Top 5 Cheapest-To-Own Electric, PHEV & Hybrids

JUL 29 2017 BY STAFF 21

These five electrified cars and crossovers deliver the lowest five-year ownership costs, led by the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

2017 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

As we outlined in a separate post, astute shoppers should do their homework and choose a new vehicle that has the lowest long-term operating costs to get the most bang for one’s vehicular bucks over time, with depreciation, fuel costs, and insurance premiums being the most significant factors to monitor.

Fortunately, the experts at the auto-industry research firm Vincentric have already run the numbers and determined which models deliver the lowest five-year ownership expenses. Here we’re looking at hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric vehicles, while we’re featuring the cheapest-to-own cars, SUVs and minivans, and pickup trucks in separate posts. Vincentric’s breakdowns of ownership costs for all makes and models are included with the full range of new-vehicle pricing data posted online at

With gasoline prices staying relatively affordable, alt-fuel cars and crossovers have taken a hit in terms of their long-term affordability. According to a separate Vincentric report, only seven out of 29 hybrids evaluated boasted lower total ownership costs compared to their closest all-gasoline-powered counterparts. By comparison, back in 2013, when gas prices were fluttering at around $3.50/gallon, 13 out of 33 models made financial sense to own. Plug-in hybrid and full electric cars command even higher price premiums over conventionally powered models, but are still available with one-time federal income tax credits as rich as $7,500 for EVs, with a few states likewise sweetening the deal with cash incentives of their own.

Of course, not all alt-fuel buyers choose their rides purely for economic reasons. Many are attracted to them purely for altruistic purposes as as plug-in vehicles having smaller carbon footprints, while others offer better-than-gas-supercar performance off the line. And should fuel prices again approach the $4.00 mark, they’ll suddenly look like the smartest people in the room.

Here’s the five cheapest-to-own hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full electric vehicles for 2017 in their respective classes, based on Vincentric’s annual Lowest Cost To Own In America awards:

1. Hybrid Car: Toyota Prius C

Five-year operating costs: $30,107. The subcompact Prius is the cheapest-to-own hybrid-powered car by virtue of low depreciation and good fuel economy, though it’s not as roomy as the rest of the Prius-badged Toyotas.

BMW x5 xDrive40e – (InsideEVs/Michael B)

2. Electric/Plug-In Hybrid Car: Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Five-year operating costs: $29,553. Mitsubishi’s small egg-shaped EV is best for local transport, given only a modest 59-mile range on a charge (and yes, that is lower than its original 62 mile rating), but it’s cheap to own, though we wonder if five years down the road its resale value might be adversely affected by newer models able to travel much longer distances without having to be plugged in.

3. Luxury Hybrid Car: Lexus CT 200h

Five-year operating costs: $40,638. Lexus’ smallest and most affordable hybrid-powered car is a modestly sporty hatchback, and while it’s no Prius in terms of fuel economy, it gets decent mileage at 43/30 mpg city/highway.

4. Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid: Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Five-year operating costs: $44,781. The sporty plug-in hybrid hatchback version of the above A3 is able to go for the first 16 miles on electric power, which it gets the equivalent of 83 mpg in combined city/highway driving, after which it operates like a normal hybrid-powered car and gets a decent-enough 34 mpg.

5. Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover: BMW X5 xDrive 40e

Five-year operating costs: $65,564. This large plug-in hybrid crossover SUV can travel for an EPA-estimated 14 miles solely on battery power, when it gets the equivalent of 56 mpg, after which it operates in hybrid gas-electric mode and obtains a less-impressive (but still tops among the X5’s gasoline engines) 24 mpg.

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21 Comments on "Top 5 Cheapest-To-Own Electric, PHEV & Hybrids"

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Terry Richards

I have 53,000 miles on my Mitsubishi “i”. Has never let me down. Daily driver, plus a few local EV shows and short vacations. I bought when it came off a one-year lease for $12,000 with only 6500 miles on it. Resale value…who cares! Drive it until it’s dead and recycle the car at the junkyard.


Wow that’s a good fair use for such a thing. If there’s a blog or forum of yours about it, let some of us know.

The most interesting owners seemed to have owned i-MiEVs in which in itself is an interesting, well engineered car scaled down to the lowest most utilitarian level.

For examples, what is range degradation like given that its pack is air cooled? Any quirks that no one might know about?


My 2011 Leaf battery was toast after two years and 20k miles. I haven’t gotten that far yet with an imiev but there has been zero range reduction. I haven’t seen any battery problem reports on imievs.


2012 i-MiEvs with 50,000 miles go for $8000 in L.A.


I assume he must have bought in earlier years when they were more expensive?

That being said, 2013 Nissan Leafs are going for $7000 in the LA area while offering more range than the i-Miev, which makes buying the i-Miev highly questionable.

