► The best second-hand hybrids
► What to look out for when buying a hybrid
► It's more straightforward than you think
If you’re after a new low-emissions car to subvert the ULEZ or save on road tax, you’re probably considering getting the latest tech in a new EV or a hybrid vehicle – though leasing or buying, it can be hard to justify the extra cost for alternative fuels. Fortunately hybrid technology has been around a lot longer than you might expect - and buying used is an obvious way to save money. Here are the top, smartest hybrid buys in 2019.
Should I buy a used hybrid car?
We buy used cars all the time, but it’s understandable there are more questions attached when they come with a hybrid powertrain. Thankfully, it turns out that hybrid cars – like their EV counterparts – can actually be easier on their parts than conventional vehicles. CVT gearboxes, optimised and reduced engine running, and regenerative braking mean component wear is slower than on conventional cars. Specialists can repair battery packs, and firms like Toyota are looking after their hybrid buyers with extended warranties and fixed-price repairs, keen to ensure the next generation of hybrid owners aren’t scared off.
Hybrid cars: further reading
There is a surprising variety of hybrid cars you can find second hand, too – and reliability for the advanced technology has proven trustworthy. Just ask the next Prius-driver you encounter, most likely in your next Uber.
The Prius is almost a byword for low-emissions motoring – but what other used hybrid cars are worth buying now?
The best used hybrid cars to buy in 2019
If you already know which type of UK hybrid you’re interested in, click on the links below to jump to our pick of the cars on sale in each sector:
Otherwise read on as we cluster different models together, naming our favourite picks in each segment. Just remember, different driving styles and environments will suit different powertrains: if you regularly do long-distance journeys, you may be better off sticking with an efficient modern diesel or downsized petrol engine, rather than lugging around a heavy battery; if you mostly drive around town, why not consider a pure electric car? If your typical driving falls somewhere between these extremes, a hybrid may be just the answer.
Best small hybrid car
- New price: £15,995 - £20,100
- Used price: £7,000 - £19,000
It seems obvious to blend city-friendly zero-emissions local driving with diminutive supermini dimensions, yet there’s only one truly small, true hybrid. Unsurprisingly, it’s from Toyota, and comes in the form of the Yaris; a Fiesta-sized, fun car that’s been popular the world over. In hybrid form, it’s closely related to the original Prius self-charging hybrid, but with vastly improved batteries and technology; the NiMH battery pack has no impact on the Yaris Hybrid’s interior packaging, and the 1497cc Atkinson-cycle engine, plus 60bhp motor, combine to provide 98bhp, 62mph in under 12 seconds and 1.2 miles of pure-EV driving.
It works, too – we achieved 78mpg in real-world driving, and it’s a fantastic city car, easy to drive with a planted, robust feel, though it’s far from a hot hatch. An already futuristic interior suits the transition to hybrid instrumentation, and the T-Spirit even has reasonably luxurious trim. A popular car new, there’s a good selection of used examples to choose from.
CAR verdict: ‘It shouldn’t work, given how good a conventional supermini can be - but the Yaris Hybrid is really effective’
- New price: £16,999
- Used price: £3,500 - £9,000
It’s not as practical as a Yaris, and it’s also not that small given the direct links it has to two iconic Honda models - the CRX, and the original hybrid Insight. However, this 2+2 coupé is one of the most interesting used hybrid cars you’ll find, with a 1.5-litre VTEC engine boosted by Honda’s IMA - integrated motor assist - mild hybrid system.
There are no other Hondas in this list, because IMA is, frankly, not worth the bother. But the CR-Z is, purely because this 21st century car feels delightfully retro in how it handles and delivers driver involvement. Not only does it look quirky and quick, it’s got a manual gearbox, low stance and wide track. Outright performance is not the goal, with 124bhp and 10.1 seconds to 62mph. Rather, the CR-Z’s grin-inducing nature on British country roads comes from the sharp handling and race-car seating, plus the electric motor’s ability to even out the gaps in VTEC power delivery.
Emissions aren’t great at 116g/km, and there’s no EV-only mode, but this is one hybrid worth buying for how the car looks and drives, rather than the tax advantages and green credentials.
CAR verdict: ‘An impractical hybrid that is out-eco’d by plenty of ‘normal’ cars, yet out-handles most of them too. Buy it for the looks, or the handling, or even just the hybrid badge, and love it’
Best hybrid car for the whole family
- New price: From £23,449
- Used price: £4000 - £8,000 (to £29,000 for latest models)
The original, and arguably one of the best used buys if you want to get an affordable hybrid car. Although the technology isn’t quite as impressive as the initial claims suggested – a good diesel car of similar size and performance will use less fuel. However, there’s a backlash against diesel, and restrictions on city-centre driving either implemented or ‘coming-soon’, and the Prius – so far – has continued to qualify for use in these zones.
Tens of thousands of minicabs around Britain suggest that a used Prius is a potentially sound buy, and also that a used Prius must be bought incredibly carefully to be sure it hasn’t been bashed and abused. We found one example with over 250,000 miles, though that meant getting a 2010 model for the same price as a 2004 with 70K on the clock.
