The short answer is that buying a used hybrid car will save you money in the long run as you will reduce your gasoline consumption. But as with buying any used vehicle, you need to understand why this is the case and determine which model is right for you. This means looking at many different hybrid cars for sale to see the features and design because all hybrid models are different. If you are a commuter, you may be fine with a subcompact hybrid car designed to get you from home to work safely and efficiently. But if you are a family driver, you may need a roomier hybrid model, like an SUV or midsize sedan.
You must also understand that buying a used hybrid vehicle will involve paying a premium. Most hybrids cost more than conventional gas engine models, especially when purchasing a hybrid option on a standard car or SUV. The goal is to recapture the premium you paid upfront by reducing your gas consumption over the life of your used hybrid vehicle. In essence, the longer you own your used hybrid, the more money you will save.
What Is a Hybrid Vehicle?
There has always been some confusion about the hybrid vehicle. Many people confuse it with a battery electric vehicle (EV or BEV) since both the hybrid and an EV have an electric motor powered by a battery pack, usually lithium-ion or nickel-hybrid, depending on the brand. However, an EV is fully electric; the only power source is the battery pack. In contrast, using the Atkinson cycle, a hybrid combines a gas engine with an electric motor. In addition to helping power the vehicle, the gas engine also runs a generator that helps keep the battery pack charged. In most EVs and hybrids, the battery pack also gets a slight energy recharge by using the brakes. This is called brake recapture and channels a part of the kinetic energy released to the battery pack, helping keep it charged up. This is part of why EVs and hybrids often get better range or fuel economy in city driving, which differs from conventional gas vehicles performing better in highway driving conditions.
Another common misconception is that you can charge every hybrid’s battery pack by plugging it into an electric socket. In fact, only models that are plug-in hybrids have this feature. This makes them more convenient but will cost more than a conventional, non-plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Purpose Built Hybrid Models
If you are looking for a used hybrid vehicle, the most common ones you are likely to encounter are older models that were purpose-built as hybrids. The first was the iconic Toyota Prius that debuted in Japan in 1997 before being released in America in time for the 2001 model year. This hybrid compact hatchback revolutionized the industry, showing that a vehicle with a combination of a gas engine and electric motor could not only deliver exceptional fuel economy but also give you solid speed and acceleration. Before the Prius, most drivers considered electric vehicles glorified golf carts, sluggish, small, and uncomfortable. The Prius proved these critics wrong.
Today, you can find several hybrid-only models for sale on the used market. For example, the Prius is currently in its fifth generation since 2023, showing the success of this model. The fourth-generation Prius shows how far this model has come in over 20 years. The 2020 Prius pairs a 1.8L 4-cylinder gas engine with a permanent magnet AC electric motor in the front axle, providing up to 58 mpg in city driving. The Prius is also available in an AWD model that adds a second electric motor for the rear axle. It gives you better traction while delivering an impressive 52 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway.
With the success of the Prius, other brands were quick to hop on the hybrid bandwagon. Chevy debuted the Volt in 2011 as that storied automaker’s first partially electric-powered model. The 2011 Volt had a more conventional midsize sedan design and combined a 1.4L I-4 with an AC synchronous electric motor powered by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This delivered 149 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, with 93 (MPGe) mpg in city driving on all electric power. This used the gas engine solely to keep the battery charged through the Volt’s generator. While the Volt was eventually discontinued after 2019, you can still find this model available on the used market.
One of the other models that has proven almost as popular as the Prius is the Kia Niro. This model premiered in 2017 and used a more conventional subcompact SUV design, showing that Kia wanted to capture the growing market for SUVs and hybrid vehicles. The Niro uses a 1.6L I-4 gas engine with an electric motor powered by a 1.56-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. This gives you exceptional fuel economy of up to 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway. With the success of the Niro, Kia opted to extend the platform by adding a plug-in hybrid model and an EV. Each of these can also be found on the used car market.
Popular Models With Hybrid Engine Options
Even though the first hybrid models were purpose-built for this powertrain type, it is difficult to demonstrate the savings you will achieve in buying a used Prius, Niro, or Volt. None of these models had a conventional gas engine counterpart, and determinations of fuel economy involve many other factors than just the vehicle’s powertrain. This is why it is often necessary to look at popular models that offer a hybrid engine option to demonstrate the improved fuel economy numbers achieved with this available powertrain.
In recent years, many leading automakers have begun offering a hybrid engine option on some of their most popular models. For example, you can find current models of the Honda Accord, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Sorento, and Ford F-150 with a hybrid engine option. No, that is not a typographical error. The Ford F-150, America’s most popular truck, is available as a hybrid.
Looking at these popular models allows us to see that buying a used hybrid will save you money by reducing the number of times you have to fill up your gas tank. With gas prices up over the past decade and no sign that they will come down, reducing fuel consumption will result in cash savings. The Honda Accord is one of the longest-running midsize sedan models, dating back almost 50 years. The 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid has a 2.0L I-4 gas engine with an AC synchronous permanent-magnet electric motor for up to 48 mpg combined. This is significantly better than the Accord with either gas engine, which at best can provide up to 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
Used Hybrid Crossovers, Suvs, and Pickup Trucks
Similar differences are shown in the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, a subcompact SUV. There are three different engine options, including a hybrid. While each conventional gas engine can get up to 22-28 mpg in the city, the hybrid gets an incredible 90 MPGe from the combination of the gas engine and electric motor.
Kia went a step further with the Sorento, its three-row SUV model. Starting in 2021, Kia began offering the Sorento with an optional hybrid powertrain. This provides family drivers the ability to save gas money by driving a used Sorento Hybrid. The 2021 model gets 39 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. This is significantly better than the two conventional gas engine options on the Sorento, which provide up to 24 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. While a used Sorento Hybrid will cost more than a conventional gas model from the same year and have a similar trim level, you will begin to repay this difference as soon as you have to start filling up Sorento’s gas tank.
The most striking use of a hybrid engine is on the Ford F-150 truck. Not only do you need to get from point A to point B in a truck, but you also will want to be able to use it for towing and hauling. So, fuel economy alone won’t be enough to move away from a conventional gas engine. The 2021 Ford F-150 introduced a 3.5L PowerBoost Turbo V6 Hybrid engine option to the already impressive lineup of engines on this truck. This engine delivers up to 430 hp, 570 lb-ft of torque, and 25 mpg in combined fuel economy, better than any of the other five powertrains on the 2021 F-150. It also allows you to tow up to 12,700 lbs and haul 2,120 lbs in the truck’s payload. These are impressive numbers for any car, let alone one with a hybrid powertrain.
Buying a Used Hybrid Vehicle Will Pay For Itself Over Time
You may need to pay more for a used hybrid model to save money. While this sounds like a paradox, it makes economic sense. The added upfront cost of buying a used hybrid vehicle will lead to more savings as you get better fuel economy, reducing your gas consumption. Best of all, hybrids come in all shapes, sizes, and designs, so you will find one that is right for you when you make your next vehicle a used hybrid model.