Five Of the Most Reliable Hybrid Cars From the Past 10 Years

The planet is burning, it’s time to lessen your impact.

You'd better believe it's a hybrid.
Porsche

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If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, you’re likely researching everything you can do to help stave off the warming and destruction of our one and only home, Earth. Even if you haven’t seen it, he’s the narrator of Planet Earth, so you get it. And while it’s the corporations that really need to enact, or be forced to enact, real change, reducing your carbon footprint is a good goal and one that can be done so by purchasing a hybrid car. 

Hybrids have been around for more than 20 years, with the Toyota Prius ushering in the hybrid era for the masses. Although it didn’t exactly make hybrids cool, it has and continues to help reduce humanity’s impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, and that is a solid accolade. But what about the new hybrids? Or used hybrids? Which is most reliable? Which is better? What affects a hybrid’s reliability?

Never fear, reader, The Driver’s info team has waded through the forums, read the NHTSA recall reports, and divined what really impacts a vehicle’s reliability and we’ve condensed that information into this very guide. Neat! 

Let’s do this. 

Yep, this is a hybrid.
McLaren

Yep, this is a hybrid. 

What Is a Hybrid Car?

A hybrid vehicle is one that uses two types of fuel and energy sources to achieve a singular goal of efficient propulsion. The most common type of hybrid vehicle blends a gasoline-powered combustion engine with one or more electric motors and a battery storage pack to achieve better fuel economy than a vehicle with only a combustion engine. Hybrids also use regenerative braking to return small amounts of electricity to their batteries.

Types of Hybrids

Just as there are multiple types of combustion engines, there are also multiple types of hybrid powertrains. Let’s break it down into simple terms.

Mild Hybrid

On mild hybrids, the electric components are not capable of directly driving the wheels on their own. Instead, a small battery pack and electric motor act as assistants to help improve fuel economy, slightly increase performance with bursts of torque, regenerate energy, and power accessories. One of the most common jobs for an electric motor in a mild hybrid is to double as a starter and power the start-stop technology. More capable and efficient mild hybrids with 48-volt battery packs have recently proliferated throughout the industry.

Full Hybrid

A full hybrid car has electric components that can directly drive the wheels on their own, without the gas engine. Different types of full hybrids include parallel hybrids, series hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.

And if you’d like to know more about hybrid cars, how they work, and other forms of hybrids, you can check out The Drive’s guide to The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Hybrid Car.

A Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in the wilds of wine country. Must be nice.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in the wilds of wine country. Must be nice. 

What Makes a Reliable Car Brand?

Reliability really depends on an ever-expanding bunch of variables, but the two biggest are a car’s development and manufacturing. When car companies spend real resources producing a car, it tends to last. Carelessly designed, inadequately manufactured, and inexpensively assembled will produce something that likely won’t stand the test of time.

There’s a work ethic component, too. Both Honda and Toyota’s culture of reliability over profits has kept each’s legendary reliability at the forefront of the minds of consumers for decades. Heck,  Lexus spent a decade and a half just to create the perfect paint! Add long warranties and phenomenal customer service, and it’s easy to see why they’ve enjoyed their strong standings for as long as they have. 

There are, however, outside factors that will impact a car’s durability once you leave the lot.

What Can Impact a Car’s Life?

The short answer? You, that giggly meat sack in the mirror. Your car’s reliability and longevity are inseparably tied together with how you treat your ride. Do you take care of your vehicle, follow its maintenance schedule, and drive conservatively? Or do you drive like Lewis Hamilton and live in Siberia where winter will kill everything, including your will to live? 

Regular maintenance such as oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel system cleaners, as well as maintaining the car’s exterior and interior will all extend your car’s life. You’ll also want to keep it away from harsh weather as much as possible. 

Most importantly, however, is keeping your racecar driver driving to a bare minimum. By doing so, you’ll keep your engine, tires, brakes, and chassis happier and healthier for longer compared to if you treat every grocery run like it’s the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix. Stress is not only bad for you, it’s bad for your car. 

The Prius isn't a bad car, ok?
Toyota

The Prius isn't a bad car, ok?

What You Need to Look For When Buying a Used Hybrid

As with any transaction, there are a few key points that every customer should know and ask for before slapping your John Hancock on the dotted line. These helpful tips prevent you from purchasing a car that forces you to ask yourself, “What have I done? What in God’s name have I done? How much is it to replace a hybrid system?! *sob-screaming continues.” 

Never fear, The Drive’s editors put together exactly what you’ll want to look for whenever you purchase a new or used hybrid. Ready? 

Get its Service Records

A car’s service records are its history. They should have everything from fluid flushes to if it’s had significant repairs. This is the car’s life on paper and is really seen as how the last owner took care of it. 

When your car comes with a stack of papers shoved neatly into its service book, you’re likely not getting a lemon. But if all you have is one receipt from McDonald’s, we’d look elsewhere.

Obtain a CarFax

CarFax is a great tool. This little sheet of paper can tell you whether that car has undergone any major operations prompted by big-time accidents and tiny little fender-benders, or if it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean after the ship that was carrying it capsized off the coast of Georgia

Look for Rust

Whether you’re buying from a cold-weather locale or the car has crisscrossed the country throughout its life, you’re going to want to get down on your back and start looking for oxidation, otherwise known as rust. Do a thorough inspection because if you miss a patch of rust in the wheel well, you’ll likely have a front-row seat to your car slowly disappearing as if Thanos snapped it out of existence.

Look for Extreme Wear

Look, there are drivers out there, definitely not us, who think they’re Dominic Torreto. They drive their cars hard and put them away wet, both of which are not great for the car’s overall health. You’ll want to check the car’s tires, work your way through its transmission, hit small speed bumps to check its suspension, and ask for an inspection by a trusted mechanic. 

The Honda Accord Hybrid is a helluva car.
Honda

The Honda Accord Hybrid is a helluva car.

The 5 Most Reliable Hybrid Cars From the Past Ten Years

With that in mind, let’s get into five of the most reliable hybrids of the last ten years as reported by J.D. Power, which ranks by consumer dependability reports. And oh yeah, the Toyota Prius is definitely one of them. Sorry, enthusiasts. 

Toyota Prius

You can’t deny the Prius’ power. It may look ugly, but with Toyota engineering and reliability, it’s a mix that can’t be described as anything but attractive to your wallet. 

Lexus NX 300h/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus NX 300h share a platform, as well as a set of engines, one of which is a hybrid. Both received excellent feedback in J.D. Power’s study, which isn’t too surprising given Toyota has a penchant for long-lasting vehicles.

Lexus ES 300h/Toyota Avalon Hybrid

As with the NX 300h and RAV4 Hybrid, the ES 300h and Avalon Hybrid share a platform, a set of engines, and a few other details. That includes hybrid options for the two, which again, both received high marks in J.D. Power’s study. 

Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda’s venerable Accord has been around since what feels like the dawn of time. And it’s maintained its car dominance since, with the hybrid offering even more for the customer. Not only do you get Honda’s reliability, but also the benefit of fewer trips to the gas station. 

Porsche Cayenne S E-hybrid

“Teufel, ja!” as the Germans say. Though you might be skeptical given the Porsche comes with a price tag of six figures, Porsche’s engineering is pretty legendary, and, apart from the IMS issue in the early 2000s, maintains excellent reliability. 

Also a hybrid.
Porsche

Also a hybrid. 

FAQs About Hybrid Car’s Reliability

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers! 

Q. What Happens When You Run Out of Electricity in a Hybrid?

A. You keep driving! That’s the beauty of a hybrid, when your EV juice runs out, you’ve still got a tank of gas as a back up!

Q. What is the Best Hybrid Car for the Money?

A. If you’re buying a new hybrid, and we can’t believe we’re saying this, but the Toyota Prius is a helluva deal. And the man responsible for tuning its suspension has an 800 horsepower drift Supra, ensuring that it's actually pretty lively to boot. If you’re looking for a used deal, the BMW i3 is great, funky, and reasonably priced. 

Q. Ok, But Should I Buy a Hybrid Car?

A. Hybrid cars have come a long way since those early Prii. Outside a slightly higher initial cost, hybrids are great cars and will return better gas mileage, which keeps money in your pocket!

Q. Then Do Hybrid Cars Cost More to Maintain?

A. Not really. The only real extra cost in maintaining a hybrid is if the battery pack fails, and that’s pretty rare. 

Q. So Which Car Brands Last the Longest?

A. As we’ve stated, that’s somewhat hard to discern, but Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Acura, Lexus, and Ford all have reputations for dependability. There are some vehicles that are known to outlast others, i.e. the OG Toyota Land Cruiser, however, most car makers now offer consistent reliability and longevity. 

Q. Yeah, But What’s the World’s Most Reliable Car?

A. Buddy, it’s the one you take care of. You’re the biggest variable in your car’s reliability by a long shot. Take care of your car and it’ll take care of you. That said, J.D. Power ranked the Lexus ES, which shares a chassis, engine lineup, and interior layout with Toyota’s Avalon, as the most reliable car available. Both the Avalon and the ES are also available as hybrids.

Find Your Next Reliable Hybrid Car with Cars Direct

There are multiple available vehicles that will propel you in an environmentally friendly way, but how do you find a reliable one yourself? With Cars Direct, of course! The Drive has partnered with Cars Direct to help you find the perfect car for you to daily, reduce your gas bill, and not kill the environment! Win, win! Click here to get started.

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