What you need to know

A hybrid car uses a combination of a combustion engine and electrical motor to power the vehicle. This allows the vehicle to use either petrol or electricity as a fuel source, although in most cases the car uses both simultaneously.There are actually several types of hybrid cars, including parallel hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and range extender hybrids. Each one has unique characteristics while still featuring both a combustion engine and electrical motor.

Hybrid cars work in different ways depending on the type. Here’s a breakdown of how each of the main types of hybrid work:

Parallel Hybrids – The most widely available, with the Toyota Prius being a popular example of this type of hybrid. These hybrids are powered by either the petrol engine, combustion engine, or both at the same time. Electricity powers the car at lower speeds while the petrol engine starts up as the need for more power increases. When the car slows down or brakes are used, a regenerative braking system gathers electricity and stores it in the car’s battery for later use. 

Plug-in HybridsAs the name suggests, this type of hybrid car is plugged in directly to a power outlet to charge the batteries. This allows the driver to have a fully charged battery prior to any journey, which is especially useful when driving in cities a low speeds, as your emissions are kept to a minimum. 

They tend to have larger batteries than a parallel hybrid, providing them with a greater range when using just electricity. Many view plug-ins as a halfway point between a parallel hybrid and a fully electric vehicle. 

Range Extender Hybrid – Unlike other hybrids, a range extender hybrid only uses its combustion engine to charge the batteries running the electrical motor. This means the petrol engine doesn’t actually drive the car wheels at any point, which is the case with other hybrids. 

Studies suggest that hybrid cars are generally safer than regular cars. For example, a study comparing insurance claims of hybrids and regular cars from 2003-2011 noted there is a 25% less chance of injury in a hybrid car.

The main reason that hybrids are thought to be safer is because they are heavier than regular cars, being on average 10% heavier. This additional weight offers more safety in an auto accident, namely making it harder to destroy and offering passengers more protection.

There are other ways that a hybrid car can be viewed as safer than a regular car. For instance, most hybrid car owners drive slower than regular car owners, as this maximises the electrical output to reduce emission. Because slower vehicles are less of a risk in auto accidents, hybrids are considered safer to drive.

Yes, hybrids are more fuel efficient compared to regular cars, although there are certain conditions required to maximise efficiency. For example, electricity powers the vehicle only a lower speeds, with the petrol engine kicking in when you need more speed. 

That means that the fuel efficiency is maximised with slower driving. This is mostly achieved in busy towns and cities that have speed restrictions, allowing hybrid cars to mostly operate on electricity, reducing reliance on fuel. 

Furthermore, regenerative braking is more frequent in cities because of how often you need to slow down and brake. This provides additional energy to be gained when driving, further improving fuel efficiency in busier areas. 

The rise in hybrid car ownership is no surprise when considering the various benefits that they provide. Here are just a few of the main benefits of owning a hybrid car:

Eco-Friendly – The entire concept of a hybrid car is based around reducing emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels. This is because hybrids use less petrol so carbon emission output is reduced, especially compared to a regular car. 

When buying a hybrid, you commit to helping reduce the impact that your car has on the environment. Given the current issues regarding climate change, we need to do everything we can to help save the environment, with hybrids offering drivers an eco-friendly alternative.

Better Fuel Economy – Hybrid cars are highly regarded for their fuel efficiency, meaning you get more bang for your buck when buying fuel compared to a petrol car. For example, a Toyota Prius offers around 30 km per litre, whereas the Toyota Avensis (which is similar in size to the Prius) offers around 17 km per litre. 

So, you save more money on fuel costs, particularly when frequently commuting in busier towns and cities with lots of traffic. 

Higher Resale Value – While they do cost more on average than a regular car, hybrid cars also retain much more of their value over time. This is good news for reselling your car, as you’re likely to get more resale value for a hybrid than you would a regular car of the same age. 

Regenerative Braking – One of the core features of a hybrid car, regenerative braking helps to recharge the battery of the car using energy produced by the vehicle itself. This reduces the reliance on plug-in power sources, letting the vehicle recharge its battery by simply driving.

Anyone that has considered buying a hybrid car has probably noticed that they are more expensive than regular cars. While costs vary, they can cost a few thousand dollars more than other cars, which is unfortunate as it often discourages more people from buying one.

The main reason that hybrid cars are more expensive than regular cars is that they are more advanced. They feature complex electrical batteries and engines that cost more to produce than a combustion engine, while the relatively newness of the technology prevents it from being cheap to produce.

That said, while the initial cost of a hybrid car is more expensive, they are generally cheaper to run, especially in cities, so these savings can offset the higher cost of the car. Also, they retain their value better than most cars, while there are many used hybrid cars that are available for reasonable prices. 

There is a misconception that hybrid cars cost more to maintain as mechanics don’t know as much about them and replacement parts are more expensive. This isn’t the case as hybrid cars are often cheaper to maintain compared to regular vehicles. 

Hybrids increased (and rapidly growing!) popularity has resulted in a flourishing hybrid service industry, making finding a qualified service provider only a quick local Google search away.

Parts also come with impressive warranties from most manufacturers, often covering the cost of any broken or faulty components. 

In fact, because a hybrid car switches between power sources, they can often be cheaper to maintain compared to a regular car. For instance, when driving fully electric in a hybrid the combustion engine shuts down, meaning it’s generally used less often than normal cars. 

Brake pads tend to wear a slower rate due to regenerative braking systems, while there are many hybrid cars that do not even need any electrical parts to be replaced. Batteries are generally the costliest part to repair or replace, although many manufacturers offer great deals on battery replacements. 

