103 comments

Toyota Prius – Ass Kicker, or Trouble Maker?

This is a special bonus follow-up to yesterday’s article on Cash-Efficient Cars.

There seems to be widespread confusion about the value of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. Are they worth the extra cost? Are they reliable? Do they explode when they crash or actually have a higher environmental footprint than a Hummer?

In the comments to Monday’s article about cars, I heard the most extreme claim yet: “Prius batteries only last about 7 years, and after that you have to scrap the entire car”.

That pushed me over the edge. It’s time to dispel the many stupid rumors that seem to coagulate around this rather amazing car, so Mustachians can consider it on its merits, rather than on the Foxnewsy hearsay that has polluted the public’s mind

To get the most up-to-date facts, I interviewed Paul Guzyk, one of the owners of Boulder Hybrid Conversions, an independent company which services the Prius. They also convert the cars to full-fledged Electric Vehicles that you can charge in your own garage and then drive up to 40 miles on electricity alone, before the existing gas engine needs to kick in.

That conversions stuff is exciting enough to get its own article in the near future. For now, let’s just destroy the myths:

“The Prius batteries don’t last very long, and when they die, your car is toast”. WRONG.

This myth may have come from the problems that existed with the earlier version of Prius that was sold in the US from 2001-2003. That car had a smaller battery pack with some design flaws that reduced reliability. Some owners of that generation are now having to replace the battery pack.

In 2004, the next generation of Prius was born, with greatly improved reliability. How long does this battery pack last? We don’t even know, because after nine years on the road, very few of them have failed so far. On the short end of the spectrum, Paul told me of one Colorado resident who had his pack fail after only 200,000 miles. On the higher end, I read of a taxi driver in Vancouver who got his first 600,000 km (372,000 miles) out of the first pack, before installing a second one to get to one million clicks on a 2004 Prius. The Colorado resident lives in Denver and works in Evergreen, several thousand feet higher. The long daily climb may be the cause of the shorter service life, since the pack becomes fully depleted each day and left in that condition during the climb, something that doesn’t happen in less extreme use (batteries hate rapid discharge cycles, and they hate being left empty).

“The batteries cost thousands of dollars to replace”. It Depends.

If you take your second-generation Prius to a Toyota dealer and ask for a new battery, you’ll go home about $3000 poorer. If you take it to an independent mechanic who specializes in that type of service, it will be about a grand. The most cost-effective repair comes from buying a lightly-used battery pack from a salvage yard (there are enough of these cars on the road that some get crashed fairly young, providing a great supply of replacement batteries). It takes a mechanic 2-4 hours of labor to do the swap.

A thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider the maintenance that many cars require every 250,000 miles (timing belt, transmission, etc.), it’s actually a pretty routine expense. To offset the cost, the Prius uses a lifelong timing chain, rarely if ever needs brake service because of the magnetic regenerative brake assist, and is an unusually reliable car in most other ways as well. And that’s before you even factor in the fuel savings.

“The car explodes” Nope.

If you really think batteries are explosive, take a cordless drill battery and drop it off of a skyscraper. Now go down to the sidewalk and look at the wreckage. You’ll see some broken plastic and some dented metal. Gasoline, on the other hand, is a troublemaker in crashes. The less of it you’re carrying around, the better!

“They have a larger environmental footprint than a Hummer” No.

A hybrid car uses about the same amount of metal and plastic as a regular car. On top of that, the battery uses a lot of nickel and other mined minerals. You can estimate the environmental impact as proportional to the CO2 produced when making this battery. Toyota has calculated it to be about 9000 pounds.

You produce 9000 pounds of CO2 every time you burn 473 gallons of gas. That’s about three months worth of driving in a Hummer, or a year in a Prius. In other words, the environmental impact of the battery is negligible compared to the fuel savings it provides. On top of that, Toyota recycles more than 90% of the metals in those batteries when they wear out, further reducing the cost.

“So do hybrid cars save money, or not?”

It depends mostly on the amount of driving you do annually. Since this is the Mr. Money Mustache blog, I’m assuming that you’ve learned by now that buying a new car is never a wise financial move. Thus, we can ignore the fact that a 2012 Prius costs $24,000 while a 2012 Honda Fit is only $16,000. You’d need to drive 27,000 miles per year to get that price difference back over five years, which would be effing insane.

But when we look at used pricing, the picture improves. You can pick up an $8000 Prius from 2004 or 2005. This is comparable to a $6000 Scion or Toyota from the same year. The $2000 price difference only requires about 7,000 miles of driving per year to pay for itself in a reasonable time frame, meaning that buying a Prius in this age range is often a good idea.

But don’t tell anyone else – these battery rumors and other unfounded fears are surely some of the things that are driving down the cost of the used Prius to the current bargain levels. Five dollar gasoline will probably exert the opposite effect whenever it arrives, so get ‘em while the getting is good.

 

 

 

  • October MacBain March 20, 2012, 6:29 am

    Awesome. Gas hit $4.19 here today (Western Lower Michigan), so that $5 a gallon isn’t too far in the future. If I didn’t already have a paid-for 30 mpg car, I’d seriously think about a Prius or another used hybrid.

    Reply
  • gharkness March 20, 2012, 6:33 am

    “This myth may have come from the problems that existed with the earlier version of Prius that was sold in the US from 2001-2003.”

    This is a very, very good reason not to be an early adopter of new, unproven technology. Far better to wait a year or two so the bugs can get worked out, and **THEN** buy a used one.

