Are Hybrids Worth It? (2023)

The price of gas has risen to record high levels not seen since the late 2000s recession, and there is a greater push than ever to reduce the environmental impact that internal combustion engines have. The solution is to buy a hybrid car, right? The answer may surprise you.

Hybrids are worth it in some ways, but overall, they do not often provide a clear advantage over non-hybrid vehicles.

Upfront savings from increased fuel economy are often one of the only metrics buyers consider when looking at hybrid vehicles. They also provide more range than most gas engines or electric motors by themselves, they are usually cheaper than comparable electric vehicles, and they reduce your personal carbon footprint, ultimately making you feel better about driving.

It is not that simple, though. Initial costs, long-term maintenance costs, certain incentives, and other factors need to be considered to truly answer the question of whether hybrid vehicles are worth it over traditional non-hybrid vehicles.

Hybrids vs. Plug-In Hybrids vs. Electric Vehicles

Before moving forward, it is important to clarify the types of hybrids and non-hybrid powertrains available on the market. Most know what an electric vehicle is, and many know what a hybrid is. A plug-in hybrid, or PHEV, may still confuse some, though.

The difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid is that a plug-in hybrid can drive a certain distance on all-electric power, whereas a regular hybrid vehicle cannot, beyond the shutting down of its internal combustion engine at low speeds. In theory, a plug-in hybrid vehicle combines some of the advantages of an all-electric vehicle with the practicality of a hybrid.

Of course, a regular hybrid vehicle has both a gas engine and an electric motor, or motors, that work together to power the car. The presence of the electric motor takes the load off of the gasoline engine, thereby decreasing fuel consumption, decreasing emissions, and increasing driving range, especially in city driving where stop-and-go driving is common.

All-electric vehicles like each model that Tesla offers, use one or more battery packs and electric motors to power the car. Compared to hybrid cars, electric cars do not produce any emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, but they usually have much less range than both hybrid and conventional cars. The need, therefore, to charge your car each night or at a charging station along your route is necessary unless you have a short daily commute.

What Makes Hybrids Worth It?

When you take a look at the current hybrid car and hybrid SUV options on the market, there is quite a bit that makes sense when comparing them to conventional cars, or even electric cars. Here are some of the reasons hybrid vehicles are seriously worth considering.

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Fuel Savings:

The most common singular reason car buyers turn to hybrid cars over conventional cars is that they use less fuel. Today, as fuel costs have soared, the prospect of fuel savings can override just about any other consideration in a rush to get into a vehicle that can save $10 to $20 at the pump at each fill-up. Indeed, when simply considering the fuel consumption, hybrid cars can save hundreds of dollars each year at the gas pump.

Fuel savings increase as gas prices go up, as they have been in the past year. It should be noted that as gas prices go down, the savings that hybrid cars bring at the pump will also go down. You can save as little as $400 per year or as much as several thousand dollars per year depending on gas prices at the time and the vehicles you compare.

Still, regardless of how high or low gas prices go, you will still generally walk away from the pump with some kind of savings over a car with just a gasoline engine.

Carbon Footprint:

Beyond saving money at the pump, many people believe that they have a moral obligation to decrease as many tailpipe emissions as possible. Reducing your carbon footprint by eliminating the use of fossil fuels is an important part of saving our planet, not only for the current generation but also for generations to come.

Hybrid cars offer at least a temporary solution for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint but cannot yet justify an electric car because of their typically lower driving range. Depending on where you stand on the matter, reducing your carbon footprint may outweigh any other consideration when it comes to vehicles. In that case, a hybrid, PHEV, or electric vehicle will always be worth it.


It used to be that there were tax credits and other monetary incentives to buy a hybrid car when they were less prevalent in the market. Though many of those incentives have disappeared for hybrids, many PHEVs still come with incentives. Incentives vary with each vehicle, so it is important to check the EPA’s website to see what is eligible and what is not.

Sedans like the Honda Clarity and extended-range Volvo S90 offer the largest amount of tax credits possible at $7,500. Plug-in hybrid SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 Prime, Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV, and BMW X5 xDrive45e offer the same incentives. Even the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV minivan comes with a $7,500 tax credit.

