5 Reasons Not to Buy a Hybrid


The Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid won the 2018 Green Car of the Year award. Several are seen here on display during the auto trade show AutoMobility LA at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Nov. 30, 2017. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Yeah, you read that title right: Five reasons to not buy a hybrid car — so, are we crazy? Maybe a little bit.

Ten or 20 years ago, hybrids were new, unproven technology. What if they burst into battery-powered flames? What if the batteries had to be replaced? What if you had to — gasp — pass a car on the highway or go up a hill?

Hybrids have been on the market and continuously improving since 1999, though. They're commonplace to the point of being kind of boring. Nearly every major auto manufacturer has a hybrid or two in its lineup, and hybrid heavyweight Toyota has an entire Prius sub-brand.

There are many reasons someone might want a hybrid: saving the environment, making fewer stops at the gas station, feeling good about your green self — but not every reason will pan out in the long run. While hybrids continue to be popular, there may be better, greener and more efficient alternatives out there.

Take a look at these five reasons not to buy a hybrid vehicle and see if any of them steer you away.

5
Higher Initial Cost
The new Toyota Camry hybrid on display during the Paris Motor Show at the Parc des Expositions at the Porte de Versailles in October, 2018 in Paris, France. Chesnot/Getty Images

The first obstacle anyone interested in buying a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle will run up against is the higher cost of the hybrid powertrain versus its gasoline-only equivalent. Hybrid versions generally run several thousand dollars more than conventional versions of the same car.

Much of the extra cost comes from the expense of the gas-saving technology found in hybrids. The price difference is less than it used to be, however, especially in the most popular models. Here are a few examples:

  • 2018 Chevy Malibu: $21,680 vs. 2018 Chevy Malibu Hybrid: $27,920
  • 2019 Ford Fusion: $22,840 vs. 2019 Ford Fusion Hybrid: $27,555
  • 2018 Honda Accord: $23,570 vs. 2018 Honda Accord Hybrid: $25,100

So you're going to pay more for a hybrid version of a conventional car. But that's OK, because you'll recoup the extra cost through all the gasoline you save, right? Maybe not...

4
Recouping the Extra Cost
It can take several years to make up that cost of a hybrid car in gas savings. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Most new hybrid owners justify the higher initial purchase cost of their vehicle by saying that they'll make up the difference in fuel savings. Well, that plan may take a little (or a lot) longer than most new car owners think.

Oftentimes, it can take several years to make up that cost of a hybrid car in gas savings. When gas was setting new record-high prices in the summer of 2008, people penciled out the time it would take to recoup in fuel savings the extra dollars they had paid for a hybrid car.

At the time, a hybrid car may have sounded like a great idea. In fact, when gas prices are high, hybrid cars can make up the price difference in as little as two years — like in the case of the Toyota Camry Hybrid. At that time there were also tax credits and incentives available from the federal government, and some state governments, for purchasing new hybrids. Those credits have all dried up, though. There are still tax incentives available for plug-in hybrids and purely electric vehicles, but even those will end in a few years as more of these vehicles become available on the marketplace.

But when you're talking about an extreme case, like the Lexus LC hybrid sports car (which happens to have an almost six-figure price tag), even when gas prices are relatively low, it would take decades to make up the difference in price.

OK, gasoline is great, but you can do better. You can plug your car in.

3
Zero Emissions, Zero Gasoline
The Tesla Model S was a game changer when it first hit the streets in 2012. Tesla

When hybrid cars came on the scene in a big way in the early 2000s, they had the stage pretty much to themselves. Pure electric vehicles like the Zap Xebra were tiny little things with 40-mile ranges at best and a top speed somewhere near "pokey." The Tesla Roadster, with a range over 200 miles, didn't arrive on anyone's radar until 2008, and the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf came along in 2011. Fully electric cars, with not one drop of gasoline or an engine under the hood, were the territory of super nerds and early adopters.

Now there are dozens of EV models, from the futuristic BMW i3 to the Volkswagen e-Golf, which deliberately looks like every other Golf on the road. And there are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, like the Toyota Prius Prime and Chrysler Pacifica minivan. That's right — an electrified minivan. Every automotive brand on the planet has pledged to "electrify" its fleet in the next five to 10 years, which means more hybrids, PHEVs and EVs. So while hybrids will still be available and so far have stood the test of time, there are other, cleaner powertrains out there that are just as easy to live with.

Any vehicle running on electric power only, like an EV or a PHEV when the batteries are doing all the work, is getting the job done with zero emissions. Electric-only cars don't even have tailpipes.

Of course, electrified vehicles aren't for everyone. Read on to find out which situations might have you choosing an engine over a motor.

2
Towin' and Haulin'
The 2019 Toyota Prius with all-wheel drive is good for hauling gear, but not necessarily for hauling trailers and heavy equipment. David McNew/Getty Images

Hybrid cars can handle almost any kind of driving situation. City, highway, small car, minivan: There's a hybrid for nearly everyone at a variety of price points.

Unless you need to tow or haul anything at all. Like, anything. Hybrids are not engineered to create the power needed to move the car, the people inside it, and a boat trailer or a bed full of mulch. Some hybrids can pull a little trailer for runs to the dump or one of those adorable tiny teardrop campers. In 2016, Toyota began offering a tow package for the Prius, which was seen as groundbreaking. No one expected a hybrid to ever tow anything, really. But it still is only capable of towing about 1,600 pounds (725 kilograms), which is the low end of the lightest campers on the market.

There's one more reason to not buy a hybrid, and it's a big one. But it might be the reason that gets you.

1
You Don't Even Need a Car
Car-sharing companies like Zipcar have surged in popularity and are reasons why some people go without cars entirely. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank Group. Urban areas are famously congested with traffic, whether that's Los Angeles or Shanghai or Paris — and it's getting worse. Many cities are banning traffic from their urban centers, and some are planning to ban combustion engines entirely within the next two decades. To get around, city dwellers are using public transportation plus carpooling, ride sharing, car sharing, bike sharing, scooter sharing and plain old walking to get around.

People who live in cities might consider whether they need a car at all. A bus pass and an app for Uber or Lyft will get you pretty far, as will a membership in a car sharing service like Car2Go or Zipcar. Not having a car means not paying extra for a space in your building's garage or having to fight to park at the curb. No maintenance, no insurance, no stopping for gas. Remember, hybrids do require gasoline to run, just less of it than a conventional car. And you can't be pulled over and ticketed for texting while driving if you're riding the bus.

Last editorial update on Dec 6, 2018 02:14:01 pm.

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Author's Note: 5 Reasons Not to Buy a Hybrid

Hybrids were strange birds in 1999 when the Honda Insight first came to market, followed quickly by the Toyota Prius. The economic and fuel crisis that hit in 2008 brought down gas-guzzlers like the Humvee and elevated hybrid reputations — and prices. Now hybrids are nearly old hat as PHEVs and EVs come online in greater numbers and styles. But hybrids aren't done yet. The technology has proven itself to be so delightfully boring and consistent that it will be hard to not buy a hybrid vehicle in the future. Most manufacturers are planning on their basic powertrains being hybrids in the next few years, with PHEV and EV options.

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