My first job after I graduated college was as a Management Trainee at a nationally recognized rental car company. I spent well over a year test driving each and every vehicle in the fleet during our day to day operation. Hybrid cars are without a doubt completely awesome! They are more than worth it in so many ways. Stylistically I am turned off with the Toyota Prius. It just doesn’t look like a very cool car to me personally. I have always wondered why designers couldn’t make the Prius look more like a traditional sedan; it basically comes down to aerodynamics and a few other things that contribute to better gas mileage on the road. With that being said, no other Hybrid car out performs the Prius, that may change eventually but from what I have experienced it is the best. Hybrid vehicles are quiet; they produce very little road noise when operating at low speeds and on the highway as well. The myth for a long time has been that hybrid vehicles are electric motors wrapped around a piece of junk. In actuality, you get a very elegant vehicle with the same perks as other vehicles in its respective class and sometimes more.
From my experience in the car rental business, customer’s unwillingness to drive hybrid vehicles went from moderate to nearly non-existent when gas prices skyrocketed, again, in 2009. I enjoyed sitting with renters and giving them a “crash course” on how to operate the vehicle and sending them on their way. The reviews were always the same. With the exception of the prius, most other hybrid vehicles operate exactly like its standard counterpart and people absolutely love them. The handling, the maintenance, the high-tec feel, and trying something new all appealed to customers trying hybrids for the first time. The fuel savings alone make hybrid vehicles worth it in the short and long term in my opinion. Adding an extra 100 miles or more between fill-ups equates to hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars in savings for a lot of people over the course of a year.
We bought our cars in bulk when I was with the company so we paid a lot less than we would at a retail dealer. Even so, hybrids were more expensive up front compared to a vehicle in the same class and size range. The extra cost up front was well worth it from a business stand point. Hybrids have become extremely popular and we hardly ever had to run them to the gas station. Maintenance is not as complicated as many people think. The brakes, oil, and tires all require service just like a normal car would. The engine wears down slower because it is not working as hard as a standalone combustion engine is required to. And most importantly, the batteries used in most hybrids are environmentally friendly and they are designed to last the entire life of the vehicle.
Contrastingly, there are lines I just won’t cross when it comes to hybrid vehicles. Pickup trucks, SUVs’ and luxury hybrids are those lines. You will definitely get hammered with a premium price tag buying a hybrid from one of these categories. Unfortunately, you won’t get much performance for it. Some of the larger SUVs regularly exceed 50,000 dollars retail and they only advertise around 20 miles per gallon give or take a mile or two. It just doesn’t make much sense to pay the premium price for less than premium performance. If you absolutely must have an SUV, and you don’t mind wasting about 15 grand then go for it. The same goes for your pickups and especially luxury vehicles. While there is great value out there and hybrid technology is the next big tech wave, you should be careful when browsing the market because dealers are taking advantage of the “New Technology” and a lot of vehicles are a bit over priced. Look for the costs to drop significantly in the next few years. The EPA is putting more pressure on the government every year to improve emission standards. Rising gas prices have people desperately searching for alternate means of transportation. And government legislation is requiring that auto makers improve their overall product performance in the next few years as well. A lot of factors are contributing to the rapid shift to hybrid and full on electric vehicles nationwide in America.
If you can’t afford a hybrid vehicle right this minute, begin planning to make the switch within the next five years. Hybrid vehicles are worth their weight in gold right now. The ongoing crisis in the Middle East is a sign that we will not be able to rely on oil from foreign nations forever. We should take initiative and lower our own dependence on that oil by exploring new technologies. Hybrids are here to stay, they have proven their capabilities and the list of good qualities far outweighs the bad. The next time you are on the market for a vehicle I strongly suggest that you take a close look at all of the hybrid makes and models. You may be pleasantly surprised.