As mentioned, battery replacement is easily the highest costing maintenance for a hybrid car. How long you get from the battery depends on the make and model of the car, although most come with an impressive lifespan.

For example, Toyota offers a 160,000 km/five-year warranty on all electric batteries for their hybrid vehicles. Basically, you get a replacement battery for free if anything goes wrong before you hit 160,000 kilometre or five years of ownership. 

Most manufacturers offer solid guarantees with the battery and many other components of a hybrid. The newer the model, the longer the battery life is generally going to be, while the frequency of driving will also determine how long the battery lasts.

So, the number of kilometres driven is most likely to determine how often you need a replacement. Even those driving frequently each day can expect many years out of their battery, in most cases the battery lasts the same duration as the car itself. 

Plus, with the average ownership of a car being around 6-7 years, most people will look to replace their hybrid around the same time the battery is likely to die. In many cases, people never need to replace their battery before getting a new car!

This depends on the manufacturer though as not all hybrids are made to same high standards!

Yes, hybrid cars are better for the environment than regular cars. This is because they require less petrol to operate, so produce less carbon emissions than cars with combustion engines. The simple fact of using more electricity and less fuel to run the car means hybrids are less harmful to the environment. 

There are ways to enhance the eco-friendliness of the car too. For instance, hybrids are best used in cities because the slower traffic allows them to be powered entirely by electricity, as the combustion engine only starts working when you need to reach higher speeds.

Also, the more regenerative braking the hybrid does, the better it is for the environment, meaning parallel hybrids are often viewed as being the more eco-friendly option. This is because the car is using energy it generates to recharge the battery rather than needing to plug it in and charge. 

This is why driving a hybrid in a city is such a good idea, as the frequent decelerating and braking help to provide more battery charge. Even when using power sources to charge the vehicle, the fact that hybrids produce between 20-35% less emissions highlights their positive impact on the environment. 

Hybrids are usually best-suited to short-distance driving, with traffic-heavy conditions often being more beneficial for the car. This is because there is less reliance on the combustion engine at slower speeds while you don’t need to worry about the range the battery offers over a short distance.

Conversely, long-distance driving isn’t the best for a hybrid, although the combustion engine certainly makes it possible. Doing so does somewhat reduce the positive impact the hybrid has on the environment, as you’re still using a lot fuel when driving. 

Many hybrids are equipped with different driving modes to suit different conditions. For instance, the Toyota Prius has three driving modes – eco, normal, and power. The latter offers more power for those challenging conditions. 

Just like with normal cars, there are several hybrid makes and models that are considered better than others. Many manufacturers have only recently embraced hybrid vehicles, so hopefully many more great options become available in the coming years.

Toyota is widely considered the best manufacturer of hybrid cars. The Toyota Prius is possibly the most famous hybrid in the world and is the best-selling in its category in many countries. In fact, the Prius has been a top selling hybrid for over 20 years with more than 6 million accumulative sales, meaning it accounts for over 60% of all the 10 million hybrids sold by Toyota. Other great Toyota hybrids include the Yaris, CR-HR, Corolla, and Camry, Coming with a great price, excellent fuel efficiency, and ample space has helped solidify the Prius status as the world’s best hybrid. There are many other great hybrids available however, with some of the best models currently available including:

  • BMW i3
  • Audi A3 e-tron
  • WV Golf GTW
  • Lexus RX450h
  • Lexus UX
  • Kia Niro
  • Honda CR-V
  • Honda CR-8
  • Hyundai Ioniq

Figuring out the best hybrid car is quite difficult as there are so many options available. Your driving habits also influence the suitability of the hybrid, so it’s rarely a case of one size fits all. Here are some things to consider that can help you find the best hybrid car:

Distance – Do you drive mostly short distances or long distances? Short distance driving is great for parallel hybrids and plug-ins, as you can let them run on just their batteries without needing to use any fuel. 

Budget – Hybrids are usually more expensive so be sure to consider a budget when looking for a good option. There are many great-priced hybrids, such as the Prius, that are suitable for most budgets.

Range – Always check the range that a hybrid has when running on just the battery. This gives a clear idea of how far the car runs on battery power alone. More expensive models tend to come with a better range as their batteries are larger and more advanced.

Size – Smaller hybrids are much cheaper and more fuel efficient, although they lack the power and range of larger counterparts. Consider the engine size as well as the car size, especially if you need space for your family.  

Quick guide



The big-picture

Trends come and go. The best car for you is always the car best suited to your needs and budget.

However, hybrids have truly earned their trending status. They offer unparalleled fuel economy for the average urban driver, utilise some crazy-smart technology (self-charging batteries), some nice lifestyle benefits such as a quieter engine and – feel-good bonus! – have less impact on the environment that conventional vehicles.

Hybrid popularity has enjoyed an explosion in growth which has several trickle down benefits to any would-be hybrid car owner – namely, manufacturers broadening their offerings from budget to luxury and the used car market being flooded with a huge selection of quality used hybrid vehicles. It’s a big win for the savvy used car consumer. And manufacturers.

Hybrid cars becoming more affordable simplifies the decision making process to a few key points: Whether high-performance, high speeds and lots of power are an absolute must-have; If fuel expenses are a concern; The ratio of long-distance driving versus shorter A to B driving within urban areas.

When comparing prices between hybrids and conventional cars, think big-picture. Factor in the hybrid’s lower fuel and maintenance costs. The perceived price difference in comparison to a regular vehicle often pays for itself (and more) over time.

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