Hybrid cars vs. electric cars

Hybrid cars are cheaper than electric cars, but they do still need gas. Electric cars don’t use any fossil fuel at all, but they’re more expensive than hybrids.

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Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in auto insurance. She worked for 21st Century Insurance, BlueCross BlueShield Massachusetts, and HealthPass New York. She also spent two years working as a content expert for dozens of auto insurance websites through 360Quote LLC.

Published November 22, 2021|3 min read

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When it comes to cars, there are two choices for drivers who want to reduce their carbon footprint: hybrid and electric vehicles. Both are great options, but there are some significant differences between them, which means which type of car you buy will depend on your specific needs.

Hybrid cars are more affordable than electric cars, but they do still require gasoline. On the other hand, electric cars don’t use any fossil fuel at all, but they typically come with a bigger price tag than hybrids. 

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Both cars are usually more expensive to insure than their gas-only counterparts, but you can still find affordable car insurance by comparing quotes from multiple companies before buying a policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Both cars have batteries and electric motors, but hybrids also have either a gas-powered generator or an internal combustion engine

  • Electric cars have zero emissions

  • Both hybrid and electric vehicles can travel hundreds of miles without refueling or recharging

  • Insurance costs for hybrid and electric cars are typically more expensive than insurance costs for gas-only vehicles

What is the difference between hybrid and electric cars?

Both hybrid and electric cars bill themselves as an environmentally friendly alternative to typical gas-powered cars, but the two have some significant differences (and similarities).

Hybrid cars:

  • There are two types of hybrid vehicles: parallel hybrids, that have both an electric motor and internal combustion engines, and series hybrids, which have an electric motor and a gasoline generator

  • Can travel several hundred miles without refueling [1]

  • Still require routine maintenance (like oil changes) that electric cars don’t need

  • Get an average of 38.7 miles per gallon, which is better than gas-only vehicles, but they still produce emissions

  • Typically has less power than a gas-only vehicle but more power than an electric vehicle

  • Are usually cheaper than an electric car but more expensive than a gas-only car

Electric cars:

  • Have zero emissions

  • Can be charged through a regular outlet or an electric vehicle charging station

  • Generally have a range of about 200 miles before you need to recharge, though newer models are extending driving range to 400 miles or more [2]

  • Depending on the model, replacing a battery in an electric vehicle can be incredibly expensive — a new battery for an EV Chevy Bolt costs $15,500 in 2021

  • Are usually more expensive than both hybrid and gas-only vehicles

Like any vehicle, there are some makes and models of electric and hybrid cars that are better than others. The chart below shows the top selling hybrid and electric vehicles of 2019 according to the U.S. Department of Energy: [3]

Hybrid make and modelNumber sold in 2019Electric vehicle make and modelNumber sold in 2019
Toyota Rav 492,525Tesla Model 3154,840
Ford Fusion & Milan49,603Prius PHEV23,630
Toyota Prius47,862Tesla Model X19,425
Toyota Camry26,043Chevy Bolt16,313
Honda Accord23,817Tesla Model S15,090

What makes one car better than another depends on your needs — some people need the most affordable make and model, while others may choose a specific car because it is big enough to carry their entire family or because it has higher crash test ratings than similar cars. 

You are the only one who knows what you need in a car, so research your options thoroughly before making a purchase.

Is insurance higher for hybrid cars?

Hybrid vehicles are sometimes more expensive to insure than a gas-only vehicle. This is partly because they have a higher purchase price, which means if your car is totaled it will cost the insurance company more to replace it. 

Hybrid cars can also have higher repair costs than a gas-only vehicle, which means the insurance company could end up paying more to repair your car after an accident.

However, the higher cost of insuring a hybrid car isn’t universal. Depending on which insurance company you choose, it might be possible to find a hybrid model that is cheaper than the gas-only version. The best way to get the most affordable insurance is to compare quotes from multiple insurance companies with Policygenius.

Is insurance higher for electric cars?

Electric cars are usually more expensive to insure than their hybrid and gas-only counterparts, largely because the significantly higher purchase price for most electric cars means it costs an insurance company more to replace your vehicle if it is totaled.

Also, electric cars have more expensive repairs than gas-only vehicles. It is important to note, however, that electric vehicles typically don’t need repairs as often as gas-only cars, [4] which means the cost of maintenance over the years is actually lower for electric vehicles.

The chart below compares the cost of insurance for electric vehicles for four of the most popular electric cars on the market:

VehicleAverage annual premium
Chevrolet Bolt EV$2,015
Nissan Leaf$1,955
Tesla Model 3$2,855
Tesla Model Y$2,884

Which is best: electric or hybrid cars?

Either an electric or a hybrid car could be better for you, depending on your needs. Drivers who want a zero emissions vehicle should purchase an electric car, while drivers who don’t have regular access to charging stations or aren’t quite able to afford an electric car would be better served by buying a hybrid.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the environmental impact of hybrid vs electric cars?

Hybrid cars have smaller batteries than electric cars, which is good because mining the rare earth minerals necessary to make lithium ion batteries is not good for the environment. However, the downside is that hybrids still burn gasoline and create emissions and electric cars don’t.

Are hybrid cars cheaper to buy than electric cars?

Hybrid cars are typically cheaper than electric cars and more expensive than cars that are powered only by gasoline. This varies by make and model, however, so doing research on pricing (including the price of insurance) before you make a purchase is important.

Do hybrid cars or electric cars have higher maintenance costs?

Because they contain both electric parts and combustion engine parts, hybrids are usually more expensive to maintain than electric cars.

Methodology

Policygenius has analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. For full coverage policies, the following coverage limits were used:

  • Bodily injury liability: 50/100

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: 50/100

  • Comprehensive: $500 deductible

  • Collision: $500 deductible

In some cases, additional coverages were added where required by state or insurer.

Rates for overall average rate, rates by ZIP code, and cheapest companies determined using averages for single drivers ages 30, 35, and 45. Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles/year.

Rates for driving violations and “Poor” credit determined using average rates for a single male 30-year-old driver with a credit score under 578.

Some carriers may be represented by affiliates or subsidiaries. Rates provided are a sample of costs. Your actual quotes may differ.