    Reply
    • Amanda March 20, 2012, 9:08 am

      This I tend to agree with. The first year or two of any new model (even if it’s not novel technology) seems to always be prone to glitches. Another bonus to not buying brand new cars is that you can wait and see what the glitches turn out to be though.

      Reply
    • Des March 20, 2012, 10:04 am

      We bought a 2001 Prius used and just had to replace the battery a few months ago. It was actually humming along fine after 10 years until DH drove up onto a median and physically damaged the undercarriage of the car. We had an independent mechanic replace it for us, which cost $2800 ($2500 for the battery itself, $300 for labor). He said he could have rebuilt it for $1500, but too many cells were dead for a rebuild.

      At any rate, we did our research when we bought it, knew it would need a battery replacement during our ownership, and factored that into the equation when we decided how much to spend. We still come out ahead with gas savings, but we live out in the country and drive more than most.

      Reply
  • Kathy P. March 20, 2012, 6:54 am

    You know, I’ve thought about getting a Prius, but as far as I know, none of the hybrids can tow anything. I have a small utility trailer that I use for hauling loads of compost for the garden, straw, big lumber for raised beds, etc. It’s how I make a smaller car into a larger one on occasion – like they do in Europe. But I never saw any mention of towing capacity in any of the hybrid write-ups.

    As for using 473 gallons of gas annually in a Prius, that seems like a lot. How many gasoline miles are you figuring to get that number? I’ve driven 6700 miles in the last 12 months (in a slurping Subaru Forester) and only bought 323 gallons of gas to do it.

    Reply
    • Clint March 20, 2012, 7:46 am

      Can I ask you about the utility trailer and the vehicle you tow it with? i’ve owned three small pickup trucks in my lifetime–two purchased new and both driven into the ground. I replaced my last one with a used 4 cyl Toyota Tacoma before I started reading this blog, and I’m wondering if I should consider selling and buying a smaller car and utility trailer instead.

      Reply
      • Kathy P. March 20, 2012, 11:57 am

        Well, this won’t be a very Mustachian answer, because…ahem…I bought a new car. But, like you, I intend to drive it into the ground. It’s a 2010 Subaru Forester and it represented the best compromise I could find for my requirements. First, it’s Consumer Reports top rated SUV, and I know Subies just go forever. I needed room for two large (36″) dog crates on a fairly flat cargo area, room to carry large paintings flat, good ground clearance (’cause it goes over some pretty rough dirt tracks in the Adirondacks), and at least somewhat better mileage than I was getting with my old Voyager. I also needed towing capacity of 1500 – 2000 lbs.

        My trailer isn’t terribly Mustachian either. I looked around for used ones, but all I found were odd little rickety homemade jobs made from small truck beds and such. Cheaper new ones were the low- or no-sides mesh ones with the tiny tires that all the lawn mowing contractors use. With a 3/4 acre area that I’m developing as a permaculture garden, I needed something with higher sides to contain compost, mulch, etc. I don’t live in a major metropolitan area, so sometimes our choices are lacking. (For example, the nearest place I can get used building supplies is about 60 miles from here.)

        Anyway, I finally found a trailer that fit my needs perfectly – made in the area. (You can see it here: http://www.blizzardmfg.com/utility-trailers/) Not cheap, but I paid cash for it, so I don’t feel too badly about it. And it should have good resale value should I ever decide to sell it. It’s 4’x 8′ inside, has 2′ removable wood slat sides, and big fat tires. I have to chuckle when I go to Lowe’s and see guys with great big monster club cab pickups trying to figure out how to fit an 8′ long something in that short little bed. These guys have families so what they really need is a smaller car or minivan with a trailer, but I guess that’s not manly enough. Meanwhile I just throw my 8′ 2 x 6’s in my trailer and off I go.

        I’ve used it to haul multiple loads of compost, mulch, topsoil, straw, a sofa, 7′ remesh panels, lumber, 8- 55 gal. food-safe barrels (plus 2 more inside the Subie) for my water harvesting system and more. I expect to keep the trailer forever, so I don’t regret the purchase at all.

        Reply
        • Clint March 20, 2012, 1:09 pm

          Thanks, Kathy. I’d need one for similar use–hauling scoops of compost and mulch for the yard. I think I’ll stick with the truck for now. Maybe this gives me a pencil-thin mustache: I’ve been advertising mulch, compost and other truck services on craigslist and it’s helping pay for the gas.

          Reply
          • Rodent March 20, 2012, 2:14 pm

            I have a 2001 VW Golf 1.8 turbo with 207k miles and I pull a 5×8 trailer I bought on a super sale in Lowe’s for $450. I also pull a 15′ sailboat with the Golf. I move furniture, garden supplies – anything. The sky is the limit (but I’m an engineer with imagination so some people need to be told X,Y,Z is ok but such and such is not).

            Reply
    • No Name Guy March 20, 2012, 9:18 am

      Google it. I did (“Prius towing capacity”) and in a few seconds had an answer. First result from a Prius chat forum: “Not Recommended” is the official one that I found, but apparently lots of folks do tow a light trailer and there are bolt on hitches available.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 9:25 am

        Yeah, a Prius would be just fine for towing a utility trailer. I’ve even read about featherweight teardrop campers that people built to tow with their Prius.

        But for local errands, it’s even less of an issue: trailer towing is only harmful when it causes excessive engine, brake, suspension, or balance loads that weren’t designed into the car. Those things come into play at highway speeds and when crossing mountain ranges.. not when you have 200 pounds of lumber or potted plants lightly bouncing along behind your car on the way home from the garden store.

