Researchers at Baylor University said the finding is significant because some segments of the older-consumer population control a considerable share of the discretionary income in the United States.
The population size of that "mature market" is growing rapidly, they said.
A national survey of 314 consumers age 60 and older who had bought hybrid cars found their satisfaction was influenced by social values -- including pride and prestige -- as well as quality and price, Baylor family and consumer sciences Professor Jay Yoo said.
Hybrid cars make a significant statement about a person's "green" intentions, he said.
"If I want to pay $5 for a 'green' detergent or sponge, I'll know that I'm helping the environment," Yoo said. "But those things aren't highly visible. Other people aren't going to notice."
Previous research has shown older consumers are more inclined than younger generations are to behave in a pro-environment way, he said.
"The findings suggest that elderly consumers are concerned about how they appear to others when driving a hybrid car," the researchers wrote in the journal Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing and Service Industries. "They believe that driving a hybrid car builds a positive self-image of the people who drive them."