Plug-in hybrids are perfect for buyers who want to take advantage of the federal tax credit but are hesitant to take the full leap into an EV. As with EVs, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are now eligible for up to $4000 even as used vehicles. And here again, the money can be applied to the purchase price or used as a down payment, rather than lowering your income-tax bill come April 15.
For shoppers looking to take advantage of this federal largesse, we've selected three recommended PHEVs at each of three different price points. (All of which would net buyers the full amount.)
To satisfy the rules, a used plug-in hybrid must be:
2022 model year or older;
priced below the $25,000 cap;
sold by a dealership, not a private seller.
The ones we found are all clean-title, no-accident cars listed nationally in our Car Buying Service. There are additional caveats that could reduce or forfeit this credit, so brush up on our tax credit guide before buying. (And check out our separate electric-vehicle story, which lists those that give you a tax break.)
BMW sold the last-gen X5 with six powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid and a diesel. The plug-in hybrid carried the 40e designation and used a 2.0-liter turbo-four (whereas the current-gen, 2021 and later 45e and 50e PHEVs use a turbocharged inline-six). The 308 total system horsepower was enough to pull this SUV to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, 0.2 second behind the regular, gasoline-powered six. This generation is attractive as ever and has an airy, roomy cabin. Its 14-mile EV range and overall fuel efficiency are piddling, but the hybrid aspect doesn't mar the X5's driving experience. You can find well-equipped examples with 40,000 to 80,000 miles.
Before the Prius Prime had a big glow-up with its 2023 redesign, Toyota's plug-in-hybrid Prius was mostly known for its wacky styling and miserly fuel consumption. The older Prius Prime had an EPA-estimated 25 miles of EV range, and when the battery depletes, it'll still deliver more than 50 mpg on gas. Recharging takes 5.5 hours on a standard 120-volt household outlet or about two hours on a 240-volt source. This Prime is slow, and the instrument cluster is oddly placed at the center of the dash rather than in front of the driver. But ultimate efficiency and reliability are the draw here. You can grab one with under 30,000 miles and easily run it up to to 230,000.
Mitsubishi was first to market with a plug-in-hybrid SUV, though it wasn't until 2018 that the Outlander PHEV landed on our shores. The Outlander is capable of fast-charging on a CHAdeMO port and was EPA rated at 24 miles of range. Buy one of these, and you'll also get lots of space, all-wheel drive, and you'll still have three years of factory warranty coverage (which runs to five years and 60,000 miles). You can find two-year-old examples with 25,000 to 50,000 miles for $25K or less. Remember when searching: Mitsubishi redesigned the regular Outlander for 2022 but the 2022 Outlander PHEV was the previous-gen model.
General Motors probably would rather forget it made this car and the smug commercial that couldn't sell it. Cadillac's version of the Chevy Volt wasn't any faster and was only mildly more luxurious. At $75,000, the ELR was a failure from the start, and a 10 grand price cut in its final 2016 model year couldn't save it. However, the Volt was a very good plug-in, and now that the ELR has lost 75 percent of its value, it's a great time to revisit this PHEV coupe. Who makes PHEV coupes anymore? And this was the height of the brand's Art & Science design. Some can be had with only 50,000 miles. The wise move is to snag a 2016 model with its improved suspension and brakes as well as increased power and torque.
The previous-generation 3-series introduced the first plug-in-hybrid BMW 330e. The trick may be finding one. The 330e was not popular when new, as its $5350 upcharge bought a 14-mile EV range, a smaller trunk, and no all-wheel drive. The added weight doesn't diminish the 3's lively handling, however, and there's an eight-speed automatic shifting gears—sometimes with only the electric motor running, which is a strange but satisfying feeling. The iPerformance moniker is misleading. With the gas engine borrowed from the 320i, the 330e is sprightly but definitely not fast.
Sold from 2018 to 2021, the futuristic Honda Clarity is already largely forgotten. This gas-electric four-door hatchback—which was also available as a full electric or with hydrogen power—delivers an EPA-estimated 48 miles of range. With 212 horsepower, the Clarity was quicker than a Prius Prime and still achieved 42 mpg when running on its gas engine once the battery was depleted. Early model years with between 40,000 and 70,000 miles are priced at or below 20 grand.
Whereas Audi once pitched efficiency-minded buyers its TDI diesels, the VW diesel emissions scandal drove that business into a brick wall. The brand was forced to pivot to electrification, and an early effort was the A3 Sportback e-tron, which was offered solely in four-door hatchback form. A 1.4-liter turbo four and 8.8-kWh battery were good for respectable acceleration (6.5 seconds to 60 mph in our testing) and a typical-for-the-time EV range of 17 miles. Steep pricing limited the appeal, however (our 2016 test car had a base price of $38,825 and an as-tested tariff of $46,100). Depreciation on a richly priced German car is sweet for used-car shoppers, although many A3 e-trons at this price point will have between 60,000 and 80,000 miles.
The Volt, which debuted for the 2011 model year, was the first plug-in hybrid and the best in range, performance, and technology. At this price, you can find low-mileage first-gen cars (25-to-38-mile EV range) or higher-mileage second-gen cars (53-mile EV range) with between 35,000 to 80,000 miles. These cars are fun to drive and easy to recharge on a household outlet, since their batteries are small compared to the huge battery packs in today's electric cars.
The final-generation Ford Fusion always sold well and looked great. Many compared the front end to an Aston Martin. Really. Like GM, Ford was well ahead in the PHEV market, and this mid-size sedan delivered 20 miles of electric range and nearly 40 mpg when running on gas. The final model years (2017–2019) have higher EPA ratings. A tiny, eight-cubic-foot trunk is a negative, and we weren't overly fond of the soft suspension and light steering. Otherwise, this is a well-executed sedan that Ford should still be selling in this country. At this price, depending on trim, you can find one with between 40,000 and 90,000 miles.
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