Hybrid Cars Popular Amid Soaring Gas Prices

It's getting tough to find regular for less than $3 a gallon. Gas prices have risen a dollar a gallon since the end of January.

And as those numbers at the pump continue to climb, more car buyers are taking a serious look at another set of numbers: MPG estimates on car stickers.

And hybrid vehicles are the ones getting the most attention these days.

Once merely a favorite of the "green" crowd, hybrids like the Toyota Prius are taking center stage at car lots across America.

"It's the number one car out there. It's the number one baby from Toyota. It's the pride and joy here," said Joe Moore, who sells hybrid vehicles at Bert Allen Toyota in Gulfport.

Toyota's pride and joy gets an impressive 60 miles a gallon in the city. Rising gas prices are pushing the popularity of hybrids.

"Summer is coming on. People are going to be using their cars more and more, traveling on vacations and what have you. And they're becoming more and more popular," said Moore.

They are so popular that most major car manufacturers now feature several hybrid models. And the technology has advanced considerably.

Charles Duke sells hybrid cars at Pat Peck Honda in Gulfport.

"You no longer have anything to plug in with batteries. They do charging on their own. You're braking and when you coast in the vehicle, it charges the battery up, which gives you the more fuel efficiency," Duke explained.

Honda's popular Accord and Civic are both available as hybrids.

"It's much more economic wise with the hybrids as gas prices go up, without a doubt," says Duke.

Car shoppers we talked with say while gas mileage has not yet become the overall consideration in buying a new car, it has certainly climbed the list of priorities to consider before making that purchase.

"When you're talking about going from $40 to $50 budgeted per week for gas, and it's moving into the $70 and $80 range, yeah, people are cost conscious and looking for an alternative," Moore said.

Most of the hybrid cars cost several thousand dollars more than the gas engine models. But with prices at the pump, and the increased gas mileage the hybrids offer, that difference can be easily made up over the life of the vehicle.