It’s tough to sell hybrids when gas prices are low. Electric motors drive up the sticker price of cars and SUVs, so consumers are unwilling to plunk down the extra cash for a more efficient vehicle when it might take years to repay the premium. A look at the hybrids delivering the worst value compared to similar gasoline models reveals it can take decades in some cases. That’s the bad news.
The good news you can find hybrids that are available with little to no markup over standard models. Consumers who want the superior economy just take the benefits gratis. With other models, the premium only takes a few years to be worth it. As gas prices creep back toward $3 per gallon on the West Coast, hybrids are again stating their case to U.S. consumers. Here are the five best value hybrids on the market in 2016.
Note: Comparisons of standard versus hybrid models sourced at Fueleconomy.gov, which provides a consumer guide with calculations based on 15,000 miles of driving per year with 55% done in the city. Gas prices used were $2.34, the average at press time. Where gas prices are higher, the hybrids listed here become even better values.
5. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited
Only Prius is selling better than the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in this segment in 2016. This popular crossover achieves a peak of 33 miles per gallon in Hybrid Limited trim ($33,610), far superior to the 25 miles per gallon in a standard Limited model with all-wheel drive ($32,910). You don’t compromise on traction in the hybrid edition, either, as it comes with standard electronic on-demand all-wheel drive with intelligence (AWD-i). The premium ($700) can be repaid within 2.1 years or less.
4. Toyota Prius Two
Since Prius has no non-hybrid model, fueleconomy.gov chose a Camry LE model ($23,070) that can get 28 miles per gallon combined. For a paltry $1,130 more, consumers looking for greater economy can select a 2016 Prius Two ($24,400) capable of 52 miles per gallon combined. This premium takes just two years to pay back — less if you’re in California. Consumers would compromise on passenger volume by picking Prius over Camry, but the cargo volume is much greater in the hybrid compared to the midsize sedan.
3. Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium
If there is any knock on the 2016 Ford Fusion, it would be the car’s interior in base models. Consumers won’t have that problem in Titanium editions, which come standard with the leather you expect in a car that looks so good on the outside. But why opt for a standard Titanium model ($30,780) offering 26 miles per gallon when you can turn to the Hybrid Titanium ($30,940) at 42 miles per gallon for $160 more? Within four months, you’ll pay yourself back that tiny premium at the pump, and the exteriors are identical.
2. Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
“It’s not about huggin’ trees, man,” Matthew McConaughey drawls in the 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid spots. “You just gotta find that balance.” In this instance, you can find the sweet spot in fuel economy (40 miles per gallon) in the 2017 MKZ Hybrid without paying a premium over the standard model (24 miles per gallon). Plus, you’ll save $585 on gas every year. The redesigned 2017 MKZ makes this decision a no-brainer, as its exterior is more than worthy of a luxury brand.
1. Buick LaCrosse eAssist
While the Buick LaCrosse eAssist is what you might call a “mild hybrid,” you get a considerable upgrade in fuel economy (29 miles per gallon) compared to the standard model (22 miles per gallon). Buick does not list this model separately, but you can wade through LaCrosse’s online listing and find eAssist as an add-on for the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder edition. There is no markup for choosing the more economical model, and drivers can save $385 per year at the pump by taking Buick up on the offer.
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