Don’t expect driving thrills, but smooth progress is assured. If in doubt, just try a provincial minicab. Later models of Prius are worth exploring; there’s a seven-seat Prius Plus, and a plug-in variant as well, but the best value is to be found in the successful regular Prius.
CAR verdict: ‘Thousands of minicab drivers can’t be wrong; the Prius isn’t great on motorways, but make cities almost painless’
- New price: £33,400 - £35,165
- Used price: £13,500 - £24,000
If the Volkswagen Golf is the template for the optimum family car, then the Golf GTE must surely be the optimum hybrid? A plug in hybrid with a combined power output of 200hp from a 1.4-litre TSI engine and an 8.7kWh battery feeding the obligatory electric motor, the front-wheel drive Golf is heavier than a GTI, but keeps some of the sharp handling and if anything, an even more planted feel thanks to the extra kilos tucked under the rear seat.
Fuel economy takes a hit if you can’t plug-in, but still approaches 40mpg in the worst scenarios for a petrol-powered Golf that deserves to be considered a hot hatch, and is one of the best hybrid cars to drive. Manage your power well, and short commutes could be covered entirely on battery.
Volkswagen got it so right with the Golf GTE that it wasn’t long before demand outstripped supply; cynics might have noticed that the technically similar Audi A3 e-Tron continued to be available, with a suitably higher price-tag.
CAR verdict: ‘We wanted one new, and then VW paused sales. Well worth finding a used example, if we don’t get there first’
- New price: From £24,234
- Used price: £7,000 - £31,000
A more conventional upright-hatchback shape and Prius underpinnings combine with Lexus premium finishes for an upmarket hybrid rival to the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. It should be a winning formula, but the rather dated and dowdy styling ensured the cutting edge tech was more appealing to the older generation; an advertising campaign starring Kylie Minogue further alienated Gen X’ers and millennials. Pitching a near-£24K, 1.8-litre petrol car that took over 10-seconds to reach 60mph as ‘sporty’ may also have been a touch wide of the mark.
Sales make have been equally slow, but it’s been around so long there’s a decent selection on offer; you can get leather, fancy stereos and sat nav but all share the same powertrain. As a second hand buy, the Lexus CT200h makes more sense than new, and nearly-new examples with low mileage offer impressive savings compared to other hybrids.
Don’t be fooled – this Lexus is definitely more Partridge than premium. But it’s damn good value, well made and well-equipped.
CAR verdict: ‘This really isn’t a sporty hatchback, and it doesn’t feel as futuristic as you’d expect from a Lexus - but it is a well-equipped hybrid-by-stealth’
- New price: From £33,715
- Used price: £17,500 - £32,000
This is how to do hybrid, premium and family car well. Okay, the 225xe ActiveTourer isn’t cheap, and BMW enthusiasts may still be taking offence at the front-wheel drive platform and slightly odd proportions, but the space, refinement, interior design and polish are all present. Like the i8, there’s a turbocharged three-cylinder engine – though it’s only producing 134bhp, supplemented by an electric motor with another 84bhp. Sufficient battery capacity to travel 24 miles or so without a sip of petrol can be fully charged from a domestic socket in a little over 3 hours, making urban commutes without local emissions a real possibility.
It true BMW fashion, the options list is extensive and expensive, which means patient searching can get a lot of extra value on a used example. Also true to BMW’s brand, the 225xe is a practical people-mover that can shift; 62mph is achieved in less than 7 seconds. It doesn’t handle like a BMW though. It’s good for the class, but still a little soft and vague compared to the sharpest 3 Series. And if that’s a problem, there’s a 3-series hybrid too.
CAR verdict: ‘BMW’s take on the hybrid family MPV really is very effective. If it drove more like a 2 -series, it’d be perfect - slightly awkward looks aside’
Best used hybrid SUVs and crossovers
- New price: £44,360 - £60,971
- Used price: £9,000 - £29,000
One of the first SUVs to be seen silently creeping around London, the 2003 RX400h is now a £4,000 hybrid banger – but the later RX450h still looks fresh, despite being introduced a decade ago, and the 3.5-litre V6 petrol ensures performance from this large SUV is more than adequate. Two miles of pure EV, up to 25mph, give the RX its signature ‘large car creeping up on people’ move, and also allow zero-emissions motoring for the last mile.
Inside, the interior trim befits a £50,000 SUV, though the design is more futuristic than traditional luxury, and it’s better to choose the less-sporty models for an impression of floating comfort to carry throughout the car; sports suspension, with active anti-roll spoils the ride without any real benefit. SE-L Premium models have air suspension, which is the best of both worlds but an added layer of complexity to deal with on a used car.
All-wheel drive is part of the package, but it’s not an off-roader – it’s more about improved traction in bad weather. Refined, capable and reasonably economical for the size of car, the RX450h is a great used luxury SUV worth seeking out
CAR verdict: ‘Lexus do luxury well, and the RX450h is everything the CT200h isn’t - unapologetically expensive and blessed with a decent-size of petrol engine’’
- New price: £36,775 - £46,060
- Used price: £10,000 - £30,000
For years, the Mitsubishi Outlander was an outlier in the world of all-wheel drive SUVs. Even spending time masquerading as a Citroën or Peugeot, the sensible, capable Mitsubishi lacked the spark that draws new audiences to showrooms. Until 2014, when it got a spark and a significant tax advantage that made it the go-to hybrid for buyers wanting a tall, practical car.
