Are hybrid vehicles worth the higher up-front costs? Consumer Reports says yes

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With gas prices at or near record highs, if you're in the market to buy a car right now, you might be considering a hybrid vehicle. But if you are trying to figure out if they are worth the higher up-front costs, you are not alone. Consumer Reports wondered that too and as a result did the homework for you.

"Hybrids have a gasoline-powered engine and a battery-powered electric motor that work together to optimize efficiency. We compared hybrid and non-hybrid versions of some popular vehicles and found that fuel savings could make up for many hybrids' additional up-front purchase price," said Alex Knizak, Consumer Reports car expert.

Using a gas price of $4 per gallon and driving 12,000 miles a year, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid will pay off its higher cost in four years. The Honda Accord Hybrid in three years and the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid in only two years. And if gas prices go up to $5 per gallon, the payback period for the Santa Fe Hybrid could drop to just one year.

"Beyond fuel economy, some hybrids perform better in our tests than the gas-only version of the same model. For example, the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid rides better, quieter, and shifts smoother than the gas-only Santa Fe and it's quicker in our acceleration tests too," said Knizak.

Consumer Reports also found hybrids often have higher owner satisfaction scores than their conventional counterparts.

And if a new hybrid isn't in your budget, consider a used one.

"When buying a used car, we say the sweet spot is to look for a well-maintained 5-year-old vehicle. Not only has it gone through a significant part of the depreciation cycle, but it was also designed and built recently enough to get modern safety and convenience features."

By the way, there are 1,131 electric vehicle charging stations across Pennsylvania, including in 108 in Philadelphia.

And if you're not quite ready for a hybrid, you can find a list of Consumer Reports' fuel efficient gasoline powered vehicles here.
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