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Hybrid Cars: Hidden Drawbacks

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.

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. I plan on buying a car to use in Maine during the summer how will it affect the battery that is not used for 9 or 10 months hybrid batt

  2. So many things to consider when buying a car, it’s good to know the realities of “Saving money” versus the expectations.

  3. I drive less than 5k miles a year and am contemplating purchasing a 2015 Lexus RX 350. Should I go with gasoline or hybrid? Eddie Preijers.

  4. Good read. Do you know what if the battery is covered under warranty with Toyota being bought as a new car directly from the firm?

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