Is A Hybrid Vehicle Right For You?

Are high fuel prices burning a hole in your wallet? Thinking about trading in your old gas guzzler for an efficient hybrid vehicle? Don’t buy into the hybrid hype – it may not be the best option for you. Read on to get all the facts about hybrids.

“I don’t know that everybody actually does the math when they say ‘I’m going to invest in a hybrid engine, “and that is going to pay back,” said Pete Hastings, a vice president of corporate fixed-income research at Morgan Keegan. “There’s a bit more emotion in buying these things.”

Hybrids sport some very impressive gas mileage numbers. For instance, the Toyota Prius claims to get sixty mpg city and fifty-one on the highway. But you shouldn’t take the numbers at face value. Hybrids have been found to average nineteen mpg lower than the estimate.

But don’t blame the automakers for discrepancy. The test used by the Environmental Protection Agency to determine a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is nineteen years old, and experts agree that it is in need of an update. Not only that, but your own personal driving habits can affect the efficiency of a hybrid.

“Short trips are the harshest on fuel economy, so anyone who drives just a few miles in his typical trip will see lower mpg numbers than someone who drives, say, 15 miles to work,” said Robert Bienenfield, senior manager of product planning at American Honda.

Fuel efficiency notwithstanding, there are other disadvantages to hybrids. Supply often can’t keep up with demand, so expect to wait a while for your new car. Also, you should thoroughly test a hybrid for comfort before you buy. For instance, the Prius is a very curvy vehicle on the inside, and if you’re taller, you might be uncomfortable in it.

But let’s look at the advantages of hybrid cars . While they are typically more expensive up front, you may become eligible for federal tax credits for hybrid automobiles of up to $3,400. You may also be eligible for state tax credits as well.

Initial research by insurance companies shows that hybrid owners tend to get into fewer accidents, and are offering discounts to hybrid drivers.

You might be concerned about repairs and maintenance of a hybrid, but this isn’t as big of a problem as you might think. All hybrid-specific components are covered by at least an eight year, one-hundred thousand mile warranty, depending on your state. In testing, hybrid components tend to have a much longer lifespan than this. Not only that, but hybrids typically don’t require any extra maintenance. The one exception is an air filter for the battery system of the Ford Escape hybrid, which needs replacement every 40,000 miles.

In fact, due to their regenerative braking, hybrids are typically much easier on brake pads.

“We’ve seen customers go 85,000 miles before they needed to replace their brakes on their Prius vehicles,” said Toyota’s Dave Hermance.

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