        Reply
        • Kathy P. March 20, 2012, 11:30 am

          My utility trailer is rated (or whatever the terminology is) at 1500 lbs. capacity and that’s about right for a two-Bobcat-scoop load of compost, especially if it’s wet. I don’t know that the Prius could handle that and besides, if the dealer repair place saw a hitch mounted on the back of it, wouldn’t that void the warranty?

          Reply
          • April March 20, 2012, 12:21 pm

            Actually the dealter has no problem with it. Prius owners like to mount hitches for lots of reasons. The Prius is rated to tow 1,000 lbs, but a hitch is also useful for mounting a bicycle rack, cargo rack, etc.

            Reply
  • jlcollinsnh March 20, 2012, 6:55 am

    this is all well and good but it doesn’t address the fact that driving one makes you impotent.

    I’m pretty sure Fox did a fair and balanced report on this, or maybe not. I might have been into the boxed wine at the time.

    In any event, I’ve forwarded a link of this to a pal who drives one. Next time I see him I’ll listen carefully to see if his voice has gotten squeakier and report back.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 9:39 am

      One of my neighbors actually said something like that seriously when another person on the street got a Prius. “Yeah, it’s great that you get 50MPG, but I wouldn’t want to be seen in that car.”

      At first I was all confused, thinking, “Uh-oh, did some bad PR come out about the Prius? Did it turn out to be made by third-world slave children or are they dumping the used nickel batteries into the Amazon River?”.

      Then I realized he was referring to his perception of the car’s style. I laughed so hard, I could barely walk across the street to rip the tires off of his raised monster truck and weave the shredded rubber into a rudimentary bikini, which I then made him wear in public for the next six months.

      I think that changed his idea about style and priorities, as he hasn’t insulted the Prius since then.

      Reply
      • jlcollinsnh March 20, 2012, 10:06 am

        still, I can’t help but notice the manly Mr. MM doesn’t drive one…

        (great 2nd paragraph BTW. good thing I didn’t have a mouth full of coffee when I read it.) :)

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 10:54 am

          Haha.. I think my own little car exudes roughly the same amount of Harley Davidson fake manliness as the Prius does (i.e. none).

          There are two reasons I don’t own a Prius myself, both based on cost: a few years ago, when I sold the Subaru to buy the Scion, the Prius was in a used market bubble, and people were asking about $19,000 for cars with 60,000 miles on them (the list price for new ones was 20k at the time).

          Also, since we drive way less than 7,000 miles per year, even paying $2k more for a Prius would not pay for itself in gas savings – so even now it would be a losing move to sell the Scion and get a slightly older Prius.

          I do have the name of a salvage-title reclamation guy who restores them. If a deal ever comes up where I can switch to that car for the same amount I could sell mine for, the deed will be done.

          Reply
          • TLV March 20, 2012, 1:57 pm

            MMM, what are your thoughts on salvage titles in general?

            I’ve been watching craigslist for scions for a couple weeks now, and it seems like about 2/3s of them are salvage titles. I don’t want to pay the premium that the non-salvage sellers are asking (about $10k vs. $6k for a ~2006 xa), but I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about salvage/rebuilt cars.

            Reply
            • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 2:15 pm

              I think salvage is good if you know the actual mechanic that buys them and fixes them up. But there must be a great deal of trust, since there is plenty of shadiness in that practice. You need to know exactly what the car was like before the salvage, and exactly how he fixed it. If it all looks good, it can sometimes be a great buy (for example, cars scrapped by insurance companies solely due to hail damage on the body panels!).

              Regarding the stupid asking prices on those Scions – don’t be shy about sending them a screen shot of the Edmunds used car appraisal, with a polite offer for exactly that amount. Point out how you are a cash buyer, ready to buy immediately, and you are fun to work with. When I buy things from Craigslist, I usually ignore the asking price, and focus on presenting my own offer of what the thing is actually worth. Making an offer costs you nothing!

              Reply
            • Chad March 22, 2012, 11:42 am

              I agree with MMM. You need to know the mechanic for salvage titles. I bought one back in 2001 from a guy who had sold 2 to my parents and 10 to my mother’s boss. All fine. He also guaranteed that if anything went wrong in the first year he would fix it for free and if anything went wrong in years 2 and 3 he would fix it for the price of the parts.

              I still have it. Unfortunately, the guy retired and I don’t think he does it anymore. Sucks, because he was awesome. Did the entire deal on a handshake.

              Reply
            • Nick June 19, 2013, 1:57 pm

              I bought a salvaged 2000 chevy prizm in 2002 with 35,000 miles on it and am still driving it. During my ownership, it has been totaled again, crossed the country several times (with me and everything I own stuffed inside and strapped to the roof), been run aground in the salt flats, served as a windsurfing/furniture/skiing gear hauling machine, gotten great mileage and not had any serious problems until this year, 12 years and 140,000 miles later.

              My girlfriend’s 2000 ford taurus (not salvaged), on the other hand, has had much lighter use, gets much worse mileage, and seems to need a major repair every other year. Ironically, it has a higher blue book value.

              I’m in the market for a new car again now. And by new, I mean used. And by used, I mean salvaged.

              Reply
          • jlcollinsnh March 20, 2012, 3:25 pm

            Just for kicks I checked out Craig’s and Prii. Seems asking for ’06-07 models with around 100k is 10-12k.

            little bubble here on ‘em it seems.

            Reply
    • sassy May 2, 2013, 11:53 am

      The words ‘Fox’ and ‘fair and balanced report’ being used in the same sentence just made me pee my pants. Bahahahha!

      Reply
    • Blank July 14, 2013, 1:46 pm

      Impotent? Hardly! The ladies I like are turned on by we ethical tree huggers. I met my dream gal for for the 5 years (and counting) in my 04 Prius. So far no need for those wienie pills either while pushing 60 years!

