New technologies are often released with a greatly inflated price tag that, in comparison to the status quo, can seem bloated when stacked up against a comparable product. Think of flat-screen and LCD televisions: upon release, they were enormously more expensive than the units they were competing with. The same can be said for hybrid and electric cars.
But over time, mass adoption and economies of scale begin to work in favor of the manufacturer and the prices come down. Since hybrids were first released in the United States in 1998, they have seen their prices steadily decline to the point where many are now on a level price playing field with the cars they are competing with.
Now, nearly 16 years since the first Honda Insight set tires on our shores, hybrids are becoming more popular than ever, and electric vehicles are close behind, winning over fans as prices of gasoline remain fairly north of most peoples’ comfort levels. Edmunds calculated the top 10 most affordable hybrid and electric vehicles for 2014, and here are the top six.
6. Smart ForTwo Electric
The Smart (DDAIF.PK) ForTwo has been the butt of many automotive jokes, and even in industry circles, it’s been greatly panned by reviewers and observers alike. Nonetheless, its diminutive footprint makes the ForTwo an ideal city car, and the electric version promises to be an efficient and frugal means of getting around the city. At $25,750 before federal and state tax credits, it’s also one of the cheapest electric cars on the market, made better by the fact that you don’t have to buy gas.
5. Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius has gone from a fringe compact to a household name thanks to its offering of practicality, outstanding fuel economy — 51 in the city and 48 on the highway — and everyday functionality. Coupled with a roomy interior, generous cargo space, and a reasonable price tag of $25,010, it’s not hard to see why the Prius is the world’s favorite hybrid.
4. Mitsubishi Mi-EV
Mitsubishi’s peculiar looking Mi-EV has struggled to gain traction in the U.S., and as a result, Mitsubishi has continued to cut the price down. At $23,845, it’s now the most affordable electric car on the market before the federal and state credits take effect, essentially bringing the total cost of the car down to $16,300 or so once federal benefits are realized. It can travel about 75 miles on a charge, which isn’t a whole lot by today’s standards but plenty for those who just need to hop around town.
3. Honda CR-Z
Like the Mitsubishi, the Honda CR-Z has had some troubles finding its niche. Honda has pitched the car as a sporty hybrid, but on a performance and efficiency level, the CR-Z fell short on both accounts. Despite this, it’s still been hailed as a fun car to drive, and like most compact hatchbacks, it makes for an ideal urban vehicle that can be maneuvered easily. At $20,785, it’s among the most affordable hybrids on the market.
2. Toyota Prius c
The Prius c is perhaps Toyota’s answer to the CR-Z, though it is definitely a hybrid first and performance hatch second. It’s also cheaper than the Honda, at $19,890, and more practical, as it has two more doors and more cargo space toward the back. It’s more efficient, too — the Prius c manages 53 miles per gallon in the city and 46 on the highway, making it the most efficient (save for the plug-in) of the Prius family.
1. Honda Insight
Honda recently announced that it is ending production of the Insight, the first hybrid to come to America, likely due to slow sales. The Insight, despite its segment-bottom price of $19,515, has never sold in big numbers, and despite being similar in stature to the Prius, its fuel efficiency falls at the lower end of the range due to its simpler, more dated power train. But if you were ever considering an Insight for your driveway, now is the time to buy.