Since the 70 highway mpg-rated Honda Insight hit American streets in 1999, hybrid vehicles have clawed out a market share that peaked at 3.2% in 2013. They’re not yet considered mainstream, but they are a lot more visible. And many hybrid owners (and owners of other “green” cars) wouldn’t go back to gas-only vehicles.

But are hybrid cars worth it? Let’s looks at the plusses and minuses.

It’s all about that gas.

Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) have the most wallet appeal when gas prices are higher. That’s because the cost of the gas they save more quickly offsets their higher purchase prices—shortening what’s known as the “payback period.”

Today’s lower gas prices extend that payback period. However, low gas prices also translate to lower demand for hybrid vehicles (new and used)—which might work to your advantage when negotiating with a dealer.

One other thing to remember about gas: Today’s low fuel prices may not stay low, and a hybrid may provide some very small hedge when they rise back up.

BUT gas vehicle mileage is improving.

Depending on what you need from a car in terms of bells and whistles, creature comforts and performance, you might find a new vehicle with great gas mileage is a better bet dollar-for-dollar.

Maintenance costs? Pretty much break-even.

The gasoline-powered components of a hybrid are the same as a gas-only car. The hybrid components (including the battery) are typically warrantied for 8 years/100,000 miles. Interestingly, there’s less brake work needed for hybrids because of their regenerative braking systems.

You may (or may not) pay more for insurance.

You’ll need to conduct your own comparison of premiums, but over nearly two decades, certain trends have emerged to justify higher rates for hybrids:

  • Hybrid cars have higher values than their gas-only counterparts.
  • Repairing a hybrid car may require specialized parts and technicians.
  • There’s a theory that hybrid owners tend to be city drivers—who tend to have more accidents.
  • But at the same time, some carriers offer reduced premiums for hybrids.

Plug in, and you may get a tax break.

The federal government offers tax incentives if you purchase a new plug-in hybrid.

You’ve never had more hybrid car choices.

Hybrids today range from small sedans to full-size SUVs. Plus, a lot of leading-edge vehicle technology first appears in hybrids and other “green” vehicles.

It feels good to go “green.”

Putting aside the hard, dollars-and-cents calculations around hybrids, most owners like the idea that they’re filling up less often, thus reducing their greenhouse emissions.

No matter what vehicle you’ve got your eye on—and no matter how it’s powered—Pen Air has the perfect auto loan program to get you rolling. Learn more and apply online.