Does A Hybrid Vehicle Make Sense For You?

February 25, 2014

  Buying a car is serious decision. There are so many complexities, questions to ask and things to consider. To help you, we've answered a few, common questions.

Q: Is a hybrid right for me?

A: “It depends on what type of driving you’re doing,” says Evan Harn, general manager of Oxmoor Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram in Louisville, Kentucky. “Hybrids are good for in-town trips because they are going to maximize your fuel efficiency, whereas a non-hybrid car is going to perform at its worst level in town. For common transportation, I don’t think you’re going to find that a hybrid is going to save you too much money.”

 Another expert agreed there are several things to consider before signing on the dotted line for a hybrid vehicle.

 “People who buy hybrid automobiles generally do so because they feel like they’re doing the right thing environmentally and for the gas mileage,” said Dan Dederick, general manager of Hendrick Chrysler Jeep and Hendrick Fiat in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “If you buy a hybrid purely for mileage savings, there’s a long payback period. The increased cost to buy a hybrid has to be divided out across your gas savings over a period of years. For the average driver, the break-even point is usually 7-8 years later, which isn’t normally how long somebody keeps his or her car. From a purely financial aspect, it’s not always a good decision.”

Q: Should I buy new or used?

A: “Most people either buy new cars all the time or they buy used cars all the time,” Dederick said. “The obvious reason to buy a used car is to save money. When buying a new car, depreciation is usually at its highest in the first year. The car starts to level off depreciation-wise around the third or fourth year. Years ago, people would trade in their cars every year or two just to have a car under warranty. Now, the warranties are much longer. You can get a 100,000-mile, five-year warranty. In the past, when you bought a used car, people thought it was going to be a problem. That’s not the case now. If you have a late-model used car, most of them are certified with warranties. When it comes to buying new or used, it’s really whatever the customer is comfortable with doing.”

 Harn agreed there are benefits to each type of purchase.

 “The good thing about buying a new car is that you don’t have to worry about taking care of any immediate maintenance requirements,” Harn said. “When you buy a pre-owned car, you’re taking a bit of a risk. Franchised stores that sell used cars typically go through the process of doing a 100- or 150-point UCI (Used Car Inspection) and most of them are fully reconditioning the cars. I would say that, if you buy a used car, buy it from a franchised dealership. If you can’t do that, then make sure you take the car you’re considering buying to your local mechanic for an inspection before you purchase it.”

Q: Should I buy or lease?

A: “If you plan on keeping your car for only a few years, then I would say leasing is the best option,” Dederick said. “The biggest advantage of leasing is that you have a smaller payment for more car, and at the end of the lease, you can buy the car, trade it or turn it in. You should buy your car if you know that you’re going to keep it for more than a few years.”

Q: What trim level do I want?

A: “Trim level is going to depend on your budget,” Harn said. “If you want a new car instead of a used car and you’re on a tight budget, you should look at the lowest trim level. If you’re a person who doesn’t need to be frugal, then you might look at a higher trim level. Trim level is also important for people who work out of their car. Not a lot of entry trim levels are going to offer GPS, and some people like the new technology — such as hands-free devices, Bluetooth, voice command navigation, etc. — that’s available. If you’re just using your car to get from point A to point B, then I would say an entry trim level car would work best for you. If you have a job where you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the phone while in the car or you’re doing a lot of out-of-town traveling, then I would say to look at a more-equipped car.”

 If you’re happy with the basics, you’re in luck.

 “The basics in today’s automobiles are pretty good,” Dederick said. “Most cars come with all the things you need. They have power windows, power door locks, cruise control, air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo. From there, the trim level is pretty much, ‘Do you want leather seats or do you want cloth seats?’ However, one thing you’ll find in higher-trim cars is you’ll see more electronics like navigation, blind-spot protection, backup cameras, etc. Those things are all nice to have, but they’re not things you absolutely need.”

The above article was written by Amanda Bowman and was published in the Winter 2014 edition of GoDrive magazine.