• How to Compare Hybrid Cars: What to Value

    In looking at hybrid cars, there are so many on the road, it is important to establish how to compare hybrid cars. Here are four standards to use.

    • Reliability
    • Crashworthiness
    • Longevity
    • Reputation

    Reliability “Gold Standard”

    As with any car, the key to a hybrid is its record of reliability and despite the many recalls that Toyota has issued this year for most of its lines, including Prius, the jellybean-shaped hybrid is still one of the most reliable hybrids on the road. It won’t leave you flat when the temperature reads 15-below (F) as there will be enough juice left to start the charging engine and then you will have a charge heading into your battery.

    Prius, until this year, has been the reliability gold standard and it is something you should look at carefully when considering a hybrid. Even at eight or nine years old, the Prius body was impeccable as  all of the seams lined up and gaps remained even, though there were thousands of miles on the clock.

    Crashworthiness  (Safety)

    Because most hybrids have a number of resin panels, every model remains highly blemish-free, even after years of service. Be aware, though, that some hybrids are better than the Prius in this department – the Ford Escape, for example, which uses standard body parts you will find on gas-powered Escapes – in the crashworthiness department.  And, be careful when thinking of hybrid car safety as cars like Prius and Insight are primarily resin-paneled. In incidents involving resin-bodied vehicles versus metal-bodied vehicles, the resin body car broke apart exposing the driver and passenger to potential injury. The way the automakers have found around this is to use a honeycomb material underneath the resin to absorb the shock, so, while the potential in serious accidents is there, for the most part it’s a wash.

    The reason this is important is that researchers testing this year have found that Prius’ front and rear panels/bumpers don’t actually extend fully to the sides of the vehicle. This problem can be a $4,000 headache to you, if you have an accident involving the quarters or directly from the front and rear.

    Longevity is Good

    Since most of the Priuses – and other hybrids have only been sold since about 2000 – the majority of them are still on the road in good shape. So, in this instance, longevity is a real value.  Longevity is also important in a little-thought-of area, the battery pack. Toyota’s has to be replaced at the 150,000- to 200,000-mile mark, while Honda advocates 80,000 miles, but 150,000 miles isn’t unheard of. Because the battery pack costs about $3,000 to replace, the longer you can go between replacements, the better.

    As to the future hybrid cars about the only thing you can be sure of is that Toyota will answer its critics and with it the automaker will bring the industry a long way ahead with its moves. And, it’s likely there will be improvements in not only safety, but battery technology. They key for the hybrid will be keeping the weight down and longevity up.