As my ancient and outdated car reaches the end of her lifespan and I’ve been on the hunt for newer, more tech-savvy, eco-friendly modes of transportation, I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the array of options. Electric cars are better for the environment, but they’re not exactly cheap. Hybrid cars offer dual engine support, but it costs a lot of cash to replace their batteries. There’s a lot to consider when you’re considering the jump from a standard vehicle to a hybrid or electric one; here are the main pros and cons to ponder.
They’re generally more environmentally friendly. While the environmental-friendliness of a hybrid vehicle depends on a few factors (how you drive it and how you charge it), electric cars require zero fuel, making them the superior choice when it comes to preserving the environment. Of course, electric cars produce zero greenhouse gas exhaust.
You may qualify for some tax breaks. Electric car owners can benefit from a tax credit just for driving an eco-friendly vehicle (the caveat is, you have to be the original owner of the car to cash in on that break). Depending on the make and model of your car, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500, but it’s best to work with a tax specialist to decipher the details for your specific situation. Hybrid owners may be eligible for tax credits too, depending on your state
You may get better mileage or performance in certain settings. Driving in the city more than on the freeway? Unlike standard vehicles, which tend to get better mileage on the highway versus urban environments, hybrid cars do better on city streets. And while electric cars have a shorter driving range than standard vehicles, their motors are smooth and quiet, and actually provide stronger acceleration and require less maintenance.
You’ll probably have to pay more upfront. Hybrids tend to cost more than standard cars, and electric cars can cost even more. But that looks like it’s starting to shift a bit: while the median retail price for all vehicles in the U.S. is $36,600, some new hybrids are available in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.
You’ll have to know where to charge them. The amount and availability of charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles is definitely on the rise, but it still takes more time and planning to charge than it does to pop into a standard gas station. Standard hybrid cars can recharge their batteries through a process called regenerative braking (driving on engine power), and still use gas as their primary power source. But plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles have to be charged at a station or at home, so you’ll need to factor that into your trip planning.
Different levels of power. Because hybrid cars have a twin powered engine, the combination of the small gasoline engine and small motor results in less power than one single standard gas-powered engine. Things are a little trickier when it comes to electric cars — some can accelerate faster but their top speeds still can’t reach those of standard vehicles.
Once you’re done car shopping, it will be time to shop for insurance. If you’re not already a pay-per-mile car insurance customer, consider taking a look.
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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.