      Reply
  • poorplayer March 20, 2012, 7:11 am

    Funny you should mention the price difference between a new Prius and a new Fit. Several years back I had an email dialogue with David Pogue of the NY Times, who wrote about loving his new Prius so much that he was going to buy a second one. In my response to his article I pointed out that buying a second Prius was probably a bad idea, and that you would get as much environmental friendliness and economic benefit by buying a Honda Fit as a second car (I did not at the time go into a discussion of buying used. I surmised a NY Times columnist wouldn’t think much of that idea). Long story short, he actually did end up buying that Fit (new) as his second car.

    Right now I have my Ford 2006 Escape (paid off) and 1998 Nissan Maxima (given to me free by my father) running strong, but it’s also SCOOTER SEASON again here in Western NY, so that has been broken out. 65+ MPG! Actually, I have to ‘fess up here and say I took the scooter off the road in December anticipating a winter that never really showed up, so I could have been driving it pretty much all winter. I get wussypants points for that.

    PS Congrats on all the growth on the blog! I have to admit I am just a little sad about all these developments, as I like to think that I discovered a real gem of a blog early on and wanted to keep all this badassity a secret from the rest of the internet world so I could enjoy it and feel like a member of a “secret club.” Alas, a pipe dream, as badassity is spreading like wildfire. Can’t keep anything too much of a secret these days. Always enjoy the good reads!

    Reply
    • Clint March 20, 2012, 7:51 am

      I’m fairly new to reading this blog and wanted you to know I enjoyed your guest post on getting rich with scooters yesterday (at least that’s when I read it). I’ve been riding a TGB 150 cc for the past four years, commuting about seven miles to work (when I’m not riding the bicycle). It’s been a great scoot, about 12k miles an no major maintenance problems yet. I’d love a bigger one to take to the mountains of NC, but after reading this blog, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to justify it!

      Reply
      • poorplayer March 20, 2012, 8:02 pm

        Hi Clint,

        I ride a Kymco People 250S and I think that’s probably a good size to have to take to the mountains of NC if you stay off expressways and interstates. They cruise at 65MPH easily and don’t sip all that much more gas than a 150cc. They are quite difficult to come by used, however. Scooters have not gained enough traction yet in the US to be in high demand on the used market, and they are even hard to find at dealers. But if you find a good deal on a 250cc rig, I’d say go for it. I had a 125cc to start and realized quickly I needed to upgrade. 250cc is the sweet spot for all-purpose use.

        Reply
        • T Schmidt December 5, 2013, 3:27 pm

          Again, I know this is old but I have to to chime in and say that I have a 2008 Suzuki SV650S and I get about 58MPG out of it. One time touring in the mountains with two people and loaded saddle bags I only got 48MPG. And it will definitely handle the mountains of NC!

          Reply
  • Tomas March 20, 2012, 7:18 am

    Just reading this article
    http://kenrockwell.com/tech/how-to-afford-anything.htm

    The guy is mentioning Prius as a symbol of money wasting, though I think the Prius is innocent here. Otherwise most of what the guy writes dovetails with the Mustachian philosophy.

    Reply
    • Emmers March 20, 2012, 8:03 am

      I feel like this comes from the kind of people who only keep a car 3-7 years. “Look at the high upfront [new] cost! It would take me six whole years to make up the difference in gas prices!”

      Reply
    • Scott October 2, 2014, 3:25 pm

      From that article, it seems he is half Mustachian, and half completely-totally-diametrically-opposed-to-Mustachianism. His wife drives a V8 powered Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, he drives two Mercedes, he buys a brand new camera every time one is launched, he eats at McDonalds (though sparingly), he says to never rent, and he never buys retail despite it sometimes being the best choice (when the cost of shipping outweighs the cost of your time and transportation to get it yourself, which is entirely possible on large items). It seems he’s frugal in certain areas so he can waste more in others.

      Also, I don’t understand how he can talk about only ever biking to work, then immediately start talking about all the former cars he used to commute with. (?)

      Reply
  • MStephens March 20, 2012, 8:11 am

    THANK YOU for writing this article. We own a 2007 Prius, which we bought (for a song) used after much deliberation. We got it when I was commuting 36 miles one way, and my Buick was failing. Since purchasing it, we have addressed all of these rumors with people who ask about the car. We love it. After making the switch we immediately saved $200/month in gasoline costs (but consider that I was driving ~1,500 miles a month). Now we have wised up and sold our house and live much closer to work and don’t drive it all the time, but we will keep the car for the next decade or as long as it wants to last.

    I’m taking jlcollinsnh’s comments as a joke…

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh March 20, 2012, 10:03 am

      yeah. that would be the way to take it.

      Reply
  • Steve March 20, 2012, 8:11 am

    It’s as if some people need to smear something because it’s environmentally friendly in order to justify their own waste.

    I think the Prius is a great car. In a way, its been a test vehicle for many improvements that have been finding their way into a broad range of vehicles.

    However, one thing I haven’t been a such a fan of is the mpg. It’s good in some ways because you don’t really have to think about saving gas, the car does it for you. For those of us that drive in such a way as to save gas, we can get within a few mpg of the Prius.

    Reply
    • April March 20, 2012, 12:27 pm

      True until you take into account the fact that with your hypermiling technique you can get much higher MPGs than the EPA numbers for the Prius. The Prius was built to maximize the payoff you receive for hypermiling!

      Reply
  • B March 20, 2012, 8:29 am

    “You produce 9000 pounds of CO2 every time you burn 473 gallons of gas.”

