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The Pros and Cons of a Prius – From an Owner’s Mouth

As I’ve written before, my husband owns a Prius.  The funniest thing is that we didn’t actually buy a Prius to conserve gas.  In 2008, my husband wanted a small SUV in order to haul around his reffing supplies and Curling gear, but then he saw a Prius in a supermarket parking lot and peeked in the back.  He was surprised by the storage area and the Prius was cheaper than the Hyundai Sante Fe he had in mind.  That is how we ended up choosing to buy a Prius - it ended up being $21,500 for a 2007 Toyota Prius with a ton of extras and the Sante Fe was about $30,000-$35,000 depending on what options he wanted.  That said, making double the miles per gallon is pretty great too.  Here are the pros and cons we see of owning a Prius:

Prius Pros

  • It makes 44-47 miles per gallon on road trips and 47-52 miles per gallon with in-city driving.  Yep, that seems backwards but it isn’t since the breaking system is part of the battery re-charging process.
  • It has the perfect amount of storage space in the back for all the stuff my husband takes around – reffing duffel bags, Curling broom and shoe bag, and our bowling ball bags for our bowling league.
  • It is very comfortable for up to 4 adults and semi-comfortable for 5 if a couple of the adults are not large, lol.
  • It drives fairly smooth – a lot smoother than my Chevy Aveo.
  • It is a quiet ride since it only makes noise while it uses gas to recharge the batteries.
  • It doesn’t require much maintenance at all since all of the systems are enclosed.  So far, we just have its oil changed every 5000 miles and it will need a closer look when it hits 100,000 miles.
  • The push button start and backup camera are great!  Other cars have those too, so keep an eye out.

Prius Cons

  • There is a big blind spot thanks to the slope of the rear window area.
  • It is so quiet that we’ve accidentally left it running in the garage for a few hours until we went to investigate the periodic vacuum cleaner sound.
  • It seems to run through good tires every year or two and it costs about $450 to have them all replaced at Discount Tire.
  • If something breaks that shouldn’t – it would be expensive to replace.  The battery pack alone is $3000.  So far, we haven’t had any issues at all though.

Can You Save Money in the Long Run on Gas Alone?

Before you yell at me about a Prius being a bad deal, I will beat you to the punch.  It isn’t a great deal for everyone.  I know.  It was an awesome car for us since it saved me from owning an expensive SUV that makes 22 miles per gallon on a good day, but it isn’t the car for everyone.  If you are ever in the market for a basic sedan, it would take years for the Prius to pay you back for its extra cost through gas savings alone.  Here is a quick breakdown.

A Prius vs Basic Sedan Breakdown

Let’s say you drive 15,000 miles a year (like my husband).  Let’s also say a Prius makes 50 miles per gallon and cost $23,000 to buy and the other car you have in mind makes 25 miles per gallon and cost $18,000 to buy (a standard sedan).  That means you would need to fill up the other car twice as much but it cost $5000 less up front. 

At gas being $3.00 a gallon, the Prius would cost $900 in gas and the other car would be $1800 in gas.  You’d only be saving $900 a year in gas.  It would take you a little more than 5 1/2 years to pay back the extra cost of the Prius in gas alone.  So in our example, if you usually own your cars for 6 years or more, the Prius may make sense for you.  If not, the sedan may end up being cheaper if all other things were equal.

The Gas Savings vs Bigger Prius Cost Equation

Basically, here’s how you can use to see if a Prius would save you more in the long run:

1.  (Your Average Annuals Miles / Comparison Car Miles Per Gallon) * $Gas Price Per Gallon = Cost of Gas for Comparison Car (CC)
2.  (Your Average Annuals Miles / 50) * $Gas Price Per Gallon = Cost of Gas for Prius (P)
3.  CC – P = Gas Savings Per Year (to use below)

Extra Cost of the Prius / Gas Savings per Year = Years it Would Take to Break Even

Example – 2011 Prius at $25,000 vs 2011 Corolla at $18,000 (based on prices I found online at a nearby Toyota dealer)

1.  (12,000 / 30) * $3 = $1200
2.  (12,000 / 50) * $3 = $720
3.  $1200 – $720 = $480

$7000 / $480 = 14.6 Years to Break Even

That number of years would go down as gas prices go up and vice versa.  But in general, I wouldn’t make my car choice based on miles per gallon alone.  Would I think about getting a Prius myself?  Yep.  But I like it because of its versatility.  Keep in mind though, my other favorites are a Mazda Miata or even a Mini Coupe…cuteness can beat out usefulness, lol.

