Should you invest in a hybrid?

July 15, 2014 12:00 AM

As gas prices continue to rise, more and more consumers are looking toward vehicles that maximize their mileage. Hybrid vehicle models are often the answer to this problem. According to Edmunds, hybrid cars are defined as vehicles that use more than one form of onboard energy to propel the car forward. These cars do not use alternative fuel - like electric cars - but instead utilize their electric parts to reuse fuel that is normally wasted in standard vehicles. Standard features of hybrids that differentiate them from other vehicles are motor-generators, stop-start capabilities, regenerative braking, and electric drive, explained Edmunds. 

Unique features
Hybrid cars typically have electric motors - sometimes even two or three - that help give the car a little extra push when accelerating by drawing from its battery. Stop and start functions allow the car to shut off for brief periods of time at stoplights, engaged when the driver presses on the brake. Upon releasing the break, the engine will automatically start again. This feature is especially significant for city drivers, as a lot of extra gas is wasted idling at stoplights. As you brake in a hybrid, regenerative brakes also help the battery recharge. Though hybrids still require gasoline to operate, some models have enough battery power and electrical capability to drive entirely via electricity for a period of time, saving the driver significant amounts of gasoline overall. 

Possible savings
The potential for fuel savings for a hybrid is undisputable. When you factor in the generally higher price tag on hybrid models and additional vehicle maintenance, overall savings can be a little less definite. However, if you are looking to spend less on gas and be a little kinder to the environment, hybrids are the way to go. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 2014 Toyota Prius 2 will save you $15.62 per week on gasoline - $812 a year - compared to a 2014 Toyota Camry. It would only take six months to make up the market price difference between the two models. 

What to buy in 2014
It's proven that hybrids save users significant amounts of money in gasoline, and therefore more and more manufacturers are producing hybrid versions of their most popular vehicle models. For 2014, the two most popular hybrid models are the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight. The Prius has been a staple of the hybrid marketplace for years, making it the most popular choice for consumers. Though Honda has tried to compete with its Insight, the Prius still outweighs the competition with its horsepower and mpg. Where the Honda Insight has 41 city and 44 highway mpg, the Prius outranks its competition with 51 city and 48 highway mpg. For obvious reasons regarding fuel economy, the Prius model would be ideal for city-dwellers. 

There are also different variations of the Prius, including the Prius V, Prius Plug-in and Prius c. The first offers more storage space than the traditional model, the second is a fully electric model, and the last is a more compact version of the original. Depending on your needs, Toyota may have a specific variation of the Prius that suits your lifestyle and location. 

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