    At my current rate of consumption I beleive it would take me about 10 years to use that much gas. I love my life!

    Reply
  • ultrarunner March 20, 2012, 9:25 am

    Thank you for posting this. I get so tired of all the complainypants naysayers who bash on the Prius… and I don’t even have one. I do have a couple friends with them, and I’ve been *very* impressed with the vehicles.

    When my ’99 Civic finally dies (un-effin’-likely), it’s on my short list as the replacement.

    Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 March 20, 2012, 9:52 am

    $1,000 for battery replacement isn’t that bad. I just saw a wagon Prius yesterday and it looks very nice! A wagon will work much better for us than the old hatchback style. I’ll keep it in mind when our vehicle is dead. :)

    Reply
  • Nords March 20, 2012, 9:55 am

    Thanks for debunking the Prius urban legends, MMM!

    We bought a 2006 (used in 2008). It’s worked so well that last fall (when our ’97 Altima finally died) we bought a 2005 Prius. They’re perfect for Oahu’s short driving distances and stop&go traffic. They also hold a 10’6″ longboard (with the seats folded down). Plenty of rear compartment space for beach weekends, and inflatable roof racks for family surf sessions.

    A Prius has been the perfect “learner car” for our teen– just a steering wheel, an accelerator, and a brake pedal with no gearshifts or other distractions. The battery’s torque can peel rubber if she misjudges a merge. Regenerative braking saves a lot of teenager brake wear. Even she gets 50 MPG, and I routinely get 60 MPG.

    The “worst” Prius problem is Toyota’s foot-dragging on a practical plug-in. Our home’s photovoltaic array has already paid for itself, and I’d be happy to add another kilowatt or two to recharge a plug-in hybrid with a 50-mile range. Then I’d have to add fuel stabilizer to our gas tank in between annual fill-ups…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 11:23 am

      You should have a look at the Boulder Hybrid Conversions link I provided in this article. Many people in my area are converting their existing 2nd-gen Prius to have a bigger battery. The 10kWh system lets you drive 30-40 miles between plug-ins, and can go up to 52MPH using just the car’s existing electric motor.

      It’s pricey if you pay the full cost of $12k with no tax credits (Colorado residents only pay 4500k net). But either way, it’s drastically less expensive than the plug-in Prius that is currently available (32k base price), even while offering a bigger range!

      You could pay to fly the BHC crew out to Hawaii to convert your car in your own driveway, and still save quite a bit over the new plug-in. They’d probably enjoy that business trip as well.

      Reply
      • et March 20, 2012, 5:52 pm

        4500k?!!

        Reply
      • Nords March 20, 2012, 6:27 pm

        Good point– we should fly them out here for a few weeks and let them do a few dozen cars…

        Reply
  • Grumpson March 20, 2012, 10:41 am

    A side note triggered by gas prices and cars:

    EU: you drive a 1.0-1.4l car, get 5-6l/100km or 45-40mpg hwy, gas is $2/l or $7.5/gallon, 100mi costs $16-20

    US: you drive a 1.8-ool car, get 7-15l/100km or 33-15mpg. gas is $1/l or $4/gallon, 100mi costs $11-24

    Distances in EU are much less than in US, basically the total cost of using a car ends up the same. The only difference is how you feel in your car.

    EU: weak car, short distances, crazy 15min rollercoasters
    US: strong car, long distances, smooth 60min rides

    How can you be different?

    Step one:
    EU: public transport for commute, occasional weekend trips by car
    US: downsize to a EU-sized car, eg. Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris

    Step two:
    EU/US: be local, be MMM, ride a bike

    Reply
  • Lew Lamar March 20, 2012, 11:16 am

    We bought a Prius in December 2001. The battery needed to be replaced a couple of years ago, when the car had 99,850 miles on it. Luckily it had a 100,000 mile warranty, so it was replaced for free. It has been a great car, especially in these times of high gas prices. At first my wife wasn’t so sure, but now she wants to drive it all the time. Maybe our next one will be a plug-in, but I plan to keep this one for a while longer, for sure.

    Reply
  • Connor March 20, 2012, 11:29 am

    I’m in Vancouver and have talked to a bunch of cab drivers that love their Prius’ . Several were well over 500,000km+ on original batteries, and had only ever had to change the brakes once, some tires, and 1 wheel bearing..

    If you’re driving that much seems like a no-brainer.

    Reply
  • mikenotspam March 20, 2012, 11:51 am

    THANK YOU! I used to take time to “fix” Prius misconceptions online, but really, I don’t have time to patrol the internet :-)

    I have a used 2007 Prius purchased a while back for a shade under $15k. While I stopped calculating figures, for the first ten months of ownership I saved $1500 in gas costs versus a 20 mpg vehicle, and since 22.8 mpg is roughly the mileage new cars in the US get, this is a concrete comparison versus most cars purchased by Americans.

    I have no choice but to own a car, living in a location where public transport is almost non-existent, and so saving about $1800 a year is just fantastic. I plan to keep it until it dies, which, incidentally, should be right about the time I go FI professionally…

    Reply
  • Gus March 20, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Maybe this is a stupid question but how is the fuel consumption rate (i.e., l/100 KM or MPG for those unable to understand metric) calculated for an hybdrid? Is this the energy equivalent or does it only account for the gas portion of the energy consumption?

    For instance, let’s say you drive on the highway for 50 KM in a Prius “consuming” 5 L/100Km did you just burn 2.5 L of gas? What about the 10 Kwh in the batteries, this energy isn’t free.

