The Real Costs Of Owning A Hybrid

After buying a hybrid, know what to expect at the service shop.
By Alison Lakin
You've heard all about the joys of saving gas money while owning a hybrid. Perhaps you've been envious of your neighbor with the Toyota Prius or the friend with a hybrid Honda Civic. In addition to their stellar mpg, hybrids are at the forefront of an environmental shift in the automotive world; but, if you are thinking about buying one, can you be sure that maintaining this piece of green machinery won't break the bank?

A hybrid drivetrain has two power sources: an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which work in unison or independently to produce a more resourceful car. When driving, the required power is supplied from the motor or engine most efficient for the specific task. The electric motor powers the initial start of your drive, as well as low speed driving. But at high speeds, the fuel engine takes over, spreading the load between the two components but also increasing fuel consumption.

There are some differences between hybrids. For example, the ones called 'mild' can't go far with just the electric motor, they need more help from the fuel engine. Others have an engine off at idle feature, saving more gas by shutting down the engine while you're stopped. However, most engine and electric motor components have the same maintenance throughout the different types of hybrids.

The basic maintenance on a hybrid's internal combustion engine is similar to a regular car's; you'll still be taking it in for oil changes and such. Regular maintenance on the electric engine is a bit different, and this is good news. Barring any problems, it doesn't need a real service for up to 80,000 miles or 4-5 years. Wouldn't it be nice if all unpleasant events could be avoided for five years? We’re talking to you, Dr. Drill-A-Lot.

There are certain elements of the hybrid that you will hit your wallet hard though. A mechanic can only work on a hybrid if he has been specially trained, making auto shops that perform maintenance on hybrids a rarity. When the time comes to service the electrical components, the bill will set you back more than for a regular car.

Another component to consider is the cooling system. The one in a hybrid is more technical than a regular cooling system and it takes more effort to replace, meaning it's going to cost more. Thankfully, this maintenance won't happen for about 100,000 miles, and perhaps the glee from your gas savings over that time will put you in good mood when the need for this service rolls around.

A hybrid can save you a significant amount of money thanks to its regenerative braking system, which uses the electric motor to help stop the car. The regenerative brakes last a lot longer, reducing brake maintenance by a huge percentage.

Small disparities aside, hybrid-specific maintenance isn't much more expensive than a regular car's, and hybrids even have advanced technology that reduces costs in some areas, like the regenerative braking. And of course, gas savings should balance out some of the extra maintenance fees. As long as you know that there will be some areas of difference between maintaining it versus a regular car, there's no reason to avoid buying a hybrid.

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