Look at me getting my math on for you.  :-)

What do you like and dislike about your vehicle?  What do you like and dislike about a Prius?  Any Prius owners out there with one 5 years and older?  What can we expect?

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21 comments to The Pros and Cons of a Prius – From an Owner’s Mouth

  • Great comparison in the end. I have a colleague that has a prius and everyone was drooling over his mgp one day at lunch. What they failed to consider is that he paid more for his car than mine. Maybe next time I will speak up.. :)

  • I have a Toyota Yaris – 42 mpg and it was $15k. :D

    Right after I got it, I got water in my gas tank and had it towed in for repairs (which the gas station had to pay for – bwahahaha!). They gave me a Prius to drive until it was fixed, and while I liked it fine, I was glad to get my little Yaris back. The blind spot was a huge issue for me; I think it’s worse for short people. I always felt like I couldn’t see out of the rearview mirror. I was also a little TOO obsessed with the real-time mpg info – I would catch myself watching it instead of focusing on the road.

    I think the Prius is a great car for some people, but I was able to get nearly the same mpg from a cheaper car. Also, my Yaris has fewer bells and whistles, which means fewer things that could potentially break and need repair.

  • I loved my Toyota Prius. I had it for 2 years. The storage area in the back was a pleasant surprise to us too. I bought a Prius not for the saving, but for the ride. I was curious how hybrid cars worked. In the end, I traded it in for a more luxurious car, but I would love to buy a hybrid car for my daughter some day :)

  • I looked at a Prius this past spring but ended up not buying it. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $30k on a car, and that’s the lowest price they offered me on a vehicle eligible for their 0% financing offer. The manager tried a few arguments to get me to buy that day, including how good it would be for the environment if I drove a Prius. I told him that I was driving a 10 year old car with 40k miles on it; I thought I was doing the environment more good by walking, cycling, and taking public transit much more than driving. Then I walked out.

    Gas prices here in Chicago have been well above $3 a gallon for a while; I think we’re at roughly $3.60 a gallon now. I only spend an average of $25 a month on fuel, though, since I drive so infrequently. I know that’s hard for some people to do, but I think we could all benefit from taking a really critical look at how we can reduce the amount of driving we do and instead walk or cycle more. It would help our health and may reduce our healthcare related expenses, too.

  • YFS

    I own a prius and the only reason I bought it was because it allows my wife to cut out 30 minutes of commuting each way to work. In VA if you have a hybrid you can ride HOV with 1 person. So a hybrid/prius is worth it’s weight in gold in my area.

  • I’ve been thinking about getting one. My car only gets 23 mpg and that’s obviously not the greatest.

    We used to have a Mercedes and it ran on grease (most older Mercedes can do this) and it was super cheap because most restaurants will give it to you for free.

  • Michelle

    I have a loaded 2004 Hyundai Sante Fe and I love it! I bought it used for ~$17 back in 2008 and it only had 24,000 miles on it!!! It was an older ladies car that only drove it to church and to the store; she only got rid of it because she didnt want to “climb” into an SUV anymore.
    It is a gas guzzler compared to the Prius but I love SUV’s.

  • Awesome analysis! There don’t seem to be too many downsides, so it almost seems like a no-brainer for the eco-conscious folk out there. If you’re really concerned about saving money overall, it’s a harder choice as you’ve illustrated very well.

  • Do you really consider a Prius a small SUV? I can’t image taking it camping or anything outdoorsy. I love my car, 2000 Volvo Station Wagon. Total soccer mom car, but I’ll drive it until it dies.

    Also, Adaptu just launched our Mobile Wallet! Would love to hear your feedback on it: https://www.adaptu.com/community/about_adaptu/newsroom/blog/2011/12/12/can-you-afford-it-adaptus-new-iphone-app-will-let-you-know

  • We actually looked into Prius a few years ago and instead setteled for a Honda Element. We needed something that we can take outdoors, into the mountains. Prius does seem quite suitable for it.

