Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A grey 2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid is shown from the side on a city street.

Your Guide to Buying a Used Hybrid

If you’re looking for great value from your next car, buying a used vehicle will definitely help bring down your up-front costs. But if you want to keep your budget in check for the long term, opting for a fuel-efficient option can help save you from pain at the pump year after year. When it comes to fuel efficiency, a hybrid car is hard to beat. While hybrid technology may seem like the latest trend, it’s been around for a while now, and you can find plenty of used hybrid cars for sale at dealerships around the country.

Switching over can seem daunting if you’ve never bought a hybrid before. But there are plenty of used options out there, and once you know which ones suit your needs, it’s pretty simple to lower your gas station spending. In this article, we’ll be going over everything you need to know to buy a used hybrid that’s right for you.

Why Buy Used?

The most obvious advantage of buying a used car rather than a new one is that it’s less expensive. New cars lose a lot of value the moment they roll off the lot, but that doesn’t mean they instantly become worse. There are plenty of reliable models that will stay in good shape for many years, even if they rack up a few miles, and you can still get plenty of life out of them when you buy used. But buying used also has a less-discussed advantage: it’s better for the environment. It takes a lot of energy and resources to manufacture a car, so the greenest thing to do is to make each one last as long as possible. If environmentalism is part of why you’re interested in a hybrid, this may be a motivating factor for you to consider a used model.

A red 2021 Toyota Prius Prime, a popular used hybrid car for sale, is shown parked at a charging station.

Types of Hybrid Technology

Simply put, a hybrid vehicle is one that uses both a gasoline-powered engine and electric motors powered by a high-voltage battery pack. However, there are several different ways to combine these two power sources. Let’s take a look at the three main categories of hybrid vehicles.

Parallel Hybrid

You could consider this the “classic” hybrid design, and it’s probably the one you’ll come across most often at a used car lot. In a parallel hybrid vehicle, the gas engine and electric motors work together to propel the vehicle. The battery is powered through a system called “regenerative braking.” While you’re decelerating, the energy that would be wasted braking in a conventional car is instead captured and used to charge the battery. Then when it is time to accelerate, that energy is used to take some of the load off the gasoline engine. This is the technology that was used in the original Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

Series Hybrid

This is a less common design where the electric motor (or motors) does all the work of powering the car itself. There is no direct connection between the gas engine and the wheels. Instead, the engine is just there to charge the battery. An example of this technology in action is the BMW i3. While the base model is an all-electric car with no gas engine at all, it’s also available with a “range extender” that uses a series hybrid system as a backup to the electric powertrain.

Plug-In Hybrid

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have become more popular in recent years. While they may have been difficult to find used in the past, that is quickly changing. Instead of relying on regenerative braking or the gas engine to charge the battery, these vehicles allow you to plug them directly into a charger like you would with an all-electric vehicle. They usually have a much larger battery pack than a traditional hybrid and will typically have an “EV mode” that allows you to drive for a certain range using only electric power. Once that range runs out, the gas engine will kick in.

If you have a short commute and can set up a charging station at home, you can basically use a PHEV as an electric car, but you still have the gas engine as a backup. This makes it a good option for buyers who are considering switching to an EV but aren’t ready to go all-in on the technology yet. With a PHEV, you can learn more about charging stations in your area and see how EV technology fits into your driving routine without giving up the familiar gasoline engine.

Used Hybrid Cars

If you’re looking for a passenger car like a sedan or hatchback, you’ll have plenty of different hybrid options to choose from. Since these vehicles are typically smaller and lighter than crossovers and SUVs, they also tend to offer the best fuel efficiency figures. When it comes to hybrids, the most iconic model is still the Toyota Prius. The Prius first debuted in North America in 2000, so if you want to save money by opting for an older model, this is a good one to go with. The Prius was originally only available as a traditional hybrid, but a plug-in hybrid version called the Prius Prime debuted in 2017, so you can choose the one that works best for you. Other hybrid cars include the spacious Ford Fusion Hybrid, the reliable Honda Accord Hybrid, and the luxurious Lexus ES Hybrid.

Used Hybrid SUVs

While a sleek sedan may be what comes to mind when most drivers picture a hybrid, there are plenty of used hybrid crossovers and SUVs on the market today. In fact, there are hybrid versions of many of the most popular models, including the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape. Luxury brands like Lexus also offer hybrid SUVs like the NX350h and RX450h. If you want to venture off-road, you can look for a hybrid powertrain in a rugged Subaru Crosstrek or the iconic Jeep Wrangler.

A black 2021 Ford F-150 Limited Hybrid is shown towing a boat.

Used Hybrid Trucks

Finding a hybrid pickup truck on a used lot will be more difficult than finding a used hybrid sedan or crossover. Hybrid technology is just starting to make its way into trucks, so it will probably be a few years until used car dealers are well-stocked with hybrid trucks. However, thanks to short-term leases, it’s not too uncommon to find newer models when shopping used, so let’s take a quick look at some of the options you might come across.

The Ram 1500 has been available with a mild-hybrid powertrain since the 2019 model year. For the 2021 F-150, Ford introduced a full-hybrid option that, in addition to improving fuel efficiency, comes standard with Pro Power Onboard, allowing you to use outlets in the bed to power electric tools and appliances on the go. The Toyota Tundra gained a hybrid powertrain for the 2022 model year, giving it a boost in horsepower and torque as well as the ability to drive on pure electric power at low speeds. Also, in the 2022 model year, Ford introduced a new small pickup truck called the Maverick, which comes standard with a hybrid powertrain.

There’s a Used Hybrid for You

As hybrid technology has gotten more popular over the years, hybrid vehicles have become more diverse. Whether you’re a single commuter, a parent with several children, or a worker who needs the capability only a pickup truck can offer, there’s a used hybrid out there that’s right for you. When you buy used, you can choose not only from several different makes and models but from several different model years, so you can find something that fits your style, tech needs, and budget. While it may take more effort to find the right fit than it would with a gas-powered car, we’re sure that your wallet (and the planet) will thank you for your efforts.