While some alternative energy cars have been criticized for costing inordinately more than conventional cars, a number of hybrid cars cannot be so easily pigeonholed.

No, there are actually seven U.S. models that stand to pay their owners back in under three years for the price premium charged for their more-advanced powertrains – even without government subsidies that plug-in cars rely upon.

These estimates are not ours, but rather the federal government’s. As a gauge for what consumers might expect if they opt to go with a hybrid model, the U.S. EPA compares same-brand hybrid and non-hybrid vehicles for as close to an apple-to-apple matchup as possible.

The EPA assumes 15,000 miles driven annually, regular gas for $2.16 per gallon, premium for $2.66, and a mix of 55 percent city and 45 percent highway driving. Of course these are idealized numbers, so your situation may be different, but if variables are different for you, that would not undo the relative comparison between hybrid and non-hybrid as they would both be equally affected.

The 37-mpg 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid would have been the eighth on the list, but takes exactly 3.0 years to pay back. Hybrids promise fuel consumption and emissions reductions are a hedge against rising fuel prices.

The 37-mpg 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid would have been eighth, but takes exactly 3.0 years to pay back. Hybrids promise fuel consumption and emissions reductions and are a hedge against rising fuel prices.

Further, given people are holding onto cars for upwards of a dozen years, the prospect of getting a car that saves money, and then keeps paying back after the break-even point is one good indicator of whether a hybrid would be a wise choice.

As you’d expect, all the cars on the list are comparable to conventionally powered alternatives in terms of drivability, utility, and comfort, meaning potential drawbacks are otherwise minimal if there are any at all.

So, without further adieu, following are the best deals in America by federal reckoning.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited – 2.8 Years


The Avalon Hybrid is the brand’s top of the range sedan edging to the point of being nearly a Lexus with Toyota badge, and next to the non-hybrid Avalon, it is a relative fuel-saving value.

It utilizes a 2.5-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain essentially lifted from the Camry Hybrid and returns a respectable 40 mpg.

That compares extremely favorably to the non-hybrid 3.5-liter V6 Avalon Limited which gets 24 mpg – 16 mpg less – and the hybrid “surcharge” is a modest $1,500.

Of course the non-hybrid has more power, so this is a consideration.

Otherwise, the EPA figures the hybrid saves $540 per year over the non-hybrid

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited – 2.5 Years


Toyota’s AWD hybrid version of the RAV is new this year, and priced a mere $700 over the comparably equipped 2.5-liter RAV4 AWD Limited while returning 32 mpg versus 25.

The hybrid is quicker too, and employs a unique AWD system utilizing an electric motor to drive the rear wheels paired with the 2.5-liter HSD powertrain propelling the front wheels.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review – Video

This system is best as a helper for on-road traction duties, sensing slip and turning on as needed.

The EPA figures the hybrid saves $283 per year over the non-hybrid

2016 Toyota Prius Two – 2.1 Years


Your tax dollars at work have made for an oddball lineup, as the feds compare the Prius Two to the closest thing they could think of – a conventional Camry LE.

Of course this is an exception to the apple-to-apple mandate as the Prius is quite unique. Soon enough there will be a 58-mpg Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid which is by far a closer match-up, but the EPA’s gauge is between same-make cars.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Prius Review – Video

This said, the Prius costs $1,350 more but crushes the EPA ratings with 52 mpg versus 28 for the not-even-close Camry sedan.

The EPA figures the hybrid saves $534 per year over the non-hybrid

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring – 2.1 Years


Back after a hiatus in model year 2016, Honda’s revised 48 mpg Accord Hybrid is as high-tech as hybrids come and beats the 25 mpg non-hybrid 3.5-liter V6 Accord Touring by an impressive 23 mpg.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Review – First Drive

Here also, the power is greater in the V6, but the hybrid is no slouch, and worth checking out.

The price difference is $1,305 more, and the EPA figures the hybrid saves $621 per year over the non-hybrid

2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium – 0.4 Years

2017 model pictured.

2017 model pictured.

This is this year’s model and there is actually an updated 2017 model for sale now, but for your info, the 2016 Hybrid costs just $160 more than the non-hybrid four-cylinder Fusion FWD Titanium and promises 41 mpg versus 26, and what’s not to like?

Filed in the encyclopedia under “no brainer” the hybrid 2016 Fusion pays back in 4.8 months and is estimated to save $456 in fuel annually – and the 2017 looks even better.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review

The revised-for-2017 hybrid Fusion in Titanium trim now promises 42 mpg versus 25 mpg, and appears also to be priced to makes sense.

One would think so, as it is America’s best-selling hybrid sedan and typically ranks second or third behind the market-dominant Toyota Prius.

2016 Buick LaCrosse eAssist – 0 Years


There is now a revised LaCrosse, and the eAssist option is gone (a better car is the 2017 Chevy Malibu Hybrid) but 2016 models still available may be a good value.

Not a “full hybrid,” the mild hybrid 2.4-liter four-cylinder eAssist utilizes a helper motor to incrementally improve fuel economy.

The really good part is it costs no extra to go this way compared to a 3.6-liter V6 non-eAssist LaCrosse.

Fuel economy difference is 28 mpg for the no-extra-charge eAssist, or 21 mpg for the regular model.

The EPA figures the eAssist saves $386 per year over the non-eAssist

2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid – 0 Years


Ford’s pricing policy for the upper scale Fusion Titanium is even better for its Lincoln division’s MKZ Hybrid as the surcharge is $0 between it and the MKZ FWD.

The hybrid utilizes a 2.0-liter hybrid engine and the non-hybrid available also in AWD has a 2.0-liter turbo. A V6 is also available in FWD and rated 21 mpg or AWD and rated 20 mpg.

Otherwise, the gas-saver in the family, the hybrid, has plenty of power, and offers 40 mpg versus 26 for its most-efficient sibling.

The EPA figures the hybrid saves $436 per year and this makes the decision to “go hybrid” financially pain-free.