The question you need to ask yourself are
- Do you mind paying more up front?
- Are you willing to hold on to the vehicle for a while before you start saving money?
- Do you want to have a car with lower emissions?
- Do you want to be seen as green?
- Are there any local, state or federal perks for driving a hybrid that you can take advantage of?
There are a lot of options out there and I can't say for sure whether a hybrid is right for you or not. What it comes down to is personal preference and budgetary constraints.
There's not much I can say about your budget. If you just want to pay the least you can and get the best fuel economy you can and you don't care about size, then a hybrid car may not be your best choice. I would probably recommend one of the smaller mini-cars out there instead (Yaris, Aveo, etc...)
Hybrids Save You Money
If you can afford to pay at least $20K for a car and you don't want a mini, then a hybrid may be the best way to go. The hybrid engine can give you better fuel economy, but it doesn't come at a cheap up front price. Yet, you can save money in the long run compared to other cars in the same class if you choose to go hybrid. How long you need to own the car before you will see any savings depends on gas prices and how much driving you do.
Hybrid cars can emit less pollutants. Look on fueleconomy.gov for greenhouse gas emissions and sort the 2007 family sedans from best to worst. The top four models are hybrids. Repeat the process for SUVs and you will see the top 8 models are hybrids. There's no doubt about it. Buying a hybrid means you will be putting out less emissions than with other cars in the same class.
So your choice may come down to being seen as being green. Unlike buying smaller cars, which may classify you as thrifty instead of green, hybrids are recognized as being both economic and green. In which case you may want to buy the Prius, recognized everywhere as being a hybrid. If you don't want to show off your green credentials so blatantly, you can choose any of the others. Except for the hybrid badging, there's very little difference between the hybrid model and the gas-only counterparts. Until someone gets into your car for a trip, they may not even realize it.
Sometimes, being green can pay off in little ways. Access to the HOV lane, free parking, lower taxes from the federal or state, etc... Look into what you can get if you decide to buy a hybrid.
More to Know
If you really feel like a hybrid is right for you, but aren't sure which hybrid to buy, please take a look around on this site. You'll find plenty of information. I would start by looking at The Top Ten Hybrids or How to Choose Which Hybrid to Buy. There's also the Pros and Cons of Hybrids.