Ask any manufacturer of hybrid cars about the benefits involved and you’ll be told hybrids are saving fuel, money and the planet. But what’s the truth? Well, first, we need to establish exactly what type of hybrid car we’re dealing with here. There are plug-in hybrids, hybrids that use a petrol engine only to charge their on-board batteries and the most common type, the petrol-electric hybrid as in, say, the Toyota Prius.

The Prius (and its ilk) is the most common one out there, so let’s deal with petrol-electrics in general. The hybrid aims to save fuel by running on electric power when possible. But when you need full acceleration or the batteries are discharged, or you want to run a long distance like on a highway or country road, then the petrol engine chimes in to both drive the car and charge the batteries. That means that unless you’re driving in stop-start traffic for the majority of the time, the hybrid won’t save you nearly as much fuel as you might have thought. In fact, on a freeway run with the engine running the whole time, you might actually use more fuel than a small conventional car or a turbo-diesel.

That’s because the hybrid is typically heavier than a normal car thanks to all those batteries. In the city, sure, go for a hybrid, but a small-capacity turbo-diesel or high-tech petrol engine would be our pick for people living in the bush. There’s often a little extra servicing required for most hybrids and then there’s the dreaded question of what happens when the batteries up and die (as they will in time). Replacing those will never be cheap and could just eat up any savings you’ve accrued in the years leading up to their demise. We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid, just that you need to make sure it’s fit for your specific needs.