How to Compare Hybrid Cars to Regular Cars

Mileage

Hybrids have been marketed as fuel savers since day one, but you need to take a close look at your driving conditions and habits. Hybrids work best in stop and go traffic since they don't have to idle, but for long highway miles, you might be better off with a diesel commuter car.

Cost of Ownership

Hybrids typically command a $2,000 to $4,000 premium over their gas counterparts. However, the five year cost of ownership for a hybrid will generally offset the buy-in premium, which is about $300 saved for a Honda Civic Hybrid versus standard, and $1,800 for a Ford Escape Hybrid versus standard.

Government Incentives

Cost of ownership includes government tax credits, which make up a big portion of the savings and can vary by year. A tax credit will also do you little good if it doesn't bump you down a tax bracket or you are already below the earned-income minimum for that year.

Durability

Hybrids are a constantly evolving technology, meaning that durability over the long term is still undetermined for many. All else being equal, a powertrain that's been around for 15 years in a relatively unchanged state should prove more reliable than a brand-new design. Hybrid technology can make a significant difference in fuel mileage, but whether one is right for you depends on a number of factors. Doing some homework beforehand will ensure that saving money today won't cost you later.