    I would also like to raise the “environmental issue” that is usually not accounted for. As far as I know, most of the energy in the USA is produced by non renewable sources meaning that a person driving an hybrid is not any more green than a person driving a honda fit ( similar sizes) since the energy used to drive both vehicles comes from non renewable sources and is typically the same (assuming similar characteristics). Overall, it is pretty much the same amount of energy that is being consumed. The prius is not more efficient than the honda fit, it just costs less to run in the consumer’s pocket. Therefore, it is not more environmentaly conscious to drive a Prius than any other similar sized car.

    If you were producing your own solar energy, things would be different.

    Reply
    • mikenotspam March 21, 2012, 10:52 am

      Gus,

      You’re confusing hybrids with plug-ins. Most hybrids (like, probably still around 99% at this stage in the game) do NOT plug in, and run entirely on gasoline. They are simply enormously more fuel efficient. You are correct that when talking about a plug-in (Chevy Volt, upcoming plug-in Prius) that kwH must be taken into consideration, and anyone touting simple “mpg” figures for those cars is probably employed in the marketing department of that company, or simply doesn’t understand what a kilowatt hour is.

      On the other hand, yes, both a Prius and any other standard gas car use a non-renewable resource, but assuming two drivers driving equal distances in the same climate/route/enter-variable-here, the Prius uses less, plain and simple. They are not using the same amount of gas at all, though I can see the argument that a Prius is not green, just less UNfriendly to the environment, which is perhaps what you meant.

      Reply
  • JaneMD March 20, 2012, 12:08 pm

    Hilarious about the ‘style’ of the Prius.

    Did anyone watch the Prius episode of South Park where everyone who drove a Prius became smug because it was not about actually being frugal/environmentally conscious but about ‘appearing’ to be that way. Turns out that is exactly how people reacted to the Prius.

    You see, Toyota had a non hatchback, ‘non hybrid’ appearing version of the Prius. It was unpopular because the people who bought the Prius expected it to ‘look’ like a Prius. Thanks Hubby JD for that tidbit.

    BTW, according to wikipedia per Toyota has declared the plural of Prius to be Prii as of February 2011.

    Reply
  • DaftShadow March 20, 2012, 1:21 pm

    @Gus. You’re making this more confusing than is needs to be. The calculation is the same as for a normal car: quantity of miles / quantity of gasoline.

    The entire Prius is one “system”. It has a single energy input: gasoline. This gasoline is then used to activate the engine that turns the wheels and fill up the battery (just like every other car). However, the prius’s design has a few extra perks, such as efficient electric motors, and regenerative braking, that are “better” than the normal car design.

    This means that the gasoline energy that was input into the system is used BETTER than a normal car, meaning a single tank of gas (quantity of energy) lasts for a longer distance. That’s the only difference.

    Regarding efficiency (fit vs prius), If it takes less gasoline for the same miles, then it IS better for the environment. You were going to drive those miles anyway… now you did it with less gasoline usage. It may have the same “lifetime cash cost”, but that’s about money and frugality, not the environment. :)

    ~ DaftShadow

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 2:20 pm

      Daft is right.. but I think Gus’s question would be relevant when discussing plug-in hybrid cars. That will be the topic of the future post about the conversions that Boulder Hybrid Conversions does.

      But as a sneak preview of the answer: it is still WAY better to run your car off of electricity than from gasoline. Even if your electricity comes from pure coal. The answer lies in the physics of the two types of motors.

      Reply
    • Gus March 20, 2012, 3:11 pm

      I guess I got confused when people mentioned plug-in Prii earlier in the comments. It is true that my comment only applies to entirely electric or plug in hybrids.

      @Daft
      I think that efficiency is better defined as energy input per mile driven, but your point is well taken.

      @MMM

      According to my references, energy generation from a coal power plant is only about 30-40% efficient (at the moment, projected could be 50%). Couple that with the about 80% energy efficiency of electric cars, and you get about 24%- 32% of the energy that goes towards moving the vehicle. This does not include power loss during transmission of the energy to your car (about 7%).

      If you compare that to the efficiency of a gas or diesel motor, you get 15%-20% of the energy in the gas that goes towards moving the vehicle.

      Although it IS more efficient, i don’t think it is WAY more efficient, but I could be missing something.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 8:50 pm

        Gus – I think our numbers are pretty close to agreeing. The electric car has the benefit of regenerative braking, which improves the full driving cycle efficiency (a gas engine might be 20% efficient, but then you put 100% of that into the brakes fairly often). And just like a power plant, the oil drilling industry uses some energy in the process of exploring for, drilling, shipping, and refining the gasoline too.

        But I believe the biggest benefit of electric cars will come in the future. Electricity pollution will drop on a per kwh basis to generate (due to solar, wind, etc), while gasoline pollution per joule will rise (Canadian oil sands, etc). Meanwhile, we’ve got to get ourselves off of these internal combustion engines eventually, so you’re helping send the market a useful signal when you use an electric one, speeding advancement of the technology.

        Reply
      • Questionable Goatee March 22, 2012, 11:20 am

        An important side benefit of using electricity for cars rather than gasoline is that the exhaust treatment can all be located at the plant rather than on millions of different moving point sources (cars). The reduction in cost and resources gained from removing exhaust treatment from cars (catalytic converters, especially) would be pretty significant on a mass scale.

        Unfortunately, this only applies to fully electric vehicles…

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache March 22, 2012, 11:59 am

          Very true! Not to mention the fact that electric vehicle engines only have ONE moving part, versus thousands in a car. It’s not uncommon for a big industrial electric motor last for hundreds of thousands of hours of service with no maintenance at all. This translates into a lifetime of car driving, without even knowing what it LOOKS like under your car’s hood. In the long run, electric vehicles have the potential to become much simpler and cheaper than gas cars.

