Car buyers who purchased hybrid cars have long enjoyed perks beyond spending less at the pump due to great fuel economy. Among the biggest additional perks were federal tax credits in the thousands of dollars for many buyers, as well as the privilege of driving in the carpool lanes in many states when driving solo.
These perks, however, have gone by the wayside. Hybrid car tax credits faded away at the end of last year. Many states have rescinded the use of the carpool lanes by hybrids, including this summer in California, the state where the sales of hybrid cars have been the strongest.
Federal and state legislators have dropped these perks for hybrids in favor of other alternative fuel vehicles that are at least partially powered by only electricity, called plug-in hybrids and electric cars. These vehicles -- which include the Chevrolet Volt, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf, the arriving-soon Toyota Prius PHV and the Tesla Roadster -- have federal tax incentives ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 along with a long list of many incentives at the state level, including state tax credits and carpool lane privileges. All these perks have piqued many car buyers interest, but especially that of hybrid car owners, many of whom are reeling from commute times that have doubled or tripled now that their carpool lane privileges have been revoked.
As more plug-in hybrids and electric cars arrive on the market, these perks will again be phased out, particularly as these cars become more commonplace. For car shoppers currently thinking about buying a plug-in hybrid or electric car, there are already quite a few choices on the market and reasonable priced, including several around $32,000.
Still, buying a plug-in hybrid or electric car solely so you can save money on gas may not be the most financially-savvy decision. Depending on your driving habits, the additional costs of these cars, even with the tax credits, may mean a long period of recoup for the extra dollars you'll pay. To help you determine if a plug-in hybrid, electric car or other alternative fuel car is right for you, read, "Should you trade for a fuel-efficient car?"
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.