10 Tips For Buying Your First Hybrid - Part 2

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10 Tips For Buying Your First Hybrid - Part 2

This is a continuation of our two-part series guide for first time hybrid car buyers. In the first part, we discussed choosing the right body style to meet your needs, choosing between two different types of hybrid drivetrains and reliability of hybrid engines. If you've missed the first part, go here for the first five tips.

Tip 6 : Myth - Hybrids Are Expensive To Maintain.

Consumable items of hybrid models are no different from regular cars. Very often, items like oil filters, air filters, brake pads and other items are shared with a regular petrol powered model. The 2013 Toyota Prius for example, shares many consumables with a 2013 Toyota Corolla Altis. For hybrid variants of regular Honda models like the 2013 Honda Jazz Hybrid and 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid, the commonalities are even higher.

Bespoke hybrid components like traction batteries and power control modules are meant to last the lifespan of the car. Only periodic visual inspections and diagnostics are required.

Manufacturers don't usually make their detailed servicing cost public, but with a little bit of effort, you can easily find out that information from any of their authorised service centres. At every Toyota service advisor's desk is a flip chart of the service package for all their models. Minor servicing costs around RM200 for a Prius and Prius c, with the most expensive major service at RM900. Total maintenance cost is no more than a Perodua Myvi. Right click here for a maintenance cost table of the 2013 Toyota Prius.

Maintenance costs for all Honda hybrid models can be found here.

Tip 7 : Li-Ion or Ni-MH?

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the latest generation of batteries adopted by manufacturers for their hybrid models. Compared with older-generation Ni-MH batteries, Li-ion batteries are lighter and more compact, while packing higher energy density. This translates in lower fuel economy and improved driving performance.

Currently, only the 2013 Honda CR-Z and Civic Hybrid uses Li-Ion batteries.

While Ni-MH is one generation behind, the chemistry of NiMH batteries are well-understood and are backed by over 15 years of proven reliability.

This is not to say that Li-ion batteries are unreliable. So far, there are no known issues with the current generation Civic Hybrid and CR-Z, but as far as anecdotal evidence from real world driving experience is concerned, the verdict on Li-ion is still a grey area. The technology has only been adapted for mainstream automotive applications just three years ago.

Some consumers need to have the latest gadgets and their cars are no different. Others may be willing to trade-off having the latest technology for something less fancy but which has a proven reputation. So you will need to decide to which group you belong to.

Remember that although NiMH batteries are one generation behind, Toyota continues to charge buyers a higher premium for its hybrid models over Honda modelss with newer and more sophisticated Li-ion batteries.

Tip 8 : Hybrid vs Diesel.

You may also come across many debates about whether should consumers buy a diesel or a hybrid. However, many of these debates are made in the European context without considering nuances in our local driving environment. 

Firstly, Malaysia, even within urban areas; frequently encounters a shortage in diesel fuel supply. In many smaller towns, fuel stations often exhaust their diesel supply quota by the third week of the month. Some stations also limit the amount diesel purchased by every vehicle. With the limited number of diesel pumps, be prepared to queue behind pick-up trucks, lorries and buses when refuelling.

Secondly, to accommodate our lower fuel quality, many diesel powered passenger cars are sold in Malaysia with the diesel particulate filter (DPF) removed. Without the DPF, these engines are now spewing unfiltered carcinogenic compounds into the air. As these engines have to be detuned to run our local diesel; CO2, power output and fuel consumption claims for diesel models in Europe cannot be used as an accurate reference here. As for long term reliability of diesel powered passenger cars running on our Euro 2M diesel, this is still a grey area with many mixed results. Early generation E-class models (W210 generation) didn't work very well with our local diesel although current BMW models seem to be running fine.  

Plus, there aren’t any credible diesel powered alternatives below the RM150,000 price range. The 2013 Peugeot 508 2.2 HDi GT starts at a whopping RM199,888.

If your driving routine involves extensive high speed jaunts on the highway, maintaining speeds in excess of 140 km/h for hours, then a hybrid is not for you. Hybrids are optimised for urban traffic. Sustained high speed drives will wear the hybrid battery out prematurely. Fuel economy is also likely to drop, but depending on the model, will still be better than most regular internal combustion engines.

If you are going to drive extensively on the highway, a high capacity petrol powered engine is a better option.

Tip 9 : Don't Buy A Hybrid To Save Money.

If you are going to buy a hybrid to save money, then you are going to be disappointed. The proposition of a hybrid lowering one's fuel expenditure only makes sense in countries where fuel prices are floated on an open market.

In Malaysia, where fuel prices are subsidised and are one of the lowest in the world, it would take many years before owners can realise any significant savings. This is one of the downsides of a subsidy; it removes any incentives to adopt more efficient technologies. If your main objective is to save money, buy a Perodua instead. They make good economical cars.

If however, what you are looking for is a feature packed car, then a hybrid is a good option for you. Many hybrid models sold here have a significantly higher list of features than a comparable petrol internal combustion engine powered model. Low fuel consumption is just an added bonus but don't expect significant savings from it.

Tip 10 : Depreciation.

Depending on make and model, and what is it compared against, hybrids generally depreciate between five to ten per cent more than a regular petrol internal combustion engine model. Head over to Carlist.my and browse through the classifieds for an estimate on the market value of a used hybrid model. If you are particularly concerned about resale value, then a hybrid may not be the right choice for you. 

With these ten tips, we hope we’ve helped in your decision making process easier. For Part 1 of this buying guide, go here.



As someone who appreciates cars not just for their horsepower value but also for their cultural significance, he is interested in the art of manufacturing and selling cars just as much as driving them. Prior to swapping spread sheets for a word processor, he spent his previous life in product planning and market research.



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