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Car Buying

Hybrid Cars: Hidden Drawbacks

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2013

More than a decade after the debut of the first hybrid car, hybrid technology remains popular with shoppers. But while hybrid cars offer a major cost savings at the pump, they can come with extra expenses, as well. We've examined a few of them to let drivers know that going with a hybrid could cost more in the long run.

Battery Issues

The biggest drawback to a hybrid car is the battery systems. Nearly all hybrid cars use batteries that are integrated into the powertrain. That's good news when you're on the road, since it means the car operates under battery power some of the time. The result is better gas mileage.

The problem comes when the batteries can no longer hold a charge. Like the batteries in your TV remote, they'll eventually go flat, and they'll need to be replaced. Otherwise the car will no longer work, since the batteries are part of the powertrain.

But unlike the batteries in your remote, it's not a question of buying more from the grocery store. Instead, you'll have to buy a new battery from a dealership or a refurbished one from a mechanic. A new battery can cost upwards of $2,500. And while a refurbished unit can be cheaper, it may not last as long.

Worse, there's no way to know when the battery might go flat. Many hybrids can last up to 150,000 miles on their original batteries, while some batteries fail as early as 90,000. At that level, buying a used hybrid can be a big risk.

Do the Math

We understand there are many reasons to buy a hybrid. For some drivers, it's about making an environmental statement. But for shoppers who just want to save money, a hybrid may not be the way to go.

A Toyota Prius, for example, is several thousand dollars more expensive than the similarly sized Toyota Corolla. And while it gets better fuel economy than the Corolla, it would take years to make up the price difference. In fact, depending on your driving style, it could take up to a decade -- and that can make a hybrid far less enticing than a gas-powered car.

In many cases, choosing a hybrid is a good pick. But it's important for shoppers to know there are still a few drawbacks to modern hybrid cars.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Hybrid Cars: Hidden Drawbacks - Autotrader