Tips on Shopping for a Hybrid Vehicle

Many people these days are looking into alternative fuel and energy vehicles when it comes time to toss the old clunker and get a new form of transportation. This is not only a great way to do your part concerning the upkeep of the environment; it can also be a fantastic way to save money on fuel prices that remain high (despite recent drops in the cost of petroleum products). So whether you’re a tree-loving friend of Gaia or you just want to save a few bucks on the commute, you may be in the market for a hybrid vehicle.

Honda Insight Hybrid Car

But before you run out and sign the papers on a Prius there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

1. Type of hybrid. There are actually a couple of different types of hybrid on the market these days. The first is your average, run-of-the-mill Toyota Prius or Ford Focus that uses the electric engine until it runs out of juice and then switches to gas power (while returning energy to the electric side). The second type is the new breed of plug-in hybrid, which can be charged up via charging stations (the Chevy Volt is in this category). Although this type is a little more expensive, it is the only style that now enjoys government rebates (up to $7,000 for the vehicle and up to $2,000 for the charging station installation, plus whatever rebates your state offers – in California it could be as much as an additional $5,000).

2. Recalls. Unfortunately, one of the most popular hybrids, the Prius, underwent a series of recalls over the last couple of years (most recently in June of this year, to address a steering problem found on certain model years). Although newer models are likely to be much safer due to over-compensation, it’s still something to think about.

3. Size. There are a couple of SUV-sized hybrids on the road (although their mpg is still pretty disappointing). So if you’re looking to really save at the pump you’re probably going to have to sacrifice some space in the process. Fortunately, there are a lot more mid-size options entering the marketplace for those who simply can’t get by with a compact car.

4. Cost. Prices have definitely seen a decline in recent years (coming more in line with comparably sized, gas-guzzling counterparts). But still, the newer plug-ins can be pretty pricy, especially when you start tacking on bells and whistles like navigation, solar powered vent fans, Sirius satellite radio, and so on. Luckily, the newest models also come with the most rebates (and most come with improved fuel efficiency over older models).

5. Insurance. When you approach your policy holder about a car insurance quote for your new vehicle, you may be disappointed to discover that the cost is the same as (or even higher than) your old car. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, you just bought a new car and the main thing that insurance is based on is the relative value of the vehicle (which is pretty high when the car is new). Also, your lender probably requires full coverage (rather than standard liability) insurance until you pay off the loan. Finally, some of the components of a hybrid vehicle (the battery, for example) are pretty expensive to replace, so that might jack up the price a bit. However, there are insurance providers (not many) that have begun to offer minor discounts for drivers that purchase eco-friendly vehicles. It can be tempting to stay with your long-term provider, but it behooves you to shop around.

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