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A recent study by Experian Automotive reports that 40% more hybrid cars were sold in the U.S. in 2012 than in the previous year. And while hybrids claim just 3% of the auto market share, their steady rise in popularity has made them a mainstream choice among today’s car buyers. The growing popularity of hybrid cars is due to an increase in model choices, time-tested technology and more competitive pricing.

Just 10 years ago the emerging hybrid car market was dominated by Toyota’s Prius, with few other proven alternatives. Honda’s original hybrid Insight was a competitor, but too small to be practical for families. US manufacturers were slow to pick up the hybrid technology, with consumers still enamored by the full-sized SUVs and smaller SUV crossovers with improved fuel efficiency.

Today there are four versions of the iconic Toyota Prius – the standard model, the Prius C and Prius V, and a plug-in electric model. Last year, Toyota sold over 230,000 Priuses in the U.S., a 73% increase from 2011. In California, the Prius has become the top-selling car, even outselling non-hybrids.

Last year, Toyota sold over 230,000 Priuses in the U.S., a 73% increase from 2011

But while the Prius still holds the major share of hybrid car sales, the competition has heated up. Today, every major auto manufacturer has a hybrid model in development or market-ready. Ford has chipped away at Toyota’s market share, which has dropped from 68% to 60% over the past year, while Ford now enjoys a 16% share. Ford’s popular new C-MAX Hybrid even outsold the Prius V during its first month of sales.

Owning a hybrid car today is more affordable than in years past. The 2013 Honda Insight Hybrid and the Toyota Prius C, both compact sedans, have US base prices of $19,000. The 2013 base model Toyota Prius costs $24,200. Most other competing models are now priced below $30,000.

The appearance of hybrid cars has also evolved considerably in the past few years. The original wedge-shape body of the Prius, designed to be aerodynamic for maximum fuel efficiency, had limited consumer appeal. Today, car buyers can choose hybrids with the identical styling of non-hybrid models. For example, the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, with its roomy interior and stylish exterior, has gained wide acceptance among consumers as well as car reviewers, and named 2013’s Best Hybrid Car for the Money by US News.

The Top 10 Best Selling Hybrid Cars:

Edmunds.com estimates that market share of alternative fuel vehicles will rise from roughly 3% in 2012 to nearly 5% by 2015. The top 10 best-selling hybrid cars in the U.S. today are:

  1. Toyota Prius Liftback, $24,000
  2. Toyota Camry Hybrid, $26,140
  3. Ford Fusion Hybrid, $27,200
  4. Toyota Prius C, $19,080
  5. Ford C-MAX Hybrid, $25,200
  6. Toyota Prius V, $26,650
  7. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, $30,550
  8. Toyota Avalon Hybrid, $35,555
  9. Chevrolet Malibu Eco, $25,200
  10. Kia Optima Hybrid, $25,700