A range of new and growing options exist on the car dealer lot when it comes to hybrid and electric vehicles, but if you’ve been following the headlines lately, decisions made by major automakers reflect a market tilting more hybrid than EV. Ford just announced it’s delaying an EV pickup and in the short-term focusing more on its North American hybrid lineup.

“EV euphoria is dead,” with the idea of “consumer choice” back in among car companies from Ford to General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin, which are all scaling back or delaying their electric vehicle plans. GM’s EV sales remained insignificant in the most recent quarter.

But finding the best bang for your buck can be complicated. These decisions often turn on factors such as upfront cost, driving habits, how long you plan to own the car, likely costs over time and even what area of the country you live in.

The answer isn’t always straightforward even amid headlines screaming hybrid. Here are some tips to help car buyers make the right decision.

Figure out how much you drive

Before you start comparing costs, it makes sense to think about how you plan to use the vehicle.

Are you just driving five or 10 miles to work and back each day, or are you planning on taking the car on long road trips? If you drive long distances frequently, consider the availability of fast-charging stations along your route. If fast-charging stations are scarce, as they are in many areas of the country, you might be better served with a hybrid where you just pull into a gas station and keep driving, said Sandeep Rao, lead researcher for Leverage Shares, which offers investment funds including several focused on the stocks of EV and traditional automakers. 

The federal government’s initiative to create a vast charging network across the U.S. hasn’t yet materialized on a widespread basis. Instead, the focus has been on pockets of the country like California, the New York tri-state area, Florida and Texas, but the vast majority of people live in between these places. “Most Americans don’t have access to EVs because there’s not enough charging infrastructure,” Rao said.

He also said to consider how long you plan to own the vehicle, the car’s potential service needs and what nearby options exist for maintenance. Other factors include your home set-up. Do you have the right conditions to charge an EV quickly and conveniently? And what would the upfront costs be to upgrade your system to allow for faster charging, if desired?

Do the math on upfront cost, EV vs. hybrid

If it’s still a toss up between an EV and a hybrid, next consider upfront costs.

The average price of the top-ten best selling electric vehicles in the U.S. is about $53,758, with an average of $48,430 for the low-end version of each model and $64,936 for the high-end version of each model, according to Find My Electric, an independent EV marketplace. Prices for these 10 EVs range from $26,599 for the Chevrolet Bolt EV to $99,000 for the most expensive version of the Rivian R1S, according to its data.

By contrast, the average starting price for a hybrid car is $33,214, according to iSeeCars.com, a car search engine. If you have specific models in mind, the Department of Energy offers a tool to compare up to four vehicles at once. You can also compare different models based on fuel efficiency. 

Search for available auto rebates and incentives

If you’re leaning toward an EV, but still find the upfront cost daunting, look for possible rebates. There are subsidies from the federal government — up to $7,500 maximum — but it’s getting harder to qualify for as more manufacturers are becoming ineligible, Rao said. 

Also look for state and local incentives. Buyers can visit the Electric for All website, maintained by the nonprofit organization Veloz, to search for incentives such as vehicle tax credits and rebates, charging rebates, local utility incentive programs and other special driving perks for going electric.

“Depending where you live, you might be able to walk off the lot with an EV that’s similar in price to a hybrid or internal combustion vehicle,” said Steve Christensen, executive director of the Responsible Battery Coalition, a nonprofit coalition of companies committed to the responsible management of the batteries.

Consider a plug-in hybrid

Another option people could look at is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which offers an attractive option for those who are transitioning from gas and diesel-driven cars to battery-powered vehicles, Rao said. 

The biggest differences between full hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars are the size, cost and purpose of their electric batteries, according to an online Q&A from Progressive Casualty Insurance Company. Also, a plug-in hybrid’s electric battery can be recharged at home or a public charging station whereas a full hybrid car uses its gas-powered engine to recharge.

If you are considering a plug-in hybrid, the Department of Energy has a calculator that can help estimate personalized fuel use and costs based on your driving habits, fuel prices, and charging schedule.

Focus on overall cost of ownership, not just upfront costs

Generally, the upfront costs of an EV will be higher, but you still might be better off over time.

For example, smaller EVs like compact cars or sedans with a range of about 200 miles break even with a similarly sized traditional hybrid in five years or less, according to a recent University of Michigan study. And that’s without incentives, said Maxwell Woody, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study.

However, larger vehicles like midsize SUVs, pickup trucks or other vehicles with a larger, up-to 400-mile range battery do not break even with hybrids, even if incentives are applied, the study found. It’s worth noting that the data is based on a longer history of battery prices, which have decreased dramatically in recent years, and are expected to continue falling, so electric vehicles generally will perform better in the near future, Woody said.

Doing the math on a plug-in hybrid is more complicated because the cost to run the car can vary widely on how much you charge versus refueling with gas. If you operate it all-electricity for city driving, for instance, your costs could be close to an EV, Woody said. If you take it on long trips, the costs for refueling could be more similar to a gas vehicle, he said.

When considering the overall cost of ownership, be sure to factor in maintenance costs, said Albert Gore, executive director of ZETA, an industry-backed coalition that advocates for full EV adoption. He points to a study by Argonne National Lab that shows scheduled maintenance costs per mile are significantly lower for an EV versus a traditional hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Also be sure to compare apples-to-apples in terms of features, model, year, quality and use cases, Woody said. For example, someone considering a Nissan Leaf, which is fully electric, might look at the comparable data for a Honda Civic hybrid, he said.