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Hybrid Cars Come With Own Buying Criteria

Who drives a hybrid? The list includes members of the Hollywood elite (Rob Reiner, Cameron Diaz and Danny DeVito), the who's who of Washington D.C. (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry) and regular folks across the country. Want to join them? Hybrids have their own criteria, which are crucial to know.

A hybrid (short for hybrid electric vehicle) uses two power sources: a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine and a battery-powered electric motor. The electric motor assists the traditional engine to make the vehicle more fuel-efficient.

Your Hybrid Choices

The most popular, and certainly the most recognizable, hybrid is the Toyota (TM) Prius, which gets a combined 46 miles per gallon and starts at about $22,000. The Honda (HMC) Civic Hybrid runs $23,550, but gets only 42 mpg combined.

Honda Civic Hybrid

The Ford (F) Escape Hybrid, meanwhile, is the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. The hybrid Escape gets a combined 32 mpg and starts at $29,305. Smaller hybrid SUVs like the Lexus RX 400h and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid don't score as well in the fuel efficiency category. Both get 26 mpg combined. The Lexus, marketed as a luxury SUV, starts at $43,480, and the hybrid Highlander starts at $34,700.

Even huge SUVs are going hybrid. The Chevrolet (GM) Tahoe Hybrid and the GMC Yukon Hybrid both claim a combined fuel efficiency of 21 mpg. That doesn't sound like much, but it represents a 40% increase over comparable non-hybrid models. Both vehicles start at just over $51,000.

The Dodge Durango Hybrid and the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid define a new class of hybrid: the hybrid hemi, for drivers looking for the power of a hemi engine with a little less pollution. The Durango and Aspen both get a combined 19 mpg, compared with the non-hybrid models' 13 mpg for city driving, and start at just over $44,000.

Finally, there's the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, the only hybrid eight-passenger luxury SUV. The Escalade gets a combined 20 mpg and starts at $72,865.

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