Going Green in Style: A Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide

Demand for hybrid vehicles is increasing as American motorists become more concerned about gas prices and their impact on the environment. In 2005, the U.S. hybrid market totaled around $373 million. By 2012, that number had jumped to almost $852 million. Such rapid growth has encouraged more luxury car makers to develop vehicles using this sustainable technology. Read on if you’re amongst the scores of Americans looking to go green in style behind the wheel of a hybrid vehicle.

Think About How You Drive

Different hybrid vehicles suit different driving needs, so it’s important to consider the way you use your car before settling on one. Hybrid SUVs and full-sized sedans can handle long trips, so they’re best for people who often take road trips. They’ll also have the space to hold a lot of luggage too.

In contrast, plug-in and series hybrids can save motorists money because they can run from batteries alone rather than a mix of electricity and gas. However, they’ll run out of battery power before long, so they’re best suited to short to medium trips. They have real limitations, but city dwellers will find they’re very economical for running errands and commuting to work.

Assess its Safety Record

No one wants to buy a car that’s all style and no substance. Experts say that hybrid cars are as safe as gas-powered motor vehicles, but you should check your dream hybrid’s safety record, just to be sure. For example, you don’t want to learn that a car manufacturer has removed shock-absorbing metals to make its hybrid lighter and more fuel-efficient. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Association publishes all its five-star safety ratings online.

Think About the Running and Maintenance Costs

Vincentic, an automatic research company, found that despite typically higher initial costs, the buyers of 11 out of 25 hybrid vehicles it studied would be financially ahead after just five years. This research considered a range of ownership factors such as depreciation, financing, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and fuel consumption. As gas prices continue to rise, we might even see a more dramatic advantage to hybrids.

However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re one of the owners of those hybrids which scored favorably. For example, hybrid batteries are larger and more complex than the batteries of gas-powered vehicles, so they cost a lot more to replace. Doing your research before you buy will help you avoid choosing a hybrid that will cost you more to maintain than you bargained for.

Look at Tax Incentives

A few years ago, the federal government offered tax credits on the purchase of most gas-electric hybrid vehicles. However, from 2011 these incentives were only extended to the hybrids that use plug-in electrical outlets. So can you qualify for these cashback offers?

The credit of up to $7,500, depending on the model and its battery capacity, is enticing. However, a plug-in hybrid just won’t work for everyone. If you don’t live or work near a car charging station, the gas engine will end up doing all the work. In that case, you won’t be able to reap the benefits of owning a hybrid car at all. Some motorists also feel that charging their vehicle is inconvenient. Consider your own tastes and lifestyle as well as the tax incentives.

Consider Your Personal Tastes

It doesn’t matter how good a hybrid is on paper if it doesn’t match your personal taste. If you’ve always driven large vehicles, then a compact hybrid might never feel right for you. Instead you’re more likely to feel comfortable driving a hybrid SUV.

Consider the interior and exterior colors you love and other aesthetic design elements. Think carefully about how you use your vehicle to make sure it’ll meet those needs. For example, hybrid SUVs have plenty of space for families, while compacts are ideal for young singles and couples without kids. Do you need trunk space for transporting large items, or are you more interested in getting yourself from point A to point B? No matter how perfect a hybrid car appears, if it doesn’t satisfy your needs and wants then it’s not the perfect car for you.

Think about these aspects carefully and you’ll find the perfect hybrid vehicle to suit your needs.

Image via Flickr by Mariordo59