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posted on January 13, 2021

Green cars that won’t break the bank

Research shows that many people are interested in living more sustainably, which has led to a surge in popularity for hybrid and electric cars. Today, automakers produce more alternative-fuel vehicles than ever, and governments have adopted tax credits to incentivize drivers to switch to greener cars. Today’s hybrid and electric cars offer the same comfort and practicality as non-hybrid competitors, making the transition even more effortless.

There are three popular types of alternative-fuel vehicles, and it’s important to know the difference. Hybrids use a gas engine along with one or more electric motors to help save gas. A plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) allows the owner to recharge the onboard battery themselves. A large battery capacity enables a PHEV to travel short distances on electricity alone. EVs run entirely on electricity, and while these are usually the priciest options, they don’t require any stops at the gas station.

To demonstrate the market’s profusion of affordable green options, we’re highlighting five of the best hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs you can find for under $40,000. If you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint and take a step into the future, one of these may be right for you.

Hyundai Kona EV

Kevin’s 2020 Hyundai Kona EV (Montreal, QC)

Drivers who never want to stop at a gas station again will appreciate the Hyundai Kona. Its 258-mile electric driving range is enough for many people to get through a week of commuting before needing to recharge the battery pack. A four-door SUV with futuristic styling, the Kona has similar cabin space to gas-powered crossovers. Standard features include heated front seats, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, plus a lengthy standard warranty.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Caylan’s 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid (Wilmington, NC)

Like most Subaru cars and SUVs, the compact Crosstrek Hybrid has standard all-wheel-drive and rugged materials that give it a leg up in lousy driving conditions. It has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, ideal for maneuvering through snow or mud. Yet, the Crosstrek offers more car-like handling than other compact SUVs, and its plug-in hybrid engine returns an EPA-estimated 35 mpg in combined driving.

Tesla Model 3

Jason’s 2018 Tesla Model 3 (San Jose, CA)

A stylish and comfortable electric sedan with advanced technology, the Tesla Model 3 offers a glimpse into the future of driving. Starting under $40,000, the Model 3 comes with a 263-mile range and acceleration from 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. It can steer, accelerate, and brake on its own within its driving lane, with Tesla Autopilot available for an extra cost. Overall, the Model 3 represents a near-perfect blend of efficiency, fun, and value.

Ford Fiesta

Ford UK’s 2020 Ford Fiesta (London, UK)

Ford discontinued the Fiesta stateside in 2019, but it’s still going strong across the pond. European customers can get Ford’s smallest hatchback, now with a mild-hybrid powertrain using a 48-volt starter/generator motor and a lithium-ion battery. It gives the Fiesta quicker acceleration to match its class-leading handling. Few cars are as fun and frugal to drive on a daily basis.

Toyota Prius Prime

Fizuli’s 2017 Toyota Prius Prime (Los Angeles, CA)

No list of hybrid and electric vehicles would be complete without a Toyota, thanks to the brand’s steadfast commitment to popularizing green technology. The Toyota Prius Prime is one of the automaker’s best contributions in the march towards electrification, taking one of the most popular hybrid cars on the market and giving it plug-in capabilities. Fully charged, it can drive about 25 miles on electricity. When the gas engine kicks in, the Prius Prime returns an estimated 53 mpg on the highway.


Matt is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. When not daydreaming about Mazda Miatas, he is probably cooking or reading.