Seven Great Reasons to Buy a Hybrid - And Six Bad Ones

August 19, 2008
2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Unpredictable gas prices and concerns over global warming have drivers and carmakers alike looking to hybrid vehicles. But is a hybrid the right choice for you?

There are many good reasons to buy a hybrid -- and some bad ones, too. Some people approach hybrids as a silver bullet to their gas bills. In some cases, it's true -- but some hybrids don't show a real-world improvement in fuel economy at all.

Some great reasons to buy a hybrid:

Your current car's at the end of its life cycle. Lots of drivers are thinking of selling their cars and getting a hybrid -- which means used-car prices for big SUVs are dropping like a rock, while hybrid prices are percolating. If you're planning on buying a new vehicle anyway, it's the perfect chance to downsize into a smaller hybrid vehicle. But if your vehicle is not on its last legs, you might not recoup the costs of going hybrid.

The hybrid you want qualifies for a tax break. Some hybrids, like the Prius, are no longer eligible for tax breaks. But new hybrid models, such as the Mazda Tribute, have up to a $3,000 tax credit available. Talk to your accountant or car dealer.

Your employer offers perks for hybrid drivers. Companies from Bank of America to Timberland give money or parking privileges to employees who own hybrids; ask your human resources manager.

Your hometown lets you drive in high occupancy (HOV) lanes if you drive alone in a hybrid. If traffic is an issue in your community, access to the carpool lane can be a big plus.

You're trading in a big gas-guzzler for a small hybrid. If you're going from 14 mpg to 30 mpg, that's great. But buying a hybrid version of something you already own -- going from a full-size SUV to a compact crossover hybrid -- is not enough.

Gas doubles in the next two years. If gas hits $8 a gallon in the U.S., every nickel's worth of fuel will count.

You want to make a difference. Buying a hybrid sends a clear message to car companies: if we buy more hybrids, they will make more.

And some lousy reasons to buy a hybrid:

You're doing it to save money now. You won't at first. A Honda Civic Hybrid costs about $2,500 more than the gas-only version; even at $4 a gallon, it could take you four years to recoup the cost.

You think it's less costly to own. It might use less gas, but at some point your hybrid will need its batteries replaced -- and if it is beyond the eight-year warranty that could cost you $3,000.

You think it will drive just like a regular car. It will, for the most part -- but hybrids have less sensitive steering and brakes, in general.

You want that magic fuel economy number on the window sticker. Even with changes to the EPA's testing cycle, those window stickers have optimistic city and highway ratings.

You think service is a thing of the past. Reality check: You will still need oil and tire changes.

You're doing it to be cool. Fashions are fickle. Enough said.

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