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Hybrid vs. electric: How to choose

Close-up of the back of a car and its 'hybrid' logo under the taillight
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If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you might be thinking about an entirely new approach to driving that involves fewer — or no — trips to the gas station. As more car manufacturers unveil new electric-powered models, drivers are pondering making the switch. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that nearly 40 percent of Americans are at least somewhat likely to consider an electric car the next time they get something new for their garages.  

If you’re in that crowd, there’s a bigger question you’ll need to answer. Should you leave some room for gas or go all-in on electric? Compare the upsides and downsides of hybrid versus electric vehicles before you head to the dealer. 

How to choose between a hybrid and EV 

There is no right or wrong answer when you are choosing between a hybrid versus electric. Instead, you need to think about a wide range of factors, including where you live, what you currently spend on gas, how committed you are to reducing your carbon footprint and more. 

Hybrid models are commonly referred to as PHEVs, which stands for plug-in electric vehicles. These can use either gas or electricity as a power source. If you’re considering a specific hybrid model, one of the best places to start is with the U.S. Department of Energy’s plug-in hybrid calculator. You can share some information on your driving habits and your home power setup to get an estimate of your annual fuel and electricity costs and estimated number of trips to the gas station. 

If you’re planning to ditch gas entirely with an EV, you’ll have plenty of choices to consider. From traditional car manufacturers to new names like Lucid and Rivian, the entire auto world is trying to develop all-electric cars that can accelerate the energy transition. “If you are OK with planning your routes in terms of mileage and have a charger at home or work,” says Ronald Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds, “you’re the ideal candidate for an all-electric vehicle.” To get a sense of where charging stations are currently located, start with the Electrify America map. 

Hybrid benefits and drawbacks 

As you look at the numbers from the plug-in hybrid calculator, here’s a rundown of the major pros and cons of hybrid vehicles. 

Benefits 

  • You won’t worry about running out of power. Because hybrid vehicles still allow you to use gas, you will be covered by more than 150,000 gas stations in the country. “If you don’t want to plan out the miles on your route, you feel as though you have range anxiety or may not have many charge stations around, a plug-in hybrid is a better choice for you,” says Montoya. 
  • You’ll spend less money each month. While every car has a different price tag, hybrid vehicles tend to have lower payments than all-electric vehicles. So, in addition to saving some money on gas compared to an all-gas-powered car, you’ll keep your monthly auto payment under control.

Drawbacks 

  • You’re still going to spend at the pump. Hybrid vehicles don’t have a long range for operating on electricity. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency pegs the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s electric-only range at 42 miles. For longer trips, gas is still the primary mode. 
  • You’re still going to emit plenty of carbon. In addition to the costs you will pay, it is important to note that hybrid cars still have a big cost on the environment. If you’re serious about doing your part to lower your carbon footprint, you should know that a hybrid car’s gas usage will continue to play a role in polluting the planet. “The plug-in hybrid will reduce your fuel consumption,” Montoya says, “but not entirely.” 

Full electric car benefits and drawbacks 

Even ideal candidates will need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of purchasing a new electric vehicle. 

Benefits 

  • You can skip out on paying high gas prices. The cost of a gallon of gas has been on the rise, increasing by nearly $1 from 2021 to 2022, according to AAA. With an all-electric vehicle, you don’t need to worry about the price at the pump. 
  • You’ll make a positive impact on the planet. As businesses and governments try to figure out how to tackle climate change, individuals can do something about it, too. One of the biggest steps is buying an electric vehicle. “If your goal is to completely get off fossil fuels, you’ll want an EV,” Montoya says. 

Drawbacks 

  • You might need to search for a place to charge your car. If your battery is low, finding a place to charge it isn’t as simple as finding a gas station to refill. “You’ll find that both coasts of the U.S. have the most charge stations,” Montoya says. “It’s when you get into the north-central states like Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming where they become more sparse.” But the future of electric cars looks bright with more charging stations and plans from the federal government to bring down prices — meaning this drawback won’t be around forever. 
  • You may be waiting a while for each charge to complete. While fast public charging stations are becoming more common, some of the most basic charging stations — available at your home — take a long time to deliver the juice to go far. For example, 120V charging stations offer the ability to go two to five miles for every hour of charging. That is okay if you are charging overnight, but it isn’t convenient if you need a quick fill-up. 
  • You are going to pay more. All new cars are more expensive right now, but electric cars tend to come with higher sticker prices and higher monthly payments than the gas car you’re used to driving. Your insurance bill may be more, too. A study from financial technology company Self showed that insurance costs for electric cars average more than $400 higher than gas cars. 

The bottom line 

Whether you decide to buy a hybrid or electric car, you’re going to need plenty of money to buy a new vehicle right now. Since prices are at record highs, it’s even more important to take your time and consider what suits your lifestyle better. You might not want to take too much time, though. Auto loan rates are projected to increase throughout 2022, so compare your options today to see if you can lock in a competitive deal on financing for your new car. 

 

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin is a contributing writer for Bankrate and covers topics like credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
Edited by
Auto loans editor