Americans have an undisputed love for their automobiles, but it's a double faceted adoration. There's a love for tradition - you'll feel it any time you see a beautiful vintage cruiser headed to a car show or just out for a Sunday drive. But there's also a passion for innovation - the newest cars are in high demand for their new bells and whistles that make the driving experience better.

While the admiration for classic cars won't soon fade away, today's drivers want a car that meets their current needs - one that is easy to drive, low-maintenance and a good value. Increasingly, they're finding the solution to all those needs in hybrid cars.

Where just a few years ago, hybrids were rare, they've come to be a common feature on American streets and highways. Initially, there was a bit of a stigma about hybrids, despite their excellent gas mileage rates: they had a reputation for being expensive, for presenting repair challenges and even for being a little bit "granola." But with the passing of each model year, car makers have worked to make hybrids more attractive by keeping the appeal of great gas mileage and better hybrid performance, improved design and making prices more affordable.

With those combined amenities, it's little wonder that hybrids are taking up a great portion of market share - estimates show that as many as 2 million have been sold in the U.S. If you're looking to buy new cars, consider these reasons to look at hybrids when you take a trip to the dealership.

* Fuel efficiency. Gas prices continue to take American consumers on a rollercoaster ride - and not a fun one, either. Hybrids bring together gas engines and electric motors, which allows them to minimize the amount of gas needed to operate the vehicle. In some vehicles, you can operate at slower speeds (up to 30 mph) completely in electric mode - that can translate into big savings for all those little trips around town. And with gas mileage at about 40 mpg (highway), you'll still be stretching your fuel dollars further even outside electric mode. When gas prices are good, you'll still appreciate your hybrid, but when they're bad, you'll fall in love with it all over again.

* Ease of ownership. The misconception about hybrids being more challenging to own is rightfully falling by the wayside. Auto manufacturers know that consumers want cars that are just as easy to own as a conventional vehicle, so they're designing hybrid cars that are completely user-friendly. Of course, there will be some differences, such as knowing when to opt for electric-only use, but they don't require a lot of study. Dealerships will always provide service for hybrids, but you can be sure that independent mechanics, seeing the increased numbers of hybrids on the road, will also start servicing them as well.

* Good returns. Hybrid cars are in high demand, which makes them more valuable. If you end up buying one, you can feel better about your investment - it's likely that your car will not only provide you with years of reliable service, but it will keep better resale value than many conventional cars.

* Eco-friendliness. Cars and pollution have always notoriously gone hand in hand. But hybrids, which have lower demands for fossil fuels - which, when burned, produce pollutants - cut down on that problem. Using less fuel has benefits for both the earth and your wallet, so you can feel doubly good about making fewer trips to the pump.Hybrid cars drive innovation while meeting consumer demands

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Category: Automotive