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What is a hybrid car? Should I buy one?

Eco-friendly cars are growing in popularity, with more drivers moving towards hybrid models in a bid to reduce running costs and CO2 emissions.

But what exactly is a hybrid car and should you consider buying one?


Eco-friendly cars are growing in popularity, with more drivers moving towards hybrid models in a bid to reduce running costs and CO2 emissions.

But what exactly is a hybrid car and should you consider buying one?


Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
31 AUGUST 2022
7 min read
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What is a hybrid car?

A hybrid car runs on a combination of traditional petrol or diesel fuel and electric power.

Fully electric cars have a limited mileage range before they have to be charged, while combustion engines have high exhaust emissions. Hybrid technology offers the best of both worlds.

Using the combination of a conventional engine and electric power, hybrids could save you money on fuel costs and cut down on CO2 exhaust emissions

What are the different types of hybrid car?

Hybrid cars are divided into three types – full hybrid, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid. Unlike all-electric cars, you’ll still need to pay road tax to drive them.

Each comes with its own pros and cons, which you should try to get your head around before you buy.

Full hybrid (self-charging)

Full hybrids, also known as ‘self-charging’ hybrids, use a petrol or diesel engine combined with an electric motor – no surprises there.

Unlike plug-ins or all-electric cars, full hybrids don’t need to be charged. Instead, the electric power comes from energy that’s recuperated every time you brake. The otherwise ‘wasted’ energy is used to charge batteries and power an electric motor while you drive.

The electric motor kicks in when your car uses more fuel – for example, when you’re just setting off or accelerating. As well as improving your car’s performance, it helps to cut down on the amount of fuel you use and CO2 emissions.

Full hybrid pros

  • No need to be plugged in to charge the batteries
  • Improved performance when you need it
  • Cuts down on fuel and CO2 emissions.

Full hybrid cons

  • Electric-only mode has a very limited range
  • Still produces CO2 from the petrol or diesel engine.

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have a large battery that can be plugged into electric outlets at public charging points or even using a three-point socket in your garage at home. This gives them a longer electric-only driving range than self-charging hybrids – Ford’s plug-in hybrid models, for example, cover between 28 and 39 miles in electric-only mode.

The range means that you can go electric for short daily commutes, shopping and the school run – and save a lot of money on fuel. If you need to make a longer journey, simply use the petrol or diesel engine instead.

Plug-in hybrid pros

  • Best of both worlds – electric-only for urban driving, petrol or diesel for longer journeys
  • You may be eligible for the EV chargepoint grant, a government grant of up to 75% towards the cost of installing a chargepoint at your home
  • Electric mode could save you a lot of money in fuel costs
  • Zero emissions when driven in electric-only mode.

Plug-in hybrid cons

  • Needs to be plugged in regularly to get the best fuel economy – this might not be convenient if you don’t have access to a charging point at home
  • Still emit CO2 if they’re used in petrol or diesel mode
  • Typically heavier cars, which could affect the suspension and ride experience.

Mild hybrid

The main difference between a mild hybrid and plug-in or full hybrid is that it doesn’t have an electric-only mode. The battery is only there to assist the regular petrol or diesel engine.

That said, a mild hybrid could still help to lower CO2 emissions and the amount of fuel you use. The small electric motor in mild hybrids does this by adding a boost of power when you’re accelerating or by turning the engine off when braking or coasting. It can also work on the car’s normal 12V battery to help run other systems, like air conditioning.

Mild hybrid pros

  • The electric motor boosts power and give you better acceleration in certain conditions
  • It could help to cut down CO2 emissions and fuel consumption when braking or coasting.

Mild hybrid cons

  • There’s no electric-only mode
  • The electric motor only assists the engine, it doesn’t take over, so you’ll always be using fuel
  • Has higher CO2 emissions than other types of hybrid.

What costs should I think about when buying a hybrid?

As with any type of vehicle, there are costs to think about when deciding if a hybrid car is right for you.

New purchase price

Hybrids tend to be more expensive than their petrol or diesel-only counterparts – around 20% higher in some cases. The government’s car grant scheme, that once helped with the cost of buying plug-in hybrids, closed to new orders in June 2022. However, if you have an old car to trade in, some manufacturers offer discounts on hybrid models under their car scrappage schemes.

Tax (VED)

When it comes to VED tax bands, hybrids are considered ‘alternative fuel vehicles’. This means that you pay slightly less road tax than petrol and newer diesels – £10 less in the first year and an annual flat fee of £155 (or £162.75 split into 12 monthly payments) from the second year on. If you buy a hybrid that costs more than £40,000, you’ll need to pay an extra £355 a year.

Fuel costs

One of the biggest benefits of owning a hybrid is the potential to save a lot of money in fuel costs. This depends largely on your driving habits, though. If you drive around town and have easy access to charging points, a plug-in hybrid could be incredibly cheap to run.

If you regularly drive at high speeds on long journeys, a clean diesel or petrol car might be a cheaper, more fuel-efficient choice than a hybrid.

Charging costs

If you’re buying a plug-in hybrid it’s important to consider the cost of charging too, especially with the cost of energy bills on the rise.

Chargepoint installation

Installing a home chargepoint could seriously drive down the cost of running a plug-in hybrid car. The home charging equipment doesn’t come cheap though at around £1,000.

People living in flats and in rented accommodation could benefit from up to £350 from the EV chargepoint grant to help with the costs.

Unfortunately, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which once contributed up to £350 to other types of home occupiers, closed to new applications in April 2022.

Repair costs

Thanks to hybrid technology, there’s less wear and tear on the engine and brakes than with conventional cars. This could mean better reliability and less need for expensive repairs further down the line.


Just like conventional cars, the amount you’ll pay for hybrid car insurance will depend on a number of factors that include your personal circumstances, how old you are and your driving history. It will also depend on the make and model of the hybrid you buy and the insurance group it’s put in.

Are hybrids popular in the UK?

Concerns about the environment and rising fuel costs are certainly having an impact on car-buying decisions. However, the number of hybrids being sold is falling in favour of all-electric cars. Figures for July 2022 show that plug-in hybrid registrations fell by 34% compared with 2021. Sales of battery electric vehicles have grown by almost 10% in the same amount of time.

This shouldn’t necessarily put you off buying a hybrid car as the perfect car for you will depend on your circumstances. For example, drivers without access to off-street parking to charge a vehicle from home may want to invest in a plug-in car to do their bit for the environment while saving on fuel costs.

Where can I find cheap hybrid car insurance?

Right here. Insurance for your new hybrid doesn’t have to cost the earth. We can help you find a number of suitable quotes to compare in a matter of minutes.

Compare today and see if you can save on your hybrid car insurance.

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