diesel doing right now? If it’s on an upward curve and it looks like it will be for some time to come, could a hybrid be a smart investment?
Clearly, then, if you’re in the market for a new (or used) car and a hybrid is in contention to be parked in your driveway, it makes good sense to do your sums before taking any test drives, and work out how long it will be before your savings on fuel exceed the extra purchase cost.