Is Buying a Used Plug-In Hybrid SUV a Good Idea?

Brand-new plug-in hybrid SUVs can be very expensive. If you have been dreaming of owning one, you may have wondered if buying a used plug-in hybrid SUV is a good idea. The truth is that a plug-in hybrid SUV may last longer and be cheaper to maintain than its internal combustion counterparts. Some hybrid buyers worry about the cost of replacing a battery, but automakers are engineering hybrid battery packs to last as long as the rest of the vehicle.

How much does it cost to maintain a hybrid vehicle?

Hybrid vehicles often cost more than traditional internal combustion vehicles, up front. But some of them offer fuel savings, and most of them cost less to maintain. This is because a hybrid vehicle’s drivetrain saves wear on its internal combustion engine and traditional brakes.

Close-up of the carpool access sticker on a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid's bumper.
Toyota Prius | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

RELATED: Can You Save Money With a Hybrid 2022 Toyota Tundra?

A hybrid SUV offers what’s called regenerative braking through its electric motor/generator unit. When you tap the brakes, this unit turns into a generator, both creating drag that slows the vehicle and charging up its battery. This means that its traditional brakes don’t have to engage until later. As a result, items such as brake pads and rotors wear out slower.

When you step on a hybrid SUV’s accelerator, its electric motor launches it from a standstill. Once it is moving fast enough, its gasoline engine fires up to help. But during stop/go driving, it may not use its gasoline engine at all. This all saves wear and tear on its internal combustion engine, further reducing maintenance costs.

Can you save money by driving a plug-in hybrid?

How much you will save by driving a hybrid vehicle depends firstly on how much you paid for the vehicle and secondly on what kind of driving you do. Hybrids excel at saving gas during stop/go driving. So if you only travel on the interstate, you won’t save much gasoline.

Close-up of a plug-in hybrid SUV attached to a charging cable.
Plug-in hybrid charging | Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

RELATED: Here’s How the Ram 1500 With a Range Extender May Be Different Than Your Plug-in Hybrid

The more stop/go driving your commute and other drives include, the more money you stand to save by investing in a plug-in hybrid. In addition, if you keep your plug-in hybrid investment low by purchasing a used SUV, you could recuperate it quickly.

What are the best used plug-in hybrid SUVs?

Automakers have been offering plug-in hybrid cars for longer than plug-in hybrid SUVs. If you want a PHEV with more space, look at crossovers such as the Audi A3, BMW i3, Ford C-Max Energi, Kia Niro, or Volvo XC90.

A Volvo XC60 hybrid SUV attached to a charger
Volvo XC60 | BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

RELATED: 4 Used Full-Size Hybrid Pickup Trucks You Can Buy Today

When Kelley Blue Book compiled a list of the best used plug-in hybrids available, it included four PHEV SUVs. These included the 2017 Ford C-Max Energi, the 2018 Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, and the BMW i3 with a range extender. The final two entries are closer to hot hatches than crossovers. But these four are far from the only options.

Volvo has always been and engineering-first company. It’s unsurprising that it was one of the early adopters of hybrid technology. The Volvo XC90 has the distinction of being one of the only plug-in hybrids with a third row of seating.

RELATED: Jay Leno Loves His Fast Tesla Model S Plaid, Edmunds Rates It ‘A Waste of Money’