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Tips for Buying a Hybrid Car

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Currently, because of demand, buying a hybrid may take a little more leg work than with a traditional vehicle. This is especially true with popular cars, such as the Toyota Prius.

  • Decide When and How You're Going to Sell It: The most important decision you'll make is when and how to sell your hybrid. Your car or truck is the 2nd most expensive household expense next to your home. Think of it in the same way. Buying a hybrid every two years is a much different situation than buying a hybrid to keep forever, or leasing one for your company. You'll gain or lose more money on the sell than the buy. For example, you can get into a brand new hybrid $0 down and trade it in every two years as the next generation ones come out. On the other hand, you can buy a high mileage one on eBay cheap that's beyond warranty, and add a plug-in battery to get 100 MPG and give it to charity.
  • Get on a Waiting List Early: Once you hear of an upcoming hybrid that you’d like to buy, it’s a good idea to get on a waiting list at your local dealership. This will help you avoid the longer wait lists that may occur after the vehicle hits the market. You will also probably avoid paying higher than the MSRP, which may happen after demand increases. On the downside, you will probably have to put down a deposit, which may be non-refundable. Also be sure to ask your dealership about hybrid mechanics and their history of maintenance and hybrid repairs. Many will say they can work on them, but few mechanics have lots of experience and hybrid passion.
  • Get Financed Before You Shop: If you want the lowest interest rates, go to a credit union. If you want a blank check fast, go online. If you have bad credit or don't mind paying more, shop around different dealership finance departments. They can get loans easier because they bundle several together and approach the same credit unions you could go to direct. Bottom line, get preapproved and walk into the dealership and ask for the lowest cash price.
  • Research Pricing: Find out all the direct dealer prices online, print them out and bring them to the dealership. Visit more than one dealership and compare options and pricing. Decide on which options you're willing to pay for and which ones you don't want. Know the prices (sticker) and costs (invoice) of every car and option you are interested in before you visit. If you belong to a wholesale warehouse club like Costco or BJs, consider using their auto buying programs as well to get guaranteed hassel-free invoice + negotiated margin pricing.
  • Shop Online for Insurance: Insurance prices are based on statistics. Overall, hybrid drivers are safer and get in less accidents, but each zip code has it's own accident statistics. Each insurance company also has it's own statistics on hybrids. Try for at least 10 rate quotes for the same vehicle and same zip code to save 10% on insurance over a non-hybrid.
  • Be Flexible with Options: It may be hard to get your hybrid in the exact color and option configuration you have your heart set on. If you’re flexible and willing to compromise, you will increase your odds of getting a hybrid much sooner.
  • Shop Outside Your Market: If you live in an area with high hybrid demand or very few dealerships, you more than likely have to wait longer for delivery. But if you’re willing to travel to another market, you may find it easier to get your hands on your desired vehicle.
  • Get Tax Advice: and ask him when the best time to buy a hybrid would be for the tax credits. If you're a business owner or buying for a fleet, talk to your regular accountant too to decide on financing, depreciation and accounting among other things. Decide exactly when you want to sell your hybrid (note that Toyota already expects next generation hybrids to go hundreds of miles without gasoline in other words electrics are here and all other cars could depreciate) to minimize the liability. Yes, cars are liablities because of gas prices, insurance premiums, dmv fee, use taxes, gas taxes, tolls, parking fees, maintenance charges, parts, cleaning fees, sales taxes, etc.
  • Check Your State Laws: Some states give special treatment to hybrids, ranging from tax breaks to carpool-lane access. These laws vary widely by state, are subject to change and are often complex (e.g., not all hybrids qualify for carpool lanes in California), so be sure to research how your state treats hybrids before buying.
  • Size Up the Premium: Hybrids generally cost a few thousand dollars more than comparable non-hybrid models. If you're buying a hybrid to save on gas expense, you should compare that cost premium with those potential gas savings. Here's a handy calculator that helps you estimate those savings for different models. Don't forget that there are often some Hybrid Tax Credits for owning a hybrid, so you should factor those into your calculations too.
  • Buy Used: When all else fails, buy a used hybrid. Believe it or not, hybrids are very well made. They have high quality built in and most parts will outlast warranties. Even so, manufacturers will sometimes work with you if you complain or write letters. You can buy used hybrids for less than ten grand and convert them to plug-ins that get 100 MPG. If they break down, go back to step one and car share while you're fixing them. The battery packs are nothing to worry about, look at the RAV-4 EVs that have gone 300,000 on one battery pack. Compare that with a conventional car's engine at 100,000 miles and you may find a used hybrid is the cheapest way to reduce the 2nd largest sucking sound on every American's household each month: transportation.
  • Car Share Before You Buy: Join a company like FlexCar or ZipCar and test drive hybrids in real life. You can rent them for an hour at a time and take them anywhere without a salesman breathing down your neck. You can truly test them for your own driving style and needs. These companies will give you FREE gas, FREE insurance and FREE mileage in exchange for a modest yearly membership fee and hourly rates less than 10 bucks. You can test drive Honda Accord Hybrids, Honda Civic Hybrids, Prius Hybrids to your heart's delight.
  • Rent a Hybrid Before You Buy: An alternative to joining a car share company like FlexCar or Zip car, a small but growing number of firms rent hybrid cars. Fox Rent a Car though a partnership with EV Rentals rents Prius, hybrid Highlanders, hybrid Accords and Civic Hybrids for very competitive rates. There are a number of sites such as http://www.hybrid-rental-car.com that offer coupons for as much as 10% off a hybrid rental.

For more on hybrids, check GreenHybrid.com.

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