A silver e-hybrid sign on the side of a black car door.

What is the cost of running a hybrid car?

All cars cost money, whether it’s the upfront cost or initial rental to buy or lease a hybrid car, the ongoing maintenance costs (unless you opt for a maintenance lease plan) or the fuel costs (including electricity costs for plug-in hybrids).

The top hybrid cars and models on the market may cost more upfront, but higher build quality should save on maintenance over the long term, so there’s a clear balance between the two.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEV) allow you to charge using electricity when petrol costs are high, potentially saving you money there too. Even a full hybrid (FHEV) with no plug-in option can save on fuel by using its motor to assist during acceleration.

Let’s look in more detail at some of the running costs of hybrid cars, and how they compare with internal combustion engine (ICE) and fully electric vehicles.

How Do Hybrids Save Money?

Purely in terms of running costs, hybrids can save on your fuel budget in several ways:
• PHEVs can charge from an electricity supply, avoiding petrol costs completely when prices are high at the pumps.
• Hybrids generally use their electric motor to assist during acceleration, so you burn less petrol when gaining speed.
• Hybrids can also recover energy during braking to charge the motor back up, essentially giving you extra miles for free.
Together, this can significantly reduce day-to-day running costs, especially if you charge overnight on a lower tariff or if your employer allows you to charge for free while parked at work.

What About Maintenance?

The maintenance costs of hybrid cars are a complicated area. On the one hand, there are two different systems in a hybrid: the ICE and the electric motor. In theory, this means more could go wrong (for example, more parts that might fail an MOT).

At the same time, the electric part of the vehicle’s overall powertrain is there to take some of the strain off of the ICE, especially under heavy acceleration. This allows you to speed up faster without putting so many revs through the ICE.

While any car can suffer an unexpected breakdown, hybrids benefit from having the electric motor to share the strain. On some vehicles, you can ‘limp home’ using the motor alone if the petrol engine cuts out.

Overall, except for any severe and unexpected faults, the top hybrid cars and models on the market should perform well in terms of maintenance costs over time.

As mentioned above, a maintenance lease plan can give you even more peace of mind by including maintenance costs in your monthly lease payment, so you don’t face a hefty repair bill if the vehicle develops a fault.

Exemptions And ULEZ Zones

Hybrids may qualify for exemptions from congestion charges and ULEZ (ultra-low emission zones), especially if they have the ability to run in fully electric mode (i.e. with zero exhaust emissions).

The trend here is definitely towards fully electric cars, and as we see fewer ICEs on the roads, hybrids will likely be next in line for these charges as the UK government aims to encourage the uptake of BEVs.

For now, though, hybrids are often a way to avoid paying congestion charges – and if you lease a hybrid car, you can always switch to a fully electric BEV if and when the rules change.

Hybrids Vs. Internal Combustion Engines

So how do the running costs of hybrid cars stack up against conventional ICEs?
• Better fuel economy thanks to the assistance of the electric motor.
• Option to ‘refuel’ using cheap electricity on PHEVs.
• More complex, so may cost more to put through an MOT.
• But less likely to break down as less strain is put on the ICE.
• May be exempt from congestion charges and ULEZ.
It’s also worth noting that hybrid vehicles are now a fully mature technology with good credentials in all areas, including reliability, comfort, maximum range, and on some models, the ability to drive in fully electric, zero-emission mode.

Hybrids Vs. Battery Electric Vehicles

Battery electric vehicles (BEV) are powered solely by an electric motor, with no internal combustion engine. The closest comparisons among hybrids are PHEVs and REEVs (range extender electric vehicles, which have a small ICE to act almost as a backup for the electric motor, rather than as a main power source for the car).

As of March 2022, of all plug-in vehicles on UK roads, 52.3% were BEVs, and 40.2% were PHEVs, with 1.2% REEV cars and a small number of BEV vans and non-car REEVs. This shows the relatively similar number of PHEVs and BEVs currently on the roads.

In terms of running costs, it depends on your style of driving and the availability of charging infrastructure in your area:
• Hybrids offer faster refuelling if you drive a lot (e.g. for work).
• PHEVs can still benefit from cheaper electric charging vs. petrol costs.
• REEVs can get you home using their ICE if you run out of charge.

With all-electric BEVs in ascendancy, it’s likely that hybrids will gradually hold a diminishing market share in the years to come. But charging infrastructure is still an issue, especially in rural areas. An ICE (with or without an electric motor) is still the best option for many motorists.

How To Decide

When it comes down to decision time, hybrids are not just a ‘yes or no’ question. There are hybrids, fully electric BEVs, and conventional ICEs to consider, charging infrastructure and congestion/ULEZ exemptions, and the nature of how and why you drive.
Leasing a hybrid car is an excellent way to get some first-hand experience of the comfort and performance offered by the top hybrid models on the market. It allows you to upgrade or transition to full BEV when you renew your lease.
As the UK automotive market continues to move over to fully electric, zero-emission vehicles, this is the perfect opportunity to drive some of the newest hybrid models and make sure you keep pace with the rate of change.