What To Know About Buying A Hybrid Vehicle
Recently a reader of my column in the Happy Herald contacted me regarding her A/C (air conditioning) not blowing cold air. She wanted to make an appointment to have it looked at, but during our conversation we also began discussing Hybrid vehicles. It seems she purchased a Chevy Volt back in 2007 and just loves it. But now she is in the market for another vehicle and was inquiring about the Hyundai Hybrid 2016.
I am not a fan of first year model vehicles since there are no reviews to fall back on before making such an expensive purchase. Also, no mechanical issues are documented, so you have no idea what problems there might be, and you, the consumer, become the guinea pig.
So, if you are in the market for a hybrid vehicle, let’s go over a few things to think about prior to signing on that dotted line.
1) Check out all manufacturers that offer Hybrids.
2) Research any related issues, or check for reviews (if not first year model).
3) What is your insurance going to cost?
4) Is there any information on resale values for Hybrids, since one day you might want to trade it in, or trade up?
5) What is the batteries’ life span and what is the cost to replace them, if needed??
It’s true that batteries aren’t cheap, and at some point down the line they will have expended their useful life and require replacement. But what do these packs actually cost, if and when that replacement date comes?
I’ve previously looked at many articles discussing the cost of replacing battery packs in the first-generation 2001-2003 Toyota Prius, but with several other hybrids on the market from Toyota alone, which they wanted to investigate further.
Replacement is rare.
The first, and most reassuring thing you should know about these battery packs, is that replacement is a rare occurrence.
Toyota stated that their engineers considered the NiMH batteries in Prius and other Toyota hybrids to be a life-of-the-car component. It could be several owners and hundreds of thousands of miles down the line before the pack requires replacement, at which point the car itself may well be past its prime.
That’s backed up by stories like the 300,000-mile Ford Escape hybrid taxis, and Consumer Reports recently tested a 215,000-mile 2003 Prius and found its performance had barely diminished. In the latter, the only component that had needed replacement was a fan belt, at 127,000 miles.
Warranties are long
Toyota clearly has confidence in its battery packs, and offers an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty in most states. In states that adopt California’s emissions regulations, that rises to 10-years/150,000-miles.
So, in a worst-case scenario, any battery failure or significant performance drop-off will be covered by the warranty for up to a decade. That is impressive.
Now that we have discussed batteries, what are the pros and cons of Hybrid vehicles?
• Clean energy. An electric motor together with a gas powered engine make a vehicle that has lower emissions and better gas mileage. It conserves energy while having the power of a standard engine.
• Performance improvements. New technologies allow hybrids the same kind of performance as normal cars, and they are continuing to be developed, improving efficiency, getting better mileage, and reducing emissions even further.
• Incentives. Varying from state to state and federally, hybrids may come with a tax benefit and savings in the form of much less money spent on fuel.
• Regenerative braking. Each time you brake, the battery is recharged a little, eliminating the need for stopping to recharge the battery periodically.
• Lower fossil fuel dependence. Because hybrids are much cleaner and require less fossil fuel to run them, they ultimately help to reduce the dependence on foreign oil and do their part to lower prices domestically.
• Lighter weight. Because hybrids are constructed using lighter materials, the car does not have to expend as much energy to do the same task.
• A smaller engine. Again, a smaller engine means a lighter one, and because there is less cylinder displacement, the engine does not have to work as hard, and a hybrid uses far less fuel in the process.
• Higher resale values. As more and more people are turning to hybrid vehicles to help save money on annual fuel bills and protect the environment, used hybrid vehicles are commanding higher than average resale values. Many popular fuel-efficient vehicles, such as cars made by Honda and Toyota, have always enjoyed high resale values, and the hybrid versions of vehicles made by these manufacturers are demanding even higher selling prices. So, in the event you need to sell a hybrid vehicle, it is safe to assume that you will be able to recoup much more of your investment than you would with a standard gasoline engine powered vehicle.
Depending on how you drive, a hybrid car might not be the right choice for you, because they tend to perform quite a bit differently than the vehicles most of us are used to.
• Lower power output. These vehicles are built for economy, not for speed. The gasoline engine (which is the car’s primary source of power) is much smaller than in comparable vehicles. If you need more acceleration than the conventional engine can provide, the electric motor assists in getting the car going. However, even with extra help, the total power output of the hybrid platform is often less than that of a comparable gas powered car.
• Poorer handling. Hybrids as a rule don’t handle as well as conventionally-powered vehicles. The reason for this is centered around the issue of weight. Extra weight results in a loss of fuel efficiency, so manufacturers tend to cut weight wherever possible. Hybrids generally have less bracing and support in the suspension and body, and they use lighter-duty components than in cars that are more performance-focused.
• Higher center of gravity. A car’s center of gravity and weight distribution has a huge effect on how it drives. Vehicle manufacturers do their best to distribute the weight as well as they can, but it’s just not possible to mitigate this factor completely. Hybrids are usually front-wheel drive, and the easiest and safest place for the batteries tend to be in the rear of the car. This distributes weight away from the drive wheels which tends to have a negative effect on performance.
• Sticker shock. The price difference of hybrid cars versus standard vehicles is considerable. In many cases, the hybrid electric version of a vehicle may cost between $5000 and $10,000 more than the standard version. Many consumers will simply not be able to afford the price difference in the two types of vehicles regardless of how much money may or may not be saved with the better fuel efficiency of hybrid vehicles.
• Higher maintenance costs. Hybrid vehicles also cost more to repair because of the complexity of the dual compulsion system used in most hybrid vehicles. Not all mechanics are trained, or equipped, to work on hybrid vehicles, and repair bills will be larger than with standard ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. Also, because of the increased weight of hybrid vehicles, you can expect to replace tires and brakes more frequently.
If you are in the market for a Hybrid, or just in the consideration stage, I hope this has helped to give you a little more food for thought. Do your homework and make the right choice.
Reference: Green Car Reports