          Of course, we’d have to watch out to avoid having this cause even more driving, since cheap driving causes urban sprawl and pavement is still not a pretty thing to slap over the planet’s surface. But I’d still be glad to get rid of the engine noise and smoke for starters.

          Reply
  • Joe Brender March 20, 2012, 1:45 pm

    I love my Prius, but it doesn’t handle great in wet conditions (likely due to the highly fuel-efficient tires). When it dies, I might get another one.

    Reply
  • DollarDisciple March 20, 2012, 3:06 pm

    I’m glad you cleared all that crap up. If I hadn’t already bought a new (used) car last year, I might consider a used Prius.

    I think it’s hilarious when people make cracks about how it looks. Who gives a shit? Point A to Point B. Period.

    Reply
  • PNW March 20, 2012, 3:30 pm

    I see that I have a different philosophy than most MMM posters here. I feel that there is more to car travel than just getting from point a to point b. I enjoy driving and draw great satisfaction from a car that handles well and feels sporty. I’m not talking about V8 sports cars here either. My favorite car so far is the own I currently own: a 2003 MINI Cooper S. I average around 33 mpg (i’m sure a hypermiller could get much more). The car has always been fun to drive. Do others here enjoy a car that handles well?

    I have not driven a Prius, however I would like to as I would love to get 50+ mpg. What has tainted my view of a Prius is the dozens articles I have read from automotive enthusiasts that describe the Prius road feel and handling as boring, and not desirable. I don’t want to drive a gas hog, but I don’t want to drive an appliance either. I’d jump at the chance to drive a Prius and draw my own conclusions.

    From what I have driven and seen I think the MINI, Honda Fit, and Mazda3 do a good job at balancing economy and fun to drive.

    Reply
    • Sean March 20, 2012, 4:26 pm

      Sporty it most certainly is not. It is very comfortable and roomy, though. A lot of other fuel efficient cars feel cramped.

      If you care about a sporty feel, then I agree that a Mini sounds like a good compromise.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 8:02 pm

      I understand your feeling fully, PNW. I still have to suppress the High Performance Vehicle part of my brain – I used to have a sports car, and I also used to ride around on a motorcycle that would do 0-60 in somewhere below four seconds. If I had to drive a lot in my current life, I’d probably still want a car with great handling.

      The solution for me was to design driving right out of my life. Now I ride my bike, so if I want higher performance, I have to make my legs stronger. That’s a goal that benefits me in more than one way and makes me richer in the long run, whereas I realized the performance cars were making me poorer.

      These days, the less I drive, the happier I get. Much like the iPad 3 and Internet addiciton, I don’t want a vehicle that will draw me back into wanting to drive more.

      It’s great to enjoy whatever you currently enjoy, as long as you can afford it. Just be sure to regularly question yourself, because you might find that some of your “needs” start to fall away as your Mustachianism grows.

      Reply
  • Sean March 20, 2012, 4:21 pm

    Thank you for vindicating my beloved Prius. I bought a 2004 model back in 2008. It had 125,000 miles on it when I bought it, so I got it for a mere $6k, and from a dealership, no less! 125k miles may be high mileage for regular cars, but hybrids tend to be much longer lived (and electric cars even moreso.)

    Since then I’ve put another 35,000 miles on it or so. The entire sum I’ve had to spend on maintenance during that time is $200 for a set of tires. More expensive, my aunt fanny.

    And for those who say it’s not a manly car, all I can say is I’ve remodeled my entire house myself over the past couple of years, and my Prius has hauled all the construction materials like a champ.

    Reply
    • Scott March 20, 2012, 4:55 pm

      Right on Sean. Love Renewable Wealth BTW; I’ve read every word and look forward to reading a lot more. Same to you MMM! The Prius has repeatedly saved my ass . . . 58 MPG average and only oil changes and tires over the last 90K miles (racked up over 4 years). MMM is going to give a massive haymaker for that last obscene mileage disclosure, but at least my company was giving me mileage (that I socked away and invested).

      I improved the handling of my Prius by installing a strut tower brace, undercarriage stiffening plate, and 17″ rims. I traded my factory rims and tires for the fancypants 17″ setup, and the other gear was bought used.

      Reply
    • PNW March 20, 2012, 5:48 pm

      Sean, I’m surprised that you haven’t done an oil change in the 35k miles you’ve owned the car! Replacing tires isn’t the only maintenance you should be doing!

      Reply
      • Sean March 21, 2012, 9:14 am

        I change my own oil, so I forgot to count that. I guess we can add another $100 or so total for that.

        Reply
    • jlcollinsnh March 20, 2012, 5:59 pm

      $200 for four tires?

      Wow.

      Reply
      • Sean March 21, 2012, 9:15 am

        Like anything else, you can get a deal on tires if you’re cheap and patient enough.

        Reply
  • Sara March 20, 2012, 4:37 pm

    In the uk a litre of petrol currently costs£1.35 and is rising again -approximate 2.14 us dollars I believe – so we have far exceeded a five dollar gallon- works out as closer to 8 dollars. So you don’t have that much to Complain about. I only drive 20 miles a day but spend 2 weeks a year In work just to pay for the petrol so I can go to work!
    I drive a tiny Toyota iq which I bought to drive down the costs a little
    I’m sure MMM would tell me to get a bike though ;)
    Ps – still love the site from my British perspective

    Reply
  • drewstees March 20, 2012, 7:41 pm

    THANK YOU for this article, MMM! We love our Prius like flamin’ hot cheetos…we love it sooo much! (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5394069)

    I totally geek-out while driving it. It’s like a game, constantly trying to maximize the efficiency data. It’s crazy, though, the amount of smack talk and misinformation we get from people…

    “Doesn’t it take like 20 hours to charge the batteries, and only go 40 miles?”
    “Can that even drive fast enough on the highway?”
    “You know, they proved a Range Rover is more efficient than a Prius.”

