Profile of Hybrid Drivers

There’s been a lot of publicity related to celebrities who drive hybrids. The list reportedly includes Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sting, Cameron Diaz, Tim Robbins and Leonardo DeCaprio. With hundreds of thousands of hybrids on the road, the legions of hybrid car drivers certainly include regular folks too. But who are they?

We’ve been tracking studies of hybrid demographics for years, and the trends are clear:

  • Hybrid drivers have higher income, much higher than the average car buyer. In 2004, J.D. Power reported that hybrid owner incomes are $100,000 a year versus $85,000 a year for the average buyer. In a 2007 survey of 118 Prius drivers by Topline Strategy Group, 71 percent of respondents earned more than $100,000 per year. A 2007 study by Scarborough Research— approx. 1,000 hybrid drivers, not just Prius owners, gave answers—showed that 42 percent have an income of greater than $100,000.
  • Hybrid drivers are a few years older than the average car buyer—closer to 50 rather than the average age of 40. J.D. Power’s 2007 review of auto industry marketing showed that only 2 percent of hybrid owners are 24 or younger; while 29 percent are between 45 and 54; and 33 percent are 55 and older. The 2007 Scarborough Research pegged the number of age 50+ hybrid drivers at 23 percent.
  • California strongly outpaces all other states for new hybrid vehicle registrations. See our Hybrid Market Dashboard for information about regional hybrid registrations.

There is also strong evidence that hybrid drivers have higher levels of education. “Hybrid car drivers have a level of education higher than any group of car drivers that I’ve ever seen,” said Walter McManus, of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. McManus’s research also showed that hybrid drivers expect fuel prices to grow a lot faster than other people do. “It doesn’t mean that they’re right. It doesn’t mean that the other people are right,” said McManus. “But they’re much more pessimistic about the future of fuel prices than the average person.”

The 2007 Scarborogh Research survey, which focused on the hybrid owners within a much broader lifestyle study of 110,000 adults, sheds some light on other consumer behavior and political patterns. According to Scarborough, which has a a joint partnership with The Nielsen Company and Arbitron, Inc., hybrid owners are:

  • Twice as likely to claim to go skiing, hiking, or practice yoga than non-hybrid owners.
  • They consume more organic food, yogurt, and decaffeinated coffee than the general population.
  • The group also indicated above-average tech savvy skills. Within the last month, 78 percent used e-mail. Nearly a third either used their mobile phone for text messaging or taking photographs, while more than a third used a digital-video recorder, satellite TV, or a video game system. Their online activities seem to favor websites that offer news and information, as well as auctions, such as Ebay.
  • Politically, 14 percent called themselves Republican, 38 percent Democrat, and 34 percent identify as independent.

And in the most important market factor—satisfaction with their purchase decision—hybrid owners are unique. From the earliest of early adopters in 2000 to the most recent of mainstream hybrid buyers, the percentage of hybrid owners who express being “very happy” or “somewhat happy” with their hybrids has hovered near 100 percent.


  • Sean

    This is totally true! I don’t think I’ve seen another Prius driver under 55. I bought my hybrid at 29 and I don’t think it has made it into the trendy demographics mindset yet. For the sake of the planet more young people need to buy one!

  • Old Fart

    OK, not really an old fart, but I was 41 when I bought mine and noticed that same thing, all old people driving the prius. But, just in the last month or two I’ve seen lots and lots of “younger” drivers, about ages 35-50. Colorado residents get a huge state tax credit ($3,285 in ’06) for buying the prius so I think sales are really taking off around here in all age brackets.

  • domboy

    Hmm… perhaps the Camry might not become the new “Buick”… it might be the Prius that faces this fate!

  • dave

    Out here in Chicago, I actually see more 30-35 yr olds–mostly women, too–driving Priuses and Escape Hybrids. I just assume these are the same 30-35 yr olds who would otherwise pay 26-30k for a SAAB, Volvo, or other lower-entry-level luxury marque, but who want to make a greener statement.

  • Aaron

    I have owned my ’04 Civic Hybrid since I was 16 (of course, with some help from my parents).

    I drove the car to High School during my last two years, now I use it at college. I love that car.

  • lifes a trip

    My wife, 29, owns a Prius and loves it. She is the youngest person I’ve seen driving one in Dallas. My father recently traded in his Ford Expedition for one after reading more about the fossil fuel trends. He doesn’t miss it

  • JOHN P.

    I’m a 20 years old male looking foward into buying a hybrid. But there is a problem they are too expensive I can’t afford to pay for a car that expensive. That just maybe the reason why you would see older people in hybrids. Plus the Maintenance cost are too high. I JUST WISH THEY WERE MORE AFFORDABLE.

  • BLCKPRS

    Maintenance costs are too high? They are high, because they are rarely (if ever) needed. These cars are “perfect”. I know the price is definitely not economy, but if you are thinking about financing, just go for it. At least the car will still be perfect when you are done paying for it, whereas with most cars, by the time you are done paying for it, you are already thinking about selling it.

  • Jenny B.