Also, the interior of the i-Miev is incredibly cheap. It’s not just utilitarian, it’s like something from a 1990s Geo Metro.

With the i-Miev I think Mitsubishi cut too many corners. If they’d put another $1000 into its production it could have been a much better car.


I bought a 2012 iMiEV (with chademo) for less than $8k in May 2015 for my parents here in NJ. It had less than 10,000 miles on it. Now they are even cheaper, going for $5k to $6k. Its the used EV deal of the century. Smart ED and Leafs are equally as cheap here. The Volts and i3s tend to go for alot more.

Terry Richards

At the 52,000 mile mark, I drove the car 62 miles on one charge. Sunny day, didn’t use the heat or a/c. To really keep the battery pack in good shape, try to not drain it beyond a 1/2 tank. My daily commute is 25 miles one way, and I can charge at work, so 50 miles a day plus all my weekend driving, but I very rarely drop below 30 miles before recharging.


That’s nice. But its one of the most hideous vehicles that my retinas have ever processed.


Someone actually left me a note on our iMiEV at a buffet telling me how ugly it is and how i should be ashamed to drive it. Jokes on them as it was dirt cheap and costs nothing to drive. So i can save money for cooler things like my Zero motorcycle and reserving a model 3.


This is so skewed, my Mitsu iMiev has been my most reliable car ever, and all in after tax credits – nothing ever gets close. Just wished it came with its own set of clown shoes.


Forgot to mention the actual all in costs was less than $9k for almost 5 years of usage – 1/3 the 5 year cost mentioned (that includes one set off mismatched tires) YMMV


I am exceedingly pleased with my two imievs! Both 2014s bought new one year apart. 6k and 12k miles so far. Zero trouble other than flats. Net cost of one was about $15k, the other, about $8k. I think it is horrible that Mitsubishi has abandoned rather than promoted and developed them. I drive mine in preference to my Tesla when trip distance allows. I do view the wheel/tire situation as silly but I haven’t yet had to deal with replacements. Total costs have been insurance and about $.03/mile for electricity.


It’s a bloody shame how Mitsubishi ended up. They were early in the game and developed their Outlander PHEV from the existing kei-car, then i-MiEV was basically dropped from all but virtual reality to increase production for the Outlander PHEV.

Now, the PHEV is no where near the US yet and the i-MiEV has had missed any real opportunity of improvement or update at all!

I was long hoping they’ll make a super cheap 80 mile range vehicle. But eh, guess Mitsu isn’t bothered to make a name for itself anymore.

iMiev is discontinued. Cheapest now is SmartED, but not sure if it’s out, yet. IoniqEV is better (best?) value, but it’s sold out. That leaves base Leaf S as the cheapest, but considering new Leaf will be out in few months, that’s probably the worst value.


If someone is on a budget they should really look at used EVs. Used Leafs can be bought dirt cheap. I’d definitely recommend a used Leaf over a new i-Miev. The Leaf is bigger, offers longer range (even with degraded battery it will be no worse than an i-Miev), the interior is nicer.

I actually have a soft spot for geeky looking cars like the i-Miev (heh, I suppose also the Leaf), but the functionality of the i-Miev is subpar compared to alternatives.


Also, the cheapest is probably actually the Fiat 500 EV. It may have higher MSRP on paper, but there are lease deals available for them that are really cheap.

Rich S

This doesn’t make sense to me, at least not in California. I can get an all electric for the same monthly payment as a gas burner after state and federal rebates. The car gets four times the mileage and the electric company actually sent me a $500 carbon credit check this year. Maintenance is much lower, with no smog checks or oil changes. The only way to figure this is that they assumed gas prices would remain below the cost of extraction in the US AND that the battery would need to be replaced within five years. Neither of which are likely to happen.

You know something is fishy when a Lexus is touted as having the lowest cost. It can’t be residual value. I come in well below $40,000 over five years with my Leaf even leasing, which leaves no residual value to me.

Agreed, this list is total bs!

Bill Howland

Haha, to illustrate how poor my area is, there are more I-miev’s driving around than model ‘S’ ‘s.

Of course when I needed an emergency replacement for my 2011 totalled VOLT, there were none for sale around here anywhere near the car’s driving range.


Wow! Those people are brave to drive around Buffalo with an EV having such a small battery. In the summer it is fine but the range in the winter cold must really be short!


The BMW i3 has got great lease offers. Surely beats the X5, especially the driving experience is Vastly Better.

You can’t mimic the quiet of an i3 with a gas engine hybrid, amazing mid-range music experience, that you’d never hear in the X5, plus the torque of a REAL EV solution.
The i3 probably rides better too.

The i3 may well be BMW’s Best Car under $100,000, as long as you don’t need to cruise on highways at 120 mph.