Gas, Hybrid, or Electric: Choosing the Perfect Car for You

Gas prices and inflation have fluctuated wildly since 2020, and new sustainability laws dictating higher MPG rules are going into effect around the country. It’s no wonder, then, that nearly 60% of Americans have considered buying more fuel-efficient vehicles or electric or hybrid vehicles. Deciding whether to get a gas car versus a hybrid car versus an electric car can be complicated. Initial costs are wildly different, and so are the yearly maintenance, car insurance, and fuel costs.

To help you make the best decision for your wallet and your family, the Zebra, an insurance site, has put everything you need to know about the difference between gas, hybrid and electric vehicles in one place. We have made it more concise to help you to decide what is best for you.

Before diving into the average ownership costs, understanding how gas, electric and hybrid cars work is crucial. The way they work impacts everything from their initial purchase price to their maintenance costs.

Gas cars

Most gasoline-powered cars use internal combustion engines. When you turn the car on and press the accelerator, the fuel pump moves the fuel from your gas tank to the engine.  Pistons in the cylinders work to ignite the gasoline, which creates mechanical energy to propel the wheels of the car.

Electric cars

In an electric car, power is from a lithium-ion battery pack that is charged just like your cell phone battery is charged. Power is stored in the battery as direct current (DC) electricity, but an electric car engine runs on alternating current (AC) power. When you turn your car on, the inverter converts the stored energy to usable energy before sending it to the induction motor. The energy in the induction motor creates energy directed to the wheels, putting them in motion. 

Whenever the wheels move faster than the engine when coast, decelerate, or brake, the induction motor converts that energy through regenerative braking to give a bit of charge back to the battery.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid cars use both electric and gasoline-powered engines. It’s a blend of a gas engine or an electric engine, or in tandem. Hybrids use regenerative braking to charge the car’s battery pack. In some cases, the gas engine may also charge the battery. Some are plug-in hybrids and others are not.

Gas, hybrid and electric car costs

Cost is one of the most significant factors in what car we purchase. Experts recommend spending no more than 20% of your income on car-related expenses.

Gas cars have the lowest initial cost, while electric vehicles have the highest initial cost. However, state and federal governments offer rebates and tax incentives to make purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle less expensive. This is based on where the car is built and may only be available with a lease. 

Gas cars:

The average price of the 10 most common gasoline-powered cars in the United States has an average initial cost of $33,797.

Electric cars: 

The average price of a new electric car was $66,997. The federal government and most states offer tax incentives to encourage people to purchase an electric vehicle but make sure you qualify before you make your purchase. With the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the federal Plug-In Vehicle Credit can be up to $7,500, or no incentive. The credit is a tax credit that only applies to electric cars assembled in the United States.

In addition to the car’s initial purchase price, you may also need to purchase charging equipment, which is not standard across all vehicles. Depending on the charging option you choose, you’ll also need to install a charging station in your garage, which costs an average of $1,200 to purchase and installed by a certified electrician.

Hybrid cars:

The average initial purchase price of a hybrid is $39,040. If you purchase a plug-in hybrid model, you’ll also need to buy charging equipment and possibly install a charger in your home. None plug-in cars are a good option as they don’t require this charger. Hybrids may qualify for tax incentives to lower the initial cost. The plug-in tax credit may bring the cost of your plug-in hybrid lower. Do your research.

Maintenance costs

All vehicles require maintenance, and the costs refer to standard car maintenance to address regular wear and tear of the vehicle and keep it running smoothly. 

Maintenance for gas cars:

The major maintenance costs associated with a gasoline-powered car are fluid changes and replacement parts like batteries, brake pads, and spark plugs. The most frequent maintenance for a gasoline-powered car is an oil change, which can range in price from $35 to $75.  This amounts to anywhere from $70 to $225 a year. Brake pads last about 40,000 miles, which can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 per axle, depending on your car. Per the car care council, you should follow your owner’s manual. Every vehicle is different.

Maintenance for electric cars:

The highest maintenance cost will be the battery pack, which generally lasts about eight to ten years. Most manufacturers provide a warranty on the battery pack for the first eight years or 100,000 miles. The cost of the battery will depend on the model needed and current availability, but count on at least a four-figure cost.

You’ll also need to replace the brake pads as in any other car, but because of regenerative braking. Fluid for any moving parts will require maintenance as well. EV tires typically last around 30,000 to 40,000 miles before needing replacement with a cost of pricing from $250 to $400 each.

Maintenance for hybrid cars:

Hybrids have both electric and internal combustion engines, meaning that they have all the maintenance costs of both types of cars. You’ll still need regular oil changes and replacement parts like tires and brake pads. Mild hybrid vehicles’ brake pads wear out at around 20-30,000 miles. 

Insurance costs by vehicle type

The national average car insurance premium is $1,529, although that can vary widely based on your driving record, type of car, and other factors.

Because electric vehicles are more expensive to repair, insurance rates coverage for an electric vehicle is higher than that of a traditional gasoline-powered car, although the exact amount depends on the make and model. The national average insurance premium for an electric car in 2022 is $2,280 per year.

Generally, a hybrid car costs 7% more to insure than a gasoline-powered car. This higher cost is due to replacement prices and repairs. 

Average fuel costs

The average cost of fuel fluctuates daily, one tank of gas for a typical gasoline-powered car would cost $58 and last about 350 miles, which amounts to roughly $0.17 a mile. Since the average American driver drives 14,263 miles in a year, that would be a total yearly cost of $2,425.

Electricity is cheaper than gasoline. The average cost per 1 kWh of electricity in the United States The average residential electricity rate in the U.S. is 15.85 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) per the close energy website.  In June 2023, North Dakota paid the lowest average residential electricity rates in the country – 9.72 cents per kWh. Hawaii paid the highest electricity rate at 44.25 cents per kWh. For the average driver, that’s a yearly cost of about $998.

For EV’s, it t either costs less, the same or more to operate an EV compared to a gas-engined car. While that’s not a very satisfying answer, an EV will probably reduce your true cost of getting around, albeit maybe not overnight.

Hybrid vehicles have a much higher miles per gallon rating than gas cars. A popular hybrid will have an estimated combined MPG of 52. That means one tank of gas should get the average driver about 728 miles, the average driver would spend $1,137 per year on gas. If they have a plug-in hybrid, the driver would also need to calculate electricity.

Deciding which type of car is best for you

When determining whether you should purchase a gas, hybrid or electric car, consider the following factors.

1. Consider where — and how far — you’re driving

If you frequently travel long distances, an electric car may not be the best option since charging can be a hassle. Not only are charging stations hard to find in some areas, but it also takes longer than a gas fill-up and can add travel time to your trip. For longer distances, a hybrid or a gasoline-powered car might be a better choice to avoid range anxiety. 

2. Determine the model you want

More gas, hybrid, PHEV and electric cars are in production and inventories are increasing. Watch car reviews, read articles, compare insurance rates, and get financing in place before deciding. Take one for a test drive and you decide if it works for your lifestyle.

3. Plan when you need your new car

There are still many gasoline-powered vehicles available that earn amazing fuel economy and great technology. Shop around and always test drive a vehicle before deciding.

No matter which vehicle option you choose, whether it’s a gas, hybrid or electric car, it’s an investment that needs to be protected with insurance. Maintenance costs, charging, gas, or electricity are all part of the costs of owning any vehicle.

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