Top 5 Reasons to Drive a Hybrid

Nowadays, when people hear the term “hybrid vehicle,” what often comes to mind is a relatively recent invention: an eco-friendly vehicle that runs on both gasoline and electricity. But hybrids, or hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs), have actually been around much longer. The locomotives that pull trains are diesel-electric hybrids, for instance, and many cities — like San Francisco and Seattle — already utilize diesel-electric bus fleets. Even submarines run on either a nuclear-electric or diesel-electric power combo.

In fact, any vehicle that uses 2 or more sources of power is considered a hybrid. But since Esurance doesn’t insure submarines, trains, or buses (currently), and I drive a Prius, I’m going to focus on the top 5 reasons to drive a hybrid car.

1. Save money (and time) at the pump

Even though the average price of a gallon of gas is predicted to drop slightly in 2013 (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), I wouldn’t buy that Hummer just yet. Hybrids are still your best bet for fuel efficiency.

According to fueleconomy.gov, the Toyota Prius (ahem) tops the list, getting almost 50 mpg. Others, like the Honda Civic, Mercury Milan, and Ford Fusion hybrids (which make up our entire claims fleet), still get over 40 mpg — meaning a hybrid driver can save hundreds of dollars a year in gas costs.

And since hybrids can run between 401 and 627 miles between fill-ups, (with the Prius getting 537 miles), you’ll be able to cut your visits to the pump too, which will save you time as well as money (though you can still make those trips to the mini-mart to satisfy your Snickers cravings).

2. Better for the environment

In addition to getting better mileage than most standard cars, hybrids emit lower levels of greenhouse gases and other foul pollutants into the atmosphere. Hybrid vehicles can reduce air emissions of smog-forming pollutants by up to 90 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions in half. The EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate the Toyota Prius (double ahem) as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions.

Or is that smug-forming emissions?

3. Efficient for both town and country driving

The earlier hybrids were known for performing better in stop-and-start city traffic than on long hauls. This was because the electric motor generated more electricity each time the brake pedal was hit, which could then be used to accelerate quickly or drive at lower speeds without using any of the gas. Now, thanks to more efficient batteries, the electric motors can go faster and farther. The difference between short and long runs is minimal: in a Prius, you can expect to get around 50 mpg cruising down the highway or tootling about town.

4. Lower depreciation rates

Unless fossil fuels miraculously become plentiful, cheap, and clean burning, hybrid cars are not going anywhere. They are, and will continue to be, in high demand and thus will hold their value, which makes buying a hybrid a good investment. While it’s true that some hybrid parts cost more than those for regular cars, they also have longer warranties. Most car companies offer 8-year warranties on the hybrid system and battery, with 3-year warranties protecting the rest of the car. So it’s not unheard of for a hybrid car to run like new when it has 250,000 miles on it. And the best part: hybrid cars don’t require any more maintenance than gas-only cars.

5. The “BOO!” factor

If driving my Prius is my number-one pastime, my second-favorite is gliding up alongside friends in parking lots and scaring the bejeezus out of them. At very low speeds, when the electric motor is running without the gas, these cars double as (silent) pranksters.

But, my friends will be happy to learn that this party trick is on its way out. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), new federal rules will soon require hybrid and electric carmakers to install fake noisemaking devices. The agency believes that adding a noisemaker to mimic a regular car engine will alert unsuspecting pedestrians to the car’s presence, thus saving approximately 35 lives and preventing 2,800 injuries per year.

Whether you’re a fan or not, hybrids are here to stay. They make sense financially as well as environmentally and can even compete with many of their gas-only counterparts performance-wise. However, the price of a gallon of gas is probably the biggest reason they’ll only continue to gain in popularity and market share. Hybrid sales increased from 2.1 percent to 3 percent between 2011 and 2012. In addition, CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations dictate that automakers must maintain a minimum mileage of 27.5 mpg across their product lines. This means that including a hybrid or 2 in their line allows them to develop larger, faster engines for their other models, thus ensuring hybrids a place in the lineup.

Tell us what you think. Are hybrids the next big thing or simply all hype? Start the debate by commenting below.

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Check out all sides of the great commute debate.