Other plug-in hybrid models like the Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Escape, Lincoln Aviator, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota Prius Prime, and Volvo XC90 are all eligible for varying amounts of tax credits.

Maintenance Costs:

Maintenance costs are often cited as one of the reasons car buyers will not buy hybrid cars. Battery packs especially come with the stigma that they are expensive to replace. This is only half true. Battery packs in all-electric vehicles are much more extensive since they are the only powerplant in the entire car. Hybrid vehicles have smaller battery packs as they are not the only source of the vehicle’s power.

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In reality, battery-pack replacement is not as common as one might think, and nowadays, the replacement costs for a battery pack are not much different than component replacements on conventional cars. A transmission replacement, transfer case replacement, and differential replacement costs can be comparable to replacing hybrid batteries in certain vehicles. While these are still expensive repairs, many people think that replacing their car’s battery pack is much more expensive than it is.


With the note on battery pack replacement, hybrid vehicles have proven to be just as reliable as conventional cars throughout the years. As vehicles become more complicated, it could be argued that all of them have become less reliable, but with better materials and manufacturing processes, it could also be argued that they are more reliable than ever.

The Toyota Prius is a good example of a reliable hybrid vehicle. It is one of the cheapest vehicles to maintain because of its stellar reliability record and little need for anything but routine maintenance. When repairs are needed, they are typically inexpensive compared to the average vehicle.

Insurance Costs:

Depending on your insurance company, you could be paying less for car insurance if you have a hybrid or plug-in hybrid car. This is mainly because most young drivers either cannot afford or do not want a new hybrid vehicle. Those who do buy a new or used hybrid do so to save money rather than whip around the block at unreasonable speeds.

Hybrid vehicle owners, therefore, are often seen as low-risk drivers, giving the insurance companies the ability to offer additional incentives to those with hybrid vehicles.

The Hybrid Vehicle Itself:

All hybrid vehicles and the powertrains used to power them are highly variable from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some are better vehicles than others, some offer better range than others, and some just offer the best combination of fuel efficiency and space that a family requires. The best hybrid cars or SUVs for you will depend on your personal needs.

If you do not have the money for a new car, the used hybrid car market has also gotten stronger in the past several years due to an increase in manufacturer incentives to make and sell them. Finding an affordable, practical new or used Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Lexus UX Hybrid, Toyota Rav4 Hybrid, or Chevrolet Volt is easier now than it has ever been. And these are just some of the many hybrids available.

What Makes Hybrids Not Worth It?

Some people do not like hybrids just because they are what they are. But there are several factors that make hybrids much less worth buying than their avid supporters might care to admit.

Purchase Price:

Despite their potential fuel savings, the main drawback for hybrid vehicles is the extra cost that almost always comes with their initial purchase price. Many of the most common vehicles are beginning to be offered in hybrid versions, and although they may provide the extra fuel savings, they also come with an average initial cost of over $4,000 more than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

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The Toyota Camry and Toyota Camry Hybrid, for example, are separated by more than $2,000 at baseline. The Honda CR-V has a starting MSRP of just under $27,000 while the CR-V Hybrid carries a base MSRP of $31,610. Like most other advantages and disadvantages, some vehicles will have a greater pricing range. Regardless, it is almost always the case that hybrid vehicles cost more than a comparable non-hybrid version of a specific vehicle.


Having talked about the initial cost, it is also true that hybrid vehicles are no longer eligible for the tax credits to which they were once entitled. Many plug-in hybrids are still eligible for some kind of tax credit, but the amount can vary. Very few of those are eligible for the maximum amount of $7,500. New hybrids and PHEVs especially are subject to having their tax credit availability diminished or removed entirely.

The result is that it has become harder to counter the higher initial purchase costs of hybrid vehicles with guaranteed rebates. In the coming years, it will become harder still as tax credits begin to be phased out.

Maintenance Costs:

Hybrid maintenance costs are in the “why they are worth it” category because of the perceptions many people have about battery replacements and the extra that it takes to keep them going. Even though that is not necessarily the case, maintenance costs are also not so low that they help offset everything else. In other words, maintenance costs are quite comparable to that of a conventional non-hybrid car.