The recipe is pretty straightforward. Losing the two rearmost seats, the Outlander is one of the first plug-in hybrids, popularizing PHEV as a name and delivering 31 miles of fuel-free range from a traditionally thirsty class of car. User-friendly controls, and an unintimidating interior mean any driver will feel at home in a used Outlander PHEV. Post-2015 facelift models have nicer trim, and 2018’s refresh is more efficient.
Ride comfort is good in and out of town, and the Outlander handles surprisingly well for a high-riding SUV. Decent kit levels are available, too, though nothing too plush. Wrapping up cutting-edge running gear in a conservative package is a winning combination, clearly.
CAR verdict: ‘Mitsubishi found what Britain’s drivers want in a plug-in hybrid, and the Outlander is a best-seller as a result; deservedly so. Substance over style - but not bad looking, either’
- New price: £86,315-£108,000+
- Used price: £80,000+
What’s better than a Range Rover? A Range Rover that can claim 101mpg and qualify for lower BIK. The P400e takes the already imposing bulk of Land Rover’s finest, and swaps the thirsty V8 for a 2.0-litre petrol Ingenium engine. Oh, and 300kg of batteries and electric motor.
If that seems counter-intuitive, given the already impressive mass of the regular version, it’s worth noting that said 2.0-litre engine is putting out 296bhp, and feeding into an eight-speed automatic gearbox that helps keep turning peak torque, into efficient motion at speed. Boosting torque further, and providing up to 31 miles of EV-only range, is an electric motor integrated into the transmission with an extra 85kW.
As a result, the Range Rover P400e is fast – V8 fast – yet claims 101mpg and 64g/km emissions, along with all the tax advantages that implies. Yes, it’s lost the character of the V8, and weighs as much as the previous generation, but it’s smooth, unbelievably luxurious (Executive Class Seating is a must). Off-road ability is intact, too. As a recent model, used savings aren’t massive – but remember that second hand examples may have a lot of options that would bump up the new cost considerably.
CAR verdict: ‘It’s the most sensible Range Rover yet, but the P400e makes even more sense in a Sport. If you can afford this, the V8’s soundtrack is hard to ignore’
Practical hybrid estates
- New price: £20,000 - £28,000
- Used price: £10,000 - £23,000
If Toyota set out to make the Prius distinctive and futuristic, the Auris set out to replace the Corolla without scaring loyal customers away. Which makes the Auris Touring Sports, the compact estate variant, with Hybrid Synergy Drive such an interesting machine.
There’s little to separate the Auris and Prius technically; both feature the 1.8-litre petrol engine, short-range EV capability and CVT transmission, and claim fuel economy and performance comparable to a 2.0-litre diesel in a car of the same size but without the emissions. Where the Auris wins out is in space – the Touring Sports has 530-litres of luggage capacity, expandable to 1,658 litres with the rear seats folded, and the load sill is lower too. A more restrained interior design makes taking the plunge into the 21stcentury less scary, and as the Auris isn’t a plug-in, just add fuel and let the tech do the work.
Sounds dull, and to be fair, it is. It’s a very practical family car, and like the Prius, it just works. The electric motor and regenerative braking reduce servicing costs and improve longevity of the car overall. Make sure the Auris you’re looking at has a good service history though, and we recommend buying from a Toyota dealer for the best used car warranty and after-sales support for the hybrid system.
CAR verdict: ‘Forget virtue-signalling futurism - the Auris is just boringly effective. The Prius could have been this, but no-one would have noticed’
- Price new: From £33,000
- Price used: £17,000 - £28,000
Kia’s reinvention from budget Korean rebadged Mazdas, to cool, aspirational and distinctive might be defined by the Stinger and Sportage, but the Optima quietly offered a renaissance for the practical, affordable family estate. Drivers daunted by a choice of dull, or premium wagons, or the inescapable flurry of SUVs, could go for a good looking, low estate car in the shape of the Optima Sportswagon.
A plug-in hybrid model joined the range in 2017, and the 202hp, 2.0-litre petrol engine plus motor combination breaks with tradition by using a dual-clutch automatic gearbox in place of the typical CVT most hybrids feature. This makes it feel sportier and more natural to drive, but the performance is far from stunning; 62mph takes almost 10 seconds.
Economy claims well in excess of 170mpg may be hard to achieve or believe, but 33g/km CO2 ensures low BIK, and going forward, the pure EV range of around 30 miles count towards the Optima PHEV’s abilities being worth seeking out. Plus, it has a standard seven-year warranty – so most used examples have as much cover remaining as many new cars.
Hybrid cars: further reading
Nuts and bolts: how does a hybrid car work?
How much does it cost to charge an electric car? Running costs explained
Should you still buy a diesel car in 2019?