The Great Commute Debate (Our Top 5 Reasons to Series)

The writers at Esurance are well versed on the subject of transportation. But we have trouble agreeing on the best way to get around. We’ve all laid out our cases, and now it’s up to you to decide who wins the great commute debate.

Top 5 Reasons to Drive a Stick Shift
Save money and have some fun.

Top 5 Reasons to Drive an Automatic
Choose from more options and enjoy the easy life.

Top 5 Reasons Not to Drive
Save a ton of money (and your waistline).

Top 5 Reasons to Take Public Transportation
Help the environment and enjoy uninterrupted “me” time.

Top 5 Reasons to Walk
Relieve stress and get to know your neighborhood.

Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Bike
Build thighs of steel and enjoy the city.

Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Motorcycle
Take advantage of the carpool lane (and look cool doing it).

Top 5 reasons to Drive a Hybrid
Enjoy awesome fuel efficiency and sneak up on your friends.

What do you think is the best way to commute? Did we miss any jewels? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Motorcycle

Motorcycles are cool and if you ride one, you’re cool too (probably). But aside from improving your social stock, impressing your friends, and dramatically increasing your happiness, there are a lot of really good reasons to ride. For now, though, I’ll spare you the long version and just give you the top 5 reasons to ride a motorcycle (in very particular order).  

1. You save gas

As with cars, motorcycle mileage can vary significantly based on the bike and how it’s ridden. But the general consensus is that the average for motorcycles is about 50 mpg. And while there are numerous plans to increase mpg for cars, their current average is somewhere between 25 and 35 mpg. Suffice it to say that motorcycles get much, much better mileage than cars (on average).

The average price of gas is currently $3.30 and the average American drives 12,000 miles a year. So if you traded in your car (at 25 mpg) for a motorcycle (at 50 mpg), for example, you could potentially cut your fuel expenses in half reducing the amount you spend at the pump from roughly $1,584 to $792 a year.

2. You can take the carpool lane

According to the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, federal law allows motorcycles to use the carpool lanes, also known as HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, even with a single rider. So, when everyone else is stuck in stop-and-go traffic, you and your steel horse can gallop along in the fast lane.

Yeehaw.  

3. You avoid distracted driving

Here’s a scary fact: according to Distraction.gov (the Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving), 18 percent of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, and a whopping 416,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.

The good news about motorcycles is that it’s impossible to hold onto the handlebars while texting. Plus, all that wind in your ears makes talking on the phone out of the question. So if you happen to be one of those people who feel tempted to text or tweet while driving, you eliminate that risk completely by riding a motorcycle. Just be extra careful since (as you now know) distracted drivers are everywhere. Ride like you’re invisible, always paying extra attention to what drivers around you are doing.

4. You look cool

Looking like a dork, while possible, is actually more difficult on a motorcycle. It’s almost as if, by simply throwing your leg over the gas tank and grabbing hold of the handlebars, you’re able to channel the cache of guys like Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Whether you’re a stockbroker or lion tamer, an accountant or a stuntman, a chick or a dude, almost everyone can up their cool factor considerably by hopping on a bike and hammering down (just make sure to keep the shiny side up).

5. Time travel

In a world overpopulated (and overpolluted) by cars, motorcycles transcend the boundaries of time in unique ways. Not only are they forward-thinking with their inherently compact carbon footprint, but they also hearken back to a time when life wasn’t as cluttered or complicated. Motorcycles still represent the Wild West-like freedom and adventure of the open road, the rugged individualism of the explorer.  

In fact, if you want to experience what it might have been like to ride a horse across the Painted Desert, hop on a bike and head for Monument Valley (where several John Wayne movies were filmed). Riding through the buttes at sunset might be as close as you’ll ever get to stepping back in time.

Bon Jovi didn’t call his ride a “steel horse” for nothing. 

In short, if you ride a motorcycle, you can save up to $792 a year, look like James Dean, avoid distracted driving, never get stuck in traffic, and travel back in time. Who’s in?

Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Bike

When was the last time you hopped on a bike?

If that answer involves a reverie of mini-you waving from a plastic Hot Wheels trike, it’s time for grown-up you to have an adventure.

Especially if that adventure is also the ideal way to commute.

Here are 5 excellent reasons to grab your Huffy and start pedaling:

Reason #1 to ride a bike:  firm thighs

When you ride, your pants will fit better. And you might even need new pants … smaller pants.

