Plug-In Hybrid Ownership

By
Dave Nichols
Updated:
Sep 2022
Time to read:
3
min
Despite some additional complexity, driving a plug-in hybrid could actually reduce your costs over years. You'll save on fuel, and even in some cases on maintenance.
Man driving car

Plug-In Hybrid Ownership Costs

You may have heard that electric vehicles cost less to maintain than gasoline-powered cars. Consumer Reports released findings that proved this to be more than true. In fact, it was found that drivers of EVs save on average 50 percent over gas vehicles over the life of the car. What’s more, plug-in hybrids cost even less to maintain and repair than traditional internal combustion vehicles. PHEVs actually undercut EVs in cost saving after passing 100,000 miles of use.

This is a bit of a surprise since plug-in hybrid cars are mechanically more complex than gas-only cars and more complex overall than all-electric cars. Think about it. PHEVs have more components that could break or need maintenance. They have both a gasoline-powered engine and transmission and an electric-powered motor. Plus add power electronics and a battery pack into the equation.

Consumer Reports found that both all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars cost about three cents a mile to maintain and repair, compared to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles that cost twice as much. The lifetime maintenance cost (figured at 200,000 miles) of the average all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle is $4,600 compared to $9,200 for conventional gasoline-powered cars.

Over the long haul, the plug-in hybrid is the least expensive type of vehicle to own. CR doesn’t suggest a reason for this difference. Perhaps the long-term cost of repairing high tech systems that are unique to EVs causes the advantage. Or perhaps overall EV repair is slightly more expensive.

Another positive aspect of PHEV ownership is that the cost of repairing and maintaining hybrid vehicles is falling, while the cost of repairing a standard gasoline car is on the rise.

The data in the report was based on annual surveys from hundreds of thousands of vehicle owners about their real-world vehicle reliability and costs.

Cost of Ownership

In general, EVs tend to currently have a higher manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) than traditional gas vehicles. The biggest reason for the higher price tag is the expense of the battery packs. Due to their smaller battery size, PHEV models are a cheaper alternative to their all-electric counterparts.

Plug-in hybrids offer an affordable middle ground for those who are interested in becoming more eco-friendly, fuel efficient and cost-effective with their transportation expenses but are still intimidated by the initial cost of all-electric cars. As the price of lithium-ion batteries decreases, expect the price of EVs to fall as well. It is estimated that many electric vehicles may cost pretty much the same as their gasoline-powered counterparts by 2024.

Maintenance Costs

Since PHEVs have internal combustion engines, the gas components of the car will share the same maintenance requirements of traditional gas vehicles. However, the electrical components of the car will be a lot cheaper to maintain because there are fewer moving parts in an electric motor than in a gasoline engine.

The electric motor’s regenerative braking function also helps owners save money by significantly reducing the wear and tear of the braking system, specifically the brake pads. The maintenance cost for PHEVs will ultimately depend on the driver’s ability to consistently drive electric. As long as there is charge in the traction battery, the vehicle’s gas components will remain idle and require less maintenance over time.

Fuel Costs

Similarly, fuel costs will largely depend on how consistently the internal combustion engine remains unused. Electricity has the benefit of being more price stable and a cheaper fuel source than gasoline. Most utilities offer residential electric rates that cost only a few cents per hour, with some even offering special off-peak rates or time-of-use rates to lower fuel costs even further.

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