Electric or hybrid? These drivers are wealthier

Motorists who purchase electric vehicles tend to be younger and more affluent than drivers who buy more conventional hybrid vehicles, according to a new study from Experian Automotive.

The findings are in line with other reports that have found the luxury battery-powered Tesla Model S has become one of the most popular products among motorists in the nation's wealthiest zip codes.

A Tesla Motors Model S connected to a charger sits on display at the company's store at the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, New Jersey.
Emile Warnsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"At first glance, one would imagine that consumers purchasing either a hybrid or electric vehicle would be nearly identical; both are environmentally conscious, are of similar ages and have higher income levels," said Melinda Zabritski, senior director for Experian Automotive. But the data tracking firm found surprising differences.

More than half of the motorists purchasing electric vehicles were between the ages of 36 and 55, with only a quarter of the group 56 or older, according to the research. But nearly half of those who bought a hybrid fall into the older age group.

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Meanwhile, 21 percent of the electric vehicle owners had an average household income of $175,000 or more, compared with just 12 percent of the hybrid owners.

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"One possible reason for the disparity could be the growing popularity of the higher-end luxury electric models available," Zabritski said.

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That theory in falls in line with data compiled late last year by data tracking firm Edmunds, which found that the Tesla Model S had become the most frequently registered new car in eight of the nation's top 25 wealthiest neighborhoods, tracked by zip code.

That included Atherton, Calif., zip code 94027, where the average home was listed as $6.7 million, and where the Tesla Model S was commanding a 15 percent share of new vehicle registrations. In nearby Los Altos Hills, it was nearly 12 percent.

The Experian study also found that motorists purchasing an electric vehicle had a higher average credit score of 749, compared with 741 for hybrid owners.