While that’s good news for your wardrobe (and ego), it’s excellent news for your health. With our increasingly sedentary modern life, the average American sits at least 8 hours a day — if not more. That might sound lazy and awesome, but the truth is all that inactivity wreaks havoc on our blood sugar and triglyceride levels, priming our bodies for potential struggles with heart disease, depression, and cancer.

But what if you don’t have the time or energy to exercise during an exhausting day of screaming bosses and wailing kiddos? Well, here’s your 2-birds-1-stone solution: bike to work. Just 30 minutes of light cycling (a quick 10 mph ride to the grocery store) can burn off that bagel and cream cheese you ate for breakfast and give you a sanity break from the Terrible 2s.

It’s a stress-reliever and money-saver combined (and it’ll give you thighs that would send Heidi Klum crying to the cookie jar).

Reason #2 to ride a bike: you get to put your money where your mouth is … or wherever you’d like

Other than said new, smaller pants, the daily cost of biking is almost nothing.

Riding a bike helps you save money. A lot of money — and not just on gas. For example, if you biked to work in San Francisco every day for 5 days, you could cut back on all sorts of expenses:

  • Latte (since riding will give you a natural energy boost): $3.69/day = $18.45 a week
  • Gym membership: $94/month = $23 a week
  • Parking: $20/day for a city parking spot = $100 a week
  • Gas: currently around $4 per gallon … for a small SF-style 12-gallon car = $48 a week

Total weekly savings: $189.45 (!)

And if you already have renters insurance, you can protect your bike by adding it to your policy.

Getting set up doesn’t have to be expensive either. Contrary to what you may see out there, you really only need the bike, a helmet, a good lock, and 2 lights (front and back). Purchasing everything secondhand will save you money and won’t contribute any new pollutants to the atmosphere (via the production of new parts).

If you need to brush up on biking laws, or simply want a venue to show off those new pants, check out your local bicycle coalition for free safety workshops and bike maps.

Reason #3 to ride a bike: so you can do something nice for your mama

Mother Earth is stressed out. So why not get on her good side and run your errands on 2 wheels instead of 4? True, some people live where biking to work isn’t always a realistic option. But if you can’t be a weekday warrior, be a weekend warrior … or a whenever-you-can warrior.

By pedaling every Saturday and Sunday, for example, you could save 2 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. It’s an easy change: You and your friends could bike to brunch. Or you could bike as a family to the playground.

Plus, riding a bike doesn’t add pollutants, like carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxides, to our damaged atmosphere and doesn’t intensify the already-dangerous level of greenhouse gases making Earth overheat.

For those of us who have the choice to bike or drive, why not make your mama proud? (Note: every time you ride a bike, it’s like giving Mother Earth a gift card to the spa.)

Reason #4 to ride a bike: you never ever have to take public transportation again

Let’s not mince words here: Have you taken public transportation lately? Not that relaxing Sunday jaunt to the local food truck festival. I’m talking 40 solid minutes of hand-gripping public discomfort, unexplained aromas, a conversation the entire bus can’t help but become emotionally involved in (“Diane, you didn’t!”). Five days a week. Twice a day. (I’m getting anxious just typing this.)

Public transportation brings out the worst in everyone. But biking means never questioning why that seat is wet — or finding out the hard way. Never watching the estimated bus arrival time extend by another 18 minutes. And never, ever feeling your blood pressure skyrocket during that biweekly mechanical delay (I’m looking at you, N-Judah).

If you enjoy starting your day nestled in a stranger’s armpit, then the bus is your chariot.

But for the rest of us, we’ve got our bikes.

Reason #5 to ride a bike: you can stop playing video games … and be the game

Yes, some rides can feel like a game of Paperboy. You’ll have to watch for lunging dogs, car doors that suddenly swing open, maybe (if you’re lucky) break dancers. And if you’re rushing, you could arrive at work looking like an extra from Flashdance (just tote your work clothes with you in a backpack and change in the restroom).

But those irritations are fleeting. What your Xbox doesn’t have is that moment when the glittering skyline stretches in front of you, the part of your ride where you catch the tail end of a crazy orange sunset, or that detour through the park where you can inhale the eucalyptus. You’ll feel the cool evening air against your face, smell those fresh morning doughnuts from the bakery.

