Youst/Getty Images

There are increasingly large numbers of hybrid vehicles on the road these days, in a wide range of body styles. Their combination of fuel efficiency and low emissions make them a popular choice, but are they the right choice for you? The answer depends on several factors including your financial situation, your daily driving habits, and your environmental priorities.

Gas prices aren’t as high today, but that can change quickly. Driving a hybrid vehicle insulates you somewhat from a sudden increase in gas prices. This is an especially compelling reason to buy a hybrid if you’re on a tight budget or if you have a long commute.

Even if gas prices don’t go up, an unlikely scenario, you’ll still save on fuel costs by driving a hybrid vehicle. The more you drive, the more your overall gas savings. It’s important to note, however, that if you have a very short commute, then you’re not paying a lot for gas in the first place and your gas savings won’t have as big of an impact on your budget.

There’s also the price of the hybrid itself to consider. You will pay a premium for many hybrid vehicles whether you opt for a large SUV or a compact car. That means you’ll need more saved for that down payment and possibly face a higher monthly payment. Insurance costs and registration fees often rise along with the cost of a car so be sure you check those numbers before you buy.

[Does a Hybrid Still Make Sense?

Depending on where you live, there may also be strong government incentives to get you behind the wheel of a hybrid vehicle. This varies from state-to-state and even from county-to-county so inquire with your local government offices to see what kind of incentives are available in your area. Note that some incentives are limited to a certain number of each model. Make sure you don’t purchase a car that just had its incentives run out.

Check the warranty on the hybrid you’re considering and see how it pertains to battery life. Some companies are so confident that they offer lifetime warranties, but others offer them for only a limited time. If your hybrid battery fails after the warranty period, then you’re stuck with a hefty bill for the replacement.

You might think the gas savings on a hybrid are enough financial reason to buy, but there are lots of variables in that equation. Don’t assume you’ll automatically save a ton of cash by going the hybrid route. Figure out how much you typically drive, how much extra you’ll pay for the hybrid you want, and how much extra you’ll pay to keep it on the road and then decide if it’s financially right for you. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a fuel mileage calculator so you can compare the overall fuel savings of a hybrid versus a car with a conventional gas engine.

Another good reason for buying a hybrid has nothing to do with saving money, but everything to do with saving time. Many areas allow hybrid and electric vehicle owners to use the carpool lane even without the requisite number of drivers. If you’ve got a rough commute, this is a huge benefit. It won’t save you money, but it will save you time. That’s a valuable commodity in today’s busy world.

[Should You Lease or Buy an Electric Vehicle?]

Purchase a plug-in hybrid and you also get parking that’s often closer to the door in parking lots at malls, airports, and office buildings. A plug-in lets you rely even less on your gas engine by recharging your battery with electricity from a charging station.

Martin Pickard/Getty Images

You can install a charging hub in your house, but remember that will add to your initial costs. It will also increase your electric bill, but you’ll still end up paying less overall than you would with a gas vehicle.

There’s also the benefits to the environment to consider. Hybrids use less gas, which means your vehicle is low-emissions. Yes, there are still times when your gas engine will kick in and you’re contributing to air pollution, but it’s less than if you drive a traditional gas-powered vehicle. Plug-in hybrids are the best choice if this is your priority.

[How Home Electric Car Charging Works]

The benefits to the environment can’t be measured in dollars. Its importance varies from person-to-person. Even if it doesn’t make the best financial sense for you buy a hybrid, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t make sense for the environment. If reducing vehicle emissions is important to you, then that alone may be reason enough to purchase a hybrid vehicle.

Where hybrids were once the odd duck with only a few models available, today there are dozens of choices covering every vehicle class, from subcompacts to SUVs to full luxury cars. You won’t have the same number of choices that you do if you go with a gasoline engine, but there’s likely a hybrid out there that will fit your needs.

Hybrids offer a compelling choice for those looking to save money and save the environment. Do your research, calculate the potential savings, and you may find that a hybrid is the right choice for your next car.