    Here in So. Cal, Prius is very trendy. I’m a 30 year old, single mother of 2 children. Finance the car and go for it. It is roomier than most would think and together we can all make a better future for our children. I love my Prius!

  • Armand

    Probably the reason why older people own more hybrids is because they are the ones who can afford to buy one comfortably.

    Granted, there are alot of young idiots who go and blow $30K or more on gas-guzzling piles but still, most of us can’t even do that.

    It’s no wonder Lexus made the 600H…they know that only well-to-do people can buy hybrids.

    Not until we see hybrid technology in lower cost vehicles will we see a real jump of any significance. Until then, all the stupid SUV drivers will keep laughing at the hybrid crowd.

  • Tre

    Hybrid sales have increased 99% over the same month last year, with prius gaining 196% and camry gaining 126%. Those numbers represent a significant jump. The civic hybrid is around $20,000. It won’t be long until you’ll be able to get a brand new hybrid for under $15,000. I personally can’t wait to get my first hybrid!

  • minerval

    I don’t think the age profiling is accurate enough for this matter.
    There are still people who have too much money in the bank buying Caddy, Chevy or Dodge those gas suckers etc.
    I think the true Hybird owners’ profiling statement should be the “well educated”, “financial responsible” and with “long term personal plan” bunch ….
    Regardless the age and actual income bucket…

  • Savage

    I don’t own one yet, but I’m curious, did you buy to help the environment or to avoid the high cost of gas? Or is this considered the new status symbol?

  • Glenn

    I bought my 2005 Prius two years ago for many reasons; to save money (my savings started right away, as my “original” choice was a similarly priced Hyundai XG350 which got 20 mpg, wheras my Prius gets 45 to 57 mpg). I wanted to reduce pollution; reduce oil imports (and stop sending money to people who wanted to kill me and my civilization); and because the car was so cool. My wife concurred with the purchase after we rented a Prius 2 1/2 years ago over a weekend; she kept saying “it’s so quiet! It’s so smooth!” She was sold.

  • Ellen Paul

    We brought our 2007 Prius just 6 months ago and are very happy with it. I’m getting 55 mph on virtually every tank–saving gas $$ and doing my part for increasing energy conservation and lowering air pollution.

  • pendoctrjd

    I want to open a webstore to sell accessories for hybrids competitively priced; “green” when available. I’ve been told that hybrid owners don’t “dress up” their vehicles like the owner of a Mustang or Camaro, as an example.

    What do you think? Would you buy accessories from an online store for your hybrid?

    Please let me know at HappyHybrids@aol.com.

  • Jesse Rudavsky

    Hi There, Jesse here from Hingham MA. I was just 18 and 1/2 back on 11/14/02 when I bought my 2000 insight. Now I have a 2002 prius with 324K miles on the original battery pack. Still going strong.

  • Caitlin

    I was 19 when I bought my 2004 Prius. I love my car. I had two other friends in college, both 18 who each owned a 2004 Prius. I’m not sure how the 2% came about, but there must be more younger people out there with hybrids. There were three in rural VA/WV. The data is probably a little off because most people under 24 with a hybrid probably have a parent as a co-owner because they are a little expensive.

  • B the Bobcat

    I live in San Antonio, TX and bought an ’05 HCH. I was 22 at the time of purchase, and I love it. I see a significant number of fellow Bobcat at Texas State Univ.–San Marcos also with hybrids. I’m curious about the dispersal of hybrid purchases across demographics and locations. It would be nice to see more data regarding the purchasing of the vehicles. I bought mine because I love the tech and knew I’d save money on gas. I’m looking forward to buying a flex-fuel plug-in Volt for my next car.

  • Rolf

    In a country like South Africa,
    a hybrid is still a very rare sight. Replacing my 10 year old Camry, which still runs without any problems, I decided to be one of the first over here to take the step into the Hybrid technology. I enjoy driving the Prius and the fuel economy is absolutely fantastic. Which other technology offers a fully automatic transmission vehicle
    with better than half the fuel consumption of a similar sized stick shift car? Driving the Prius puts a smile on my face, even in rush hour stop and go traffic…

  • Dan Peed

    Enough of this demographics stuff. People who buy the Prius or other hybrids are just plain people who use their heads. Hey everybody, as soon as you get into your new Prius or Civic hybrid, you’ll be saving $$$ and gas, because you’ll be getting 45-50 mpg. I sure love my 2002 Prius. It always gets about 45 mpg, and no mechanical problems, ever.

  • Gary

    Bought the Prius because it does everything that we need a car to do and does it well. Efficient, comfortable, roomy, and simple to maintain (oil changes are extremely easy). Fuel economy is as good as our VW diesels (50 mpg) without the constant repairs. Toyota quality control is legendary. We’re extremely satisfied with the car, but don’t expect to buy one for much under list or without a lot of dealer options (to pad profits) — despite Toyota’s increased production, they are still in short supply here in San Antonio. Our next car (to replace one of the VWs, around 2012) will probably be another Toyota Prius … or perhaps a Loremo, Aptera, or Chevy Volt, depending on availability and price. It would be nice if Toyota approved use of E85.