Which Is Best for You? Hybrid vs. Gas Cars

(Here's what you need to know)

Since they first hit the market more than 20 years ago with the Toyota Prius, hybrid cars have gotten:

  • More affordable
  • More stylish
  • More efficient

For these reasons, more Americans than ever are turning to hybrids. One of the main reasons, aside from minimizing pollution, is cost efficiency. But the question remains: Does it make more sense for you to purchase a hybrid, or a traditional, gas-powered car?

Below, our experts discuss the factors you should consider when deciding on hybrid vs. gas, including:

  • Up-front costs
  • Fuel savings
  • Tax credits
  • Environmental effects

No matter what you prefer, make sure you're covered with an affordable car insurance policy. Let's get started.

Up-Front Costs of Hybrid vs. Gas Cars

Does a hybrid cost more than a gas car? The answer will always be: It depends. After all, different gas and hybrid cars come in at different price points. 

Another factor to consider is the options that come in hybrid vs. gas cars.  For example, a hybrid more often comes standard with navigation worth $500-$1,500 on the sticker price. Because base model hybrids come with more standard features, a loaded up gas model with comparable features might be around the same price as the base hybrid.

Consider this side-by-side comparison:

  • A 2019 Honda Insight LX (hybrid) costs $22,830 for the base model.
  • A 2018 Honda Civic Coupe LX (gas ) costs $19,350 for the base model.

That's a price difference of only about $3,500. That may not seem like much. But you can recover about that cost in gas savings while you own the car. And, because both models are on-par with standard features, adding anything additional to either car won't change the price difference.

Some luxury brands - like Lincoln - offer hybrid and gas cars that have virtually no difference in price. The 2019 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the 2019 Lincoln MKZ, both with FWD and 4-cylinder engines, are both $35,925. In this case, the bump in gas mileage probably makes the hybrid vs. gas question easy to answer.

The Bottom Line: The up-front cost issue will depend on what you can afford and what model you want. If you can afford a car that comes with the same or similar options for gas vs. hybrid models, you're much more likely to recover costs.

Compare Fuel Savings with Up-Front Costs

The main question you need to answer with fuel savings is: Will I own the car long enough to recoup gas savings? You can use  calculators and side-by-side fuel economy data at fueleconomy.gov to help with this part of the hybrid vs. gas cars equation. 

If we go back to our Hondas, the difference in fuel costs goes this way:

  • 2018 Civic: Average of $1,253 per year 
  • 2019 Insight: Average of $819 per year
  • Fuel savings with the Insight Hybrid: Average of $434 per year

This means you would need to own the Insight for at least 8 years to recover the extra $3,500 in cost. 

But think about this: The Lincoln MKZ and MKZ hybrid models cost the same amount up-front. Now consider the fuel savings for these models:

  • 2019 Lincoln MKZ: Average of $1,775 per year 
  • 2019 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: Average of $1,039 per year
  • Fuel savings with the MKZ Hybrid: Average of $736 per year

These straightforward calculations aren't the end-all and be-all , either. You have to account for the following:

  • Daily commute: Hybrids use more electric power at low speeds and in heavy traffic. This means you could get much higher mileage out of your hybrid than someone who has to drive the interstate short distances at high speeds.
  • Weather: If you live in a hot place and use the air conditioner constantly, you will use more gas.
  • How long you keep the car: If you to keep your hybrid for just three years, you may not make up for the up-front price difference in gas savings. The longer you keep it, the more a hybrid makes sense.

The Bottom Line: What you drive, where you drive, how you drive and how long you keep the car are all factors that will affect whether you recover up-front costs in gas savings. Do the calculations before you buy.

Consider the Environmental Effects

If reducing your carbon footprint is one of your main reasons to go hybrid, your choice is a little bit easier. 

New cars and trucks are the top polluters in the world. Yes, even worse than the energy production industry. In fact, from 2015 to 2016 alone, carbon dioxide emissions increased 2%. Now, 80% of all new pollution is from personal vehicles. It isn't a secret that gas-powered cars are problematic.

However, hybrid car batteries are problematic. As they begin to age, they require safe disposal. Then there's the issue of harvesting the rare earth metals needed for battery production. They're a limited resource, much like fossil fuels.

The Bottom Line/Solution: Purchase one of the hundreds of thousands of used hybrids on the market. Doing so saves:

  • On the production of a new battery and new car materials
  • Money on the initial purchase price
  • Depreciation, because hybrid cars age better than gas-powered cars

Note that if you plan on keeping your hybrid for a long time, you will likely need to replace the battery.

Don't Forget About Tax Benefits

Most people think about saving money on gas, but don't think about the tax credits. You can save up to $7,500 in tax credits when you buy a hybrid car!

The amount you can claim as a credit will depend on the model, which depends on the battery. When you're researching cars, you can easily find the tax credit that goes along with them. There might even be other benefits local to your area.

The Bottom Line: Add this to your research when you settle on a few models and want to get down to the bottom of your cost analysis.

Gas and Hybrid Cars Aren't Your Only Options

Most car buyers overlook another option: diesel cars. Benefits of owning a diesel car include:

  • Longevity of use: You can keep a diesel car running for more than 200,000 miles.
  • Efficiency: A diesel car runs on much less fuel than its unleaded, gas-powered counterparts.
  • Economical: Diesel cars are designed for long-duration travel.
  • Easy to maintain

In a side-by-side real-world road test, diesel models outperform both hybrid and gas-powered economy cars by a difference of as much as 12 mpg at high speeds on country roads. This should give you something else to think about.

Choose the Car That Fits Your Needs, Then Choose the Insurance That Fits Your Car

Finding the right car insurance policy can be just as overwhelming as choosing a car. 

Most financial experts recommend that you shop around for the best coverage and prices. An independent agent can make things much easier by doing the comparison shopping for you. 

Independent agents in our network can work with a variety of insurance companies to find the coverage you need at the best price. The best part is that these agents live nearby, right in your ZIP code. They understand the concerns of local drivers. 

Find an agent near you to customize coverage for your hybrid or gas vehicle.

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https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/01/vehicles-climate-change-emissions-trump-administration

https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=30712