Are Hybrid Cars Worth It? A Buyer’s Guide

There’s a reason why Mike Treiman (VP of Sales, ChargeSmart EV) still drives a plug-in hybrid despite championing electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charger installations. Hybrid cars are key to bridging the transition between gas-powered cars and EVs. 

Q3 2023 car sale numbers would agree. The U.S. Energy Information Administration cites data from Wards Intelligence, showing that hybrid and plug-in hybrid car sales outpaced EV sales, capturing a combined 10% of new car sales in Q3 2023 compared to EV’s roughly 8%.

But are hybrid cars worth it in 2024?

The short answer: yes! Read our blog to understand the pros and cons of hybrid cars and judge if a hybrid vehicle makes the most sense for you.

What Is a Hybrid Car?

Hybrid cars combine a gasoline combustion engine with electric motors powered by a battery. This allows hybrids to take advantage of both energy types, giving more flexibility to drivers. There are 3 main types of hybrid cars, which determine how the electric and gas components interact with each other:

Plug-In Hybrid

A plug-in hybrid car relies on its battery as its primary power source. It has the largest battery of all hybrid types, which allows drivers to go further on full electricity before switching to gas. As a result, plug-in hybrids must regularly recharge at an EV station. Its powerful battery means it offers the most performance benefits and fuel efficiency.

Full Hybrid

A full hybrid car (also known as a traditional hybrid) can run on its electric motor, combustion engine, or a combination of the two. It regularly switches between power sources depending on the situation. When driving at lower speeds in residential areas or within the city, a full hybrid will typically run on electricity. The car recharges its battery through regenerative braking and does not need to be plugged in.

Mild Hybrid

A mild hybrid car focuses on enhancing a car’s combustion engine, using electricity to take over energy-extensive functions like running the air conditioning and accelerating quickly from stationary. The smaller battery means a mild hybrid cannot drive on full-electric, so it doesn’t have a zero-emissions mode. It’s the least beneficial of the three hybrid types.

How Do Hybrid Cars Work?

Hybrid cars work by using electricity to increase their fuel efficiency and power. Depending on the type of car, hybrids will typically use battery power at lower speeds. The car automatically switches to gas at higher speeds, usually between 43–80 MPH, or when it needs more horsepower. 

The switch is possible through electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) technology, which helps improve fuel efficiency by extending mileage per gallon of gas.

Additionally, hybrid cars can take advantage of potential energy that would normally be wasted in gas-only vehicles.

Most hybrid cars have regenerative brakes, which use the kinetic energy generated from slowing down or coasting to recharge the car battery. This is different from standard car brakes, which can only create wasted heat from friction.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Cars

If you’re thinking about buying a hybrid or electric car, you’re likely most concerned about fuel efficiency, environmental impact, and social responsibility. Hybrid cars take the cake in these categories when compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles, but what about a hybrid vs electric car?

As it turns out, there’s a case for both! 

Benefits of Hybrid Cars

The car market isn’t just gas or electric. Hybrid cars hold distinct advantages over both, depending on your driving habits.

1. Less Dependent on Charging Stations Than EVs

Drivers in larger metropolitan areas likely have access to a more robust EV charging network, allowing them to rest easy with a fully electric car. However, EV charging infrastructure is still developing in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas, which can contribute to range anxiety. This fear is also common in new EV owners who drive long distances.

In comes the hybrid. Having a plug-in hybrid allows drivers to take advantage of limited charging resources while knowing they have a gas-powered backup if they’re too far from an EV charger. For EV deserts that lack any charging stations, a full hybrid works best to extend your fuel economy.

2. More Fuel Efficient Than Traditional Cars

Driving a full or plug-in hybrid can extend your miles per gallon because they use electricity to supplement your gas consumption. That could be for accelerating the car, turning on accessories like heating and radio, and more. 

On top of that, hybrid cars are designed to switch to gas power at higher speeds, which is when gas consumption is most efficient. This eliminates unnecessary gas usage.

3. Lower Tailpipe Emissions Compared to Gas-Powered Cars

Hybrid cars produce less tailpipe emissions than their gas-powered counterparts because they use renewable energy. Some hybrids pride themselves on their zero-emissions mode, which allows drivers to use all battery power. This can be a large motivator for drivers who want to lessen their environmental impact but aren’t ready to transition to a fully electric vehicle yet.

4. More Energy Efficient Than EVs in Colder Climates

Cold weather can affect EV performance because EVs need to regulate their temperature to ensure the electric motor and battery work as intended. Prolonged heating in the car cabin can also strain the battery, reducing range.

In contrast, hybrid cars fare better in extreme cold because they have an internal combustion engine. They only need to be warmed up for a minute before driving, which is the same as a gas-powered car. This makes hybrids an ideal choice in colder climates as the market waits for EV technology to improve.

5. More Affordable Than Most EVs on the Market

While EV prices are expected to reduce in 2024, full and plug-in hybrids still remain more affordable than most EVs on the market. As of January 2024, many full hybrid models fall within the $25,000–$35,000 range, which is comparable to conventional gas-powered cars. Plug-in hybrid models typically start around $40,000, but the price will increase with additional features.

In contrast, you may find some EVs starting at $35,000, but their batteries are smaller than long-ranged EVs, which typically start north of $50,000.

The main price difference falls on the cost of EV batteries. Larger EV batteries will give you more range, but they’re also the most expensive components of the car. Luckily, buyer incentive programs can help finance your purchase, so it’s best to weigh all factors before making a decision.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Cars

Hybrids are a step in the right direction for eco-conscious drivers. But buyers should consider these drawbacks to see if an EV or a gas-powered car would be the best fit.

1. Fewer Available Buyer Incentives Than EVs

Only plug-in hybrid vehicles are eligible for incentive programs and tax credits, allowing car buyers to earn rebates to offset the purchase cost. The Federal EV Tax Credit can help owners receive up to $7,500 for select EVs and plug-in hybrids.

However, additional incentives offered at the local or state level tends to favor EV purchases over plug-in hybrids. It’s best to research the available incentive for your desired plug-in hybrid before determining if the final price meets your needs.

2. Higher Insurance Cost Than Gas Cars

Like EVs, hybrids may cost more to insure compared to conventional gas cars for a few reasons. EVs and hybrids are more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, which drives up the initial insurance rate. Additionally, vehicle repairs may cost more because certain electric parts are more expensive to replace.

As hybrids and EVs become more commonplace, insurance rates may decrease to match market expectations. 

3. More Tailpipe Emissions Than EVs

A hybrid car produces less tailpipe emission than a gas car but more than an EV. Whether you choose a hybrid or an EV, you’re still taking a positive step toward reducing car emissions when switching from conventional gas-powered cars.

4. Can Be Harder to Maintain

Hybrids draw from two leading car technologies—they have the complexities of a conventional gas-powered car combined with the electrical components of the motor and battery. Hybrid drivers need to work with mechanics who are familiar with both sides to properly maintain the car. In contrast, EVs tend to be cheaper and easier to maintain overall, and gas car maintenance is more widespread.

Should You Buy a Hybrid Car?

So, are hybrid cars worth it? To answer that question, you should evaluate your driving habits and priorities before taking the leap. Full and plug-in hybrids are great for environmentally-conscious drivers who prefer fuel-efficient cars. They perform better in colder climates over current EVs and can alleviate range anxiety for drivers with limited access to charging stations.

Additionally, hybrids have the potential to ease the market transition between gas cars and EVs thanks to their attainable price point. 

Whichever you choose, ChargeSmart EV is here to support future drivers! Learn more about how our team is expanding EV charging infrastructure.