You’ll have a real-life adventure.

Enjoy the ride.

Top 5 Reasons to Walk

We’ve heard from Esurance bloggers touting the value of driving and taking public transportation. But how about the method of locomotion so ingenious Mother Nature built it into us?

Being sticklers for detail, here are our top 5 reasons to walk. Read up, and you might be inspired to leave the car keys on the nightstand, the bike in the rack, and the bus fare at home.

1. Walking is an (easy and) excellent way to exercise

Unless you’ve been vacationing on Mars for the past several decades, you’ve heard all about the health benefits of hoofing it. But in case you’re not yet convinced, let’s review these great reasons to walk.

First, it’s easy. Your body intrinsically knows how to do it, so it takes no practice. Plus it’s low-impact — meaning it doesn’t unduly stress your joints and muscles, reducing the possibility of injury. Finally, it’s pretty safe … as long as you don’t stroll along the highway.

And it’s good for you! The Mayo Clinic states that walking can help you:

  • Lower your “bad” cholesterol (or low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol)
  • Raise your “good” cholesterol (or high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol)
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes or help manage it
  • Keep your weight down
  • Lift your mood
  • Stay fit as a fiddle

Oh, and if you’re a smoker, walking can help you quit smoking.

2. Walking relieves stress

This may be one of the best reasons to walk. According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, those who walk regularly (in conjunction with other easy to moderately difficult exercises) have lower stress levels than both layabouts and hardcore exercisers. And the magazine Prevention claims that a “brisk” 20- to 30-minute walk can have the same calming effect as a mild tranquilizer(!).

But beyond the quantifiable benefits, walking also gives you a great chance to think about your life, put your problems in perspective, and get up close and personal with your environment, whether that’s in the lush beauty of nature or the more human marvel of the urban. And re-centering is an undeniably good thing.

3. Walking’s the greenest way to get around

While people often tout the environmental benefits of public transportation, no mode of locomotion beats walking for eco-consciousness. Granted, public transit saves about 1.4 billion gallons of gas annually, which translates into about 14 million tons of CO2. But even busses and many commuter trains emit greenhouse gases. And biking, which comes a close second, requires the use of petroleum to manufacture the tires, grips, cable housings, and even some pedals and saddles.

And while your body may emit the occasional gas, it’s not the sort that’s doing (much) harm to the atmosphere.

4. Walking can help you get to know your neighborhood

Many of us feel like the modern lifestyle — with its glut of easily accessible info, constant communication, breakneck speed, and “social networks” — has left us all a bit more alienated than we’d like. Sometimes, we don’t even know our neighbors or local businesses. Just the other day, in fact, I decided to go for a walk and discovered — after nearly a year in my current neighborhood — a long, creek-side park just a block from my front door!

Driving leaves you isolated in a speeding metal box. And public transportation seems to have an unwritten rule that people don’t interact unless they know each other. But a simple stroll down the street brings you face-to-face with neighbors and local business owners, affording you a chance to offer the kind smile and “Hello” that could be the start of a great friendship.

5. Walking can help you discover local history

Going a bit deeper than discovering new people, places, and things to do, walking can also help you experience the rich history all around us. After all, the bronze plaques that often share this knowledge with the world are tough to digest while you’re whizzing by at 60 mph. For instance, I recently discovered that our headquarters stands across the street from the pier that the Pony Express used to deliver mail across the West Coast.

And if you’re not the type to wander and wait for happenstance to bring you a slice of local history, try Niantic Labs’ FieldTrip, a location-based Android app that provides rich historical details about the places around you. (Sorry iOS users — your version of the app is still in the works.)

Walking’s simply the greatest way to get around

Granted, a Sunday stroll won’t get you on your way to your next vacation, or help you make it to work when you’re running late. It’s just not an efficient way to travel long distances.

But no other mode of locomotion gets you out into the world, helps you stay healthy and happy, and keeps you informed quite like the good ole leisurely amble. The reasons to walk are all around you, so get out there and enjoy yourself!

Related articles

I know I said walking takes no practice, but if you want to do it perfectly, follow these instructions on how to walk.

Now that you know our top 5 reasons to walk, keep the debate going by reading other Esurance bloggers’ takes on the: