affordable cars and SUVs

Best Affordable Cars and SUVs

Get the Biggest Bank for Your Buck When it Comes to Your Vehicle

Do you want your next vehicle to be a hedge against escalating gas prices? If you have a lengthy daily commute, an increase of $0.50 - $1.00 per gallon can put a serious dent in your wallet.

That said, if you can nearly double your ride's mpg, you will still have money for that daily cup of Caffe Mocha regardless of what gas prices do. Increased mileage is the number one draw for an increasingly long list of hybrids, and while they can deliver more miles per gallon, they are also more pricey than their gas-only versions. Hybrid is the sure way to go if you're looking for affordable cars and SUVs.

And just what is a hybrid?

It has been over two decades since Toyota introduced its plugin Prius. Hybrid technology has changed dramatically, creating new relationships between the onboard electric motor(s) and the internal combustion engine (ICE). Generally speaking, vehicles are lumped into two categories, hybrid, and plug-in.

Hybrids have smaller batteries and assist the gas engine's performance. This means smaller, more fuel-efficient engines can be used without degrading performance. Hybrid batteries are recharged through regenerative braking systems and the combustion engine itself.

Plug-ins (PHEV) have larger batteries and can run at highway speeds on electric power alone for about 25 to 50 miles. If your round-trip commute is less than the battery range, you may never buy gas again. When the battery is nearly exhausted, the gas engine kicks in, and the vehicle operates like a hybrid. Plugin batteries are recharged by either an ordinary 120V outlet or a much faster Level 2 charger available at commercial charging stations. Because of their larger battery size, plug-ins may qualify for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits.

So, which hybrids deliver the biggest bang (or hum in electric mode) for the buck? There are some great values available, and they come in a variety of models and styles for you to choose from.

Best Value Hybrids and Plugins

"Best value" is a relative term that is hard to define because people have different ideas of what "value" is. So, we have put together a list that includes a variety of classes, mpg, price points, and other data that we think deliver a quality hybrid ride at an affordable price.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - 41/38 mpg - $30,225 to $38, 530

This segment-leading crossover comes packed with driver assistance packages, an upgraded audio-multimedia system, Toyota's intuitive infotainment system, and for 2023, a trail-ready hybrid (The Woodlands) previously only available as a gas-powered model. Equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, dual electric motors, and a CVT, the RAV 4 hybrid pushes out 219 hp and has a 0 to 60 time of 7.1 seconds. Seating five and capable of hauling 35 to 70 cubic feet of cargo, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has earned its reputation as a hot crossover ride.

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid - 42/44 mpg - $27.290 to $36,190

Sporting a new futuristic design,  the Sportage hybrid has a surprisingly large interior for a compact crossover. It is a brand new generation with many improvements, an outstanding warranty (100,000 miles), comprehensive safety and driver assistance packages, and a 1.6L 4-cylinder and electric motor combo that result in amazing fuel efficiency. Its low base price is attractive, but also means you will wait months to take delivery of one.

2022 Honda Insight Hybrid - 44/49 mpg - $25,670 to $30,701

If you have your heart set on a sedan, the Honda Insight Hybrid, with its low MSRP, remarkable fuel efficiency, and a five-year cost to own, rated as "Excellent" by Motor Trend, might be the ride for you. If safety is a concern, Insight was awarded a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, is packed with safety and driver assistance packages, and is considered one of the safest cars on the market today. The styling is sleek, and the ride is smooth but certainly not sporty. At high RPMs, engine noise becomes an issue. That said, Honda's reputation for reliability and quality contributes to Insight's huge popularity.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-in -  33 miles electric-only range - 35,400 to 43,200

Seating five passengers comfortably and with more cargo space behind the second row than most, this AWD crossover has found an audience among drivers not yet ready to commit to EV fully. An AWD vehicle that generates 261 hp (combined gas engine/electric motors), the Tucson has the power, range, technology, comfort, and cargo space to earn a spot as one of the top family vehicles.

2023 Toyota RAV4 PRIME Plug-in - 42 miles electric-only range - $41, 590 to $45,560

Yep, the Toyota RAV4 is back, this time in its PRIME plug-in mode. It has essentially the same powertrain as the RAV4 Hybrid, but that system is powered by a much larger battery resulting in 310 hp, a 5.7 second 0 to 60 time, and a 94 MPGe EPA rating. Take advantage of the increased power and snappy acceleration and opt for the steering-wheel paddle shifters. While the plug-in model is nearly identical in appearance and equipment to the RAV4 hybrid, it has a decidedly different driving personality, one that is sure to be a hit with the compact crossover crowd.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are the future of the automotive industry, and you can expect EV choices to increase while prices drop to be more competitive with gas engine rides. Hybrids and plug-ins are transitional vehicles that build public confidence in electric automotive power, and help pave the way to a new, cleaner way of driving.