Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Apr 23, 2019

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Does a hybrid car really save you money? This question has been a subject of debate ever since hybrids made their entrance into the mainstream auto market. While all hybrids save gas, it is a subject of contention over whether there will be any significant lowering of the cost of ownership in the long run.

Several studies have been conducted to answer this question; unfortunately, the results are conflicting.

Some studies state unequivocally that hybrids are cheaper in the long run, while others say that you simply break even; what you do not pay in gasoline costs you pay in other, more subtle costs of ownership.

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How does a Hybrid Car work?

A hybrid car is one that relies on two systems to make it run: a traditional gasoline-powered system, called an “internal combustion” system, and an electrically-driven system which uses no gas.

For low speeds, a hybrid uses its electrical system. When you reach a certain higher speed, the gasoline engine kicks in.

In this way, you are only using gasoline at speeds over 45 or 50 miles an hour, and most of your slower driving is taken over by the electrical system, saving you fuel and hopefully making your trips to the pump less frequent and less painful.

The idea behind hybrids was to save gas in the highest-use situations—the times when you are driving at low speeds with stop-and-go traffic. Idling for long periods of time causes you to get zero miles per gallon, severely cutting into your fuel efficiency. A hybrid, by using no gas when idling, raises your gas mileage, at least on paper.

However, the numbers given for “miles per gallon” on a hybrid are averages, and your actual gas savings will depend a good bit on how and where you drive.

If you are on long stretches at speeds of 55 to 60 miles per hour for most of your driving time, you will not save as much gasoline as someone who drives in a city and stops frequently.

Hybrids also carry several tax and insurance bonuses. Many government programs pay consumers to buy hybrids, citing the fuel-efficiency of these vehicles, and many insurance companies will insure them for less than standard cars.

This can help your overall cost of ownership, as well.

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Are there any hidden costs of owning a Hybrid vehicle?

There are, however, some hidden costs to owning a hybrid. Most hybrid models cost more to purchase than their gasoline-powered counterparts. A Honda Civic, for example, costs $15,805 to purchase and gets 39 highway miles per gallon.

The Honda Civic Hybrid costs $24,050 new, and gets 44 miles per gallon on the highway. That additional five miles per gallon will cost you almost $9000, which means that you would have to fill up about 100 times to break even.

If you fill up once a week, this is approximately two years before you see any real money savings at the pump.

Another cost to owning a hybrid that many people tend to forget when purchasing is additional repair costs. Because hybrids are relatively new, many garages are not well-equipped to fix them.

If you have to take your car back to the dealership for service, you will often pay top dollar for even small repair jobs.

Further, the parts for a hybrid may be more expensive than parts for a non-hybrid vehicle. Labor may also take more time, costing you more money.

Do Hybrid cars retain value better than traditional cars?

One thing hybrids do have in their favor, however, is that they retain value better than traditional vehicles. Hybrids tend to last longer because their component parts are not under as much stress from constant fuel use.

If you are an average hybrid driver, you utilize the electrical system of your car at least half the time, saving your gasoline engine for higher speeds. This means that those parts are only working half as hard as they would in a non-hybrid vehicle.

This can mean significant savings in repairs, but it also means that the car will probably be worth more when you try to sell or trade it in.

Many people are more interested in hybrids, as well, and this can contribute to a better price for your used vehicle.

Most people who purchase hybrids are not actually looking to save significant money. Rather, they like the idea of using less gasoline or being less dependent on oil. They may also like the fact that hybrids are quiet cars with good track records in maintenance and resale.

However, if you are trying to save significant money in ownership, a hybrid may not be your best investment.

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View a list of the top 10 Hybrid Vehicles sold in the USA

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