In fact, year-over-year maintenance costs for hybrids as compared to cars with gas engines are almost identical. Small things like regenerative braking can have minor impacts on components like brake pads, but systems like this are not so widespread or different that it makes a noticeable difference. In the “worth it” scale, maintenance costs essentially cancel each other out.


Reliability is much the same way. Each vehicle comes with its own issues, some vehicles are more reliable than others, and the same concept applies to hybrid and non-hybrids alike. In fact, cars like the Toyota Prius have proved to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. They require some of the least amounts of maintenance compared to most other vehicles.

Conversely, a vehicle like the BMW 330e, BMW’s compact plug-in hybrid sedan, will have many of the same issues that a typical BMW 3-Series vehicle has. With the addition of the battery pack and electric motors that make it a hybrid, it still possesses many of the same components as the non-hybrid version BMW 3-Series.

And although battery packs do have to be replaced from time to time, as with any component on any car, it is not as common as many think. Some manufacturers even have a separate warranty in place to cover the battery pack in case of a failure. Still, in the reliability category, hybrids do not possess any real advantage over conventional cars.

Insurance Costs:

Insurance costs are another area that can be both an advantage and disadvantage for hybrid cars. Like the vehicles themselves, insurance companies can vary greatly in their rates, their discounts, and what they see as liabilities. With hybrids, it is a mixed bag.

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While some companies offer discounts for the typically safer drivers who tend to buy hybrid cars, others charge more because of the higher costs of manufacturing and therefore, the higher costs of repairs in the case of an accident. The best way to determine how your insurance company approaches hybrids, PHEVs, and electric cars, is to just ask. You can also compare insurance with other companies to see what they are charging for the same vehicle.

The Hybrid Vehicle Itself:

We have already seen initial purchase prices differ from car to car, insurance rates that potentially differ depending on the company, and reliability differ as well. The point is that some vehicles will be more worth it than others simply because of the vehicle.

The Toyota Prius, again, is a good example. It is known as a reliable car, it is relatively affordable, it returns stellar fuel economy numbers, and it is a relatively inexpensive car to insure because of several of the aforementioned factors. A vehicle like the Ford Explorer hybrid fills the opposite end of the spectrum.

The cheapest Ford Explorer Hybrid model starts close to $51,000, more than $17,000 more than the base model non-hybrid Explorer, and more than $5,000 more than the non-hybrid Explorer in the same Limited trim level. Additionally, the standard rear-wheel drive hybrid returns fuel economy estimates of 27 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway. Those numbers are fine, but the non-hybrid with the same drivetrain gets about 21 and 28 MPG respectively.

The Ford Explorer hybrid is by no means a bad vehicle, but it does demonstrate the vast difference not only between hybrid SUVs but between hybrid vehicles as a whole.

That is not all. Some states are beginning to implement or consider implementing additional taxes on vehicles that are particularly efficient. Though not fully implemented, the idea of laying down some extra cash to counter some of the fuel savings you might get with a hybrid can be frustrating, yet it is something to consider moving forward.

The Big Picture:

With all these things in mind, it is easier to truly examine whether or not a hybrid vehicle is worth buying over a conventional car, especially a fuel-efficient one. It is always important to consider as many factors as possible when making a decision that will end up costing tens of thousands of dollars, regardless of your choice at the end of the day.

The Worth It Verdict:

So, are hybrids worth it? They are worth it in some ways and not in others. The initial fuel savings they provide are tempting to most buyers, but other factors are often overlooked. If you are simply looking to buy a fuel-efficient car, reduce your carbon footprint and keep the car for as long as possible, a hybrid is absolutely worth it.

And that is the key. With everything considered, a hybrid vehicle will make up for its higher initial price over time – though the amount of time varies depending on the vehicle. Owners who keep their cars longer than six years will have a greater chance of truly saving money by buying a hybrid than those who keep their cars for less time than that.

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This is true because the fuel savings you experience each time at the pump are small compared to the generally higher price you pay for the car upfront. There are some pretty fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicles on the market that have made hybrids work hard to make themselves stand out.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a hybrid lies on you and your needs. From a strictly financial perspective, you typically need to own a hybrid car for a long time before it makes sense, but not everyone is in the same financial constraints as the next person. For some, it is more about reducing their own environmental impact, making their decision to buy a hybrid always worth it.


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