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Front Page - Friday, April 19, 2024

Behind the Wheel: Best fed tax credit-eligible used plug-in hybrids

Buying a plug-in hybrid vehicle, or PHEV, can be a great way to ensure fuel efficiency. These are hybrid vehicles that drive just like a regular hybrid but have a chargeable battery that allows you to first drive a short distance on all-electric power. Frequently charging the battery at home can significantly reduce your gasoline use.

The issue many shoppers encounter, however, is price. A new PHEV is typically much more expensive than a regular hybrid. That’s where buying a used plug-in hybrid comes into play.

Enough PHEVs have now hit the used market that finding one isn’t much of a problem. In addition, used versions qualify for the same federal tax credit as electric vehicles. You can get up to $4,000 or 30% of the sales price, off a used plug-in hybrid.

To qualify for the federal tax credit, the plug-in hybrid you’re interested in must:

• Be purchased from a licensed dealership

• Cost $25,000 or less

• Be at least two model years old from the current year.

The car experts at Edmunds rounded up five of their top used plug-in hybrid picks. The estimated price ranges listed below are what you can typically expect to pay at a nationwide no-haggle dealership such as CarMax or Carvana.

Toyota Prius Prime

The Prius Prime is the plug-in hybrid version of the regular Prius hybrid. The previous generation Prius Prime, or the 2017 through 2022 model years, qualifies for the tax credit. The older Prius Plug-in Hybrid model and the current Prius Prime don’t qualify.

The Prime provides a respectable EPA-estimated electric driving range of 25 miles. But when operating like a regular hybrid, it’s the most efficient on the list with an impressive combined rating of 54 mpg. Prime models have slightly less cargo space because of the larger battery pack, however, and acceleration is, just like with the regular Prius, pretty slow.

2017-22 model pricing: $18,000-$32,000

Chevrolet Volt

Unlike the other models on the list, the Volt is only available as a plug-in hybrid. Both generations of the Volt, which ran 2011-2019, qualify for the tax credit, meaning older models are very affordable with the tax credit.

The Volt, which is a hatchback, provides the longest electric driving range on the list. The first-generation model has an EPA-estimated 35 to 38 miles of electric range, and the second-generation model boasts an impressive 53 miles.

When driving as a hybrid, the first-generation Volt gets 37 mpg combined, and the second-generation model delivers 42 mpg combined. Try to get the much-improved second-generation Volt if you can.

2011-19 model pricing: $12,000-$24,600

Ford Fusion Energi

The Fusion sedan is long gone, but plug-in hybrid Energi models qualify for the tax credit. The non-hybrid and hybrid models do not qualify. Production of the Energi model spanned from 2013 until 2020. So if you have a low budget, consider an older model.

Depending on the model year, the Fusion Energi has a driving range of 19 to 26 miles and is rated at 38 to 42 mpg in combined driving when operating like a hybrid. The Fusion is the only sedan on this list, but it’s a sizable one, providing lots of passenger room.

2013-20 model pricing: $15,000-$25,000

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

As the name implies, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid is the plug-in hybrid version of the Niro crossover, which is a regular hybrid. The previous-generation model that ran from 2018 through 2022 qualifies for the tax credit, but the current model doesn’t qualify yet. And if you’re considering a used electric vehicle, the previous-generation Niro Electric (2019-22) also qualifies for the tax credit.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid can drive 26 miles on electric power and delivers 46 mpg in combined driving when running like a regular hybrid, which is pretty good for a crossover. The Niro boasts a spacious cabin, but all-wheel drive isn’t available.

2018-2022 model pricing: $20,000-$27,000

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Outlander PHEV is the plug-in hybrid version of the regular Outlander. The previous-generation Outlander PHEV qualifies for the tax credit and was available from 2018 to 2022. The current model is still too new to qualify.

The all-wheel-drive Outlander PHEV provides a commendable electric range of 22 to 24 miles but has the worst fuel economy on the list when running as a hybrid: 25 to 26 mpg combined. If you’re set on getting a used plug-in hybrid SUV, this is your best shot at getting one below the $25,000 tax credit limit. Weak acceleration and a low-buck cabin are drawbacks, however.

2018-22 model pricing: $20,000-$27,000

Michael Cantu is a contributor at Edmunds.