  • We rented a Prius when we were in Florida once and it did work out for the 5 of us, although we only took short trips. I too was surprised about the amount of storage space. I also remember restarting it because it was so quiet I forgot it was already running.

    3000 dollars for a new battery? Wow! I hope it never has to be replaced.

  • Thanks for the analysis. I have often thought about it, but never pulled the trigger because the relative vale vs. the price. I only drive 7,500 miles a year.

  • Nice analysis. I read something similar a while back stating that it doesn’t really make much sense to buy if you are just going for the gas savings. Personally I wouldn’t feel safe in a Prius going down the highway. I’d feel like I’m in a cracker box. I like the bulk of my grand prix. :)

  • I like your write-up. I’m of the opinion that efficiency always pays for itself. Gasoline is not likely to stay at $3 per galon for the next 5 years. Several large industry groups, plus the US military, firmly believe we are headed for shortages, price spikes, and these are the days we all wish we had a Toyota Prius.

    I love our 2010 Honda Insight. Sadly, it’s being repaired due to an embarrassing crash last week…I’ll spare you the details.

  • Andrea, I’m curious to hear your pros and cons on the Yaris. I was just looking at it last night, and looks really tempting.

    I dislike my scooter because it’s 20 degrees out right now. And because it’s left me walking to work the past 2 days because the battery is dead and I haven’t bothered to jump it because then it’ll just be dead at work, too, because something’s shot. Everything else about it is freakin fantastic, though!

  • I drove one when I was looking for my last next car, all the dials and lights and moving displays on the dash were a total turn off for me. The expensive battery also scared me off.

  • @Corey, spring the equations on them. ;-)

    @Andrea, the Yaris has been on my radar for the last year or so too. It looks like what I wish the Aveo actually was – a good little car that makes great gas mileage. The Aveo is small but only makes 28-31 mpg.

    @Tushar, LOL, for me, the Prius is luxury. My Aveo doesn’t have a CD player or power anything…

    @Linda, $30k?! Ouch. I wonder why they are cheaper here. As for bicycling, I don’t see it as a safe option in Houston. Once I leave my little neighborhood, it’s 4-5 lanes of traffic to get anywhere and we don’t have bike paths. I rather burn some gas than play live-action Frogger. ;-)

    @YFS, that is awesome!!!

    @Michelle, on grease? I’ve heard of that but not in a “normal” car. Cool!

    @Jeffrey, thanks!

    @Jenna, no, a Prius is definitely not an SUV. My husband had to choose between a small SUV and a Prius and chose the Prius since it had enough room without being an SUV.

    @Aloysa, you made a good choice for you – the Prius does not seem to do well on steep hills and I read some bad reviews of them in cold climates as well.

    @Kris, supposedly the battery won’t die, but we’ll see. This one is at almost 5 years…

    @krantcents, yeah, it’ll be hard for me to justify too now that I drive less than 3500 miles a year…

    @Jonathan, LMAO, I drive an Aveo, which is 25% smaller than a Prius…talk about tin can. :-)

    @Hunter, I always think gas prices will keep rising overall as well, so I do look for cars that get good mpg. I just go cheap, like the Aveo. If I get the Mini or the Miata, it will be because I want to look and feel cute while driving my 3500 miles a year. :-)

    @Jake, I liked the Yaris I rode in. I think it would definitely trump a scooter for the winter at least.

    @Marie, I am a Star Trek fan (The Next Generation), so I love the console, lol. The battery scared me until I found the reviews of other Prius owners…no battery issues UNLESS they installed their own stereo system.

  • ODWO

    Interesting comparisions. I/we’d also been thinking of buying “another Toyota” for my wife. And was actually wondering what you and “L” thought about your Prius.

    We like our Toyo. Matrix. 30mpg. More room than we actually needed, but still on the small side. I liked the size of a Prius. And the Matrix has that unique blindspot too.

    Thx again for doing the homework. :)

    (sorry we didn’t make it last weekend. Ms. ODWO not feeling too good after tutorials @ her school. Hope to see y’all again soon)

  • Very well written. I was thinking about Prius and after all the calculation decided to have Camry.

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  • […] presents The Pros and Cons of a Prius from an Owner’s Mouth posted at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff which examines the pros and cons we see of owning a Prius. I […]