    Reply
  • Mary March 20, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Some awfully high mileage racked up on these Priuses here…is it true what they say that people buy efficient cars and then lose whatever gains they’ve made by driving more?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2012, 8:54 pm

      It might be true for the Antimustachian populace at large. Here, we try to drive as little as possible, regardless of the vehicle. If you manage to drive a small enough amount, you simply don’t let yourself buy a Prius because it would cost more to own than your current car. If someone gives you a Prius anyway, you don’t start driving more, you just sit in your garage and polish it occasionally.

      Reply
      • Sean March 21, 2012, 9:20 am

        Just remember that the used car market is like the stock market – it fluctuates wildly. Priuses in particular are closely tied to the price of oil. Part of the reason I got mine so cheap was that oil prices were plummeting in late 2008 (strange but true.)

        It may not seem like it now, but oil prices will probably go down again at some point, and when they do, Priuses will get cheaper again.

        Reply
      • carolinakaren March 21, 2012, 3:37 pm

        This discussion has been so helpful! Right now I am driving a 2005 Acura MDX with 110,000 miles. (very anti-mustachian I know) I bought it slightly used in 2005 and it’s a great car. I lay the rear seats down and can fit a double-sized air mattress for camping…..take it skiing…..dogs to the lake/vet/hiking. I paid it off years ago BTW, and am now trying to decide if I should sell it for something more fuel-efficient. (I don’t pay really close attention to my gas mileage, but it’s 18-25mpg) My driving habits are moderate. I only fill up the tank about once every 3 weeks. Bottom line is that I have a car with a long-lasting Honda engine that has been well maintained but is more luxurious than necessary. Thanks to the recent car reviews I might be better informed about how to go about choosing something higher on the badassity scale! I have to admit wanting to keep it and ride my bike more around town….

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache March 21, 2012, 6:46 pm

          Nice plan! If you’re not already financially independent, you could definitely benefit by selling the MDX and getting a used hatchback from this list. You’d keep most of the functionality while getting some cash back out of the deal. Then your gas consumption would be sliced almost in half (you’d probably save 3 gallons per week, which would compound to several thousand dollars in gas alone every decade). Add in the much cheaper tires, service, insurance, and other components for a small car, plus the cash out, and you’d do very well.

          Reply
          • carolinakaren March 22, 2012, 7:06 pm

            You know, I hadn’t even considered decreased cost of tires and maintenance yet! Thanks! This post sparked a conversation between John and I this evening, and now he’s thinking about it too. The savings would be even bigger for him…. His vehicle is a Chevy 1500 truck. Year 2003 and also paid off. He used to actually use it for work purposes almost every day pulling a large trailer, but now he has an office job and commutes 1.5-2 hours round trip each day!!! Eek!! The fuel cost is astronomical. After discussing this post he is also leaning towards a hatch-back economy from your list. :)

            Reply
  • Scott March 20, 2012, 8:21 pm

    I would have a hard time believing that this is a rule. I believe that the average American car gets 20MPG, and the average Prius is rated at 50MPG. I highly doubt that this dramatic gain in efficiency casuses THE MAJORITY of owners to increase their yearly mileage by 150% :)

    In my case, I was forced to based on a new job (the job paid extremely well . . . so no worries). I eventually got fed up, so I moved over to a competitor and relocated so that I could bike to work.

    Reply
    • Nery May 22, 2012, 6:43 pm

      My opinion is that the Big 3 US aukroatems deserve all the bad they get as they have been in lock step with Big Oil for decades and havn’t offered diesel alternatives, and are still way behind the curve in gearing up for what is so obvious. I think my next family car may very well be the BMW 520d, and I have no regrets about buying a foregin car from a company that seems to know what is going on.

      Reply
  • Chris March 20, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Bought a 2007 salvaged prius off Craigslist in Oct ’11 for 9500$ (After selling my existing, paid for, 2000 Toyota 4Runner for 6200$) and have loved every minute of it. I used to be one of those guys that thought image was important and I’d never drive a little commuter-WRONG! I had a change of philosophy on a desert deployment in the military and started to see the benefits of “the frugal lifestyle.”

    I work around a bunch of hyper masculine dudes who give me crazy amounts of shit about my Prius, but I just laugh. I actually feel a bit sorry for folks now when I see them driving ridiculously expensive vehicles, its a sure path to working the rest of your life!

    The Prius appeals to the geeky side of me and I find myself playing a constant game of seeing what I can fit into the prius and how many miles I can get out a tank. My average so far is 49 MPG-HOLLA!

    As far as my battery crapping out on me, I say bring it! If it does then its time to do some research and either figure out how to replace it myself or look into converting it to a plug-in at a reduced price. As a bonus, the maintenance is surprisingly simple on the Prius. I recently changed the oil/filter, topped off the fluids, rotated the tires and inspected the brakes myself….easy.

    I’m thinking about adding a 1 1/4″ hitch to the back in order to add an extra cargo space for road trips

    As a final anecdote, I love this car! It’s well built (tight engineering), surprisingly comfortable (I’m 6’3″) and has great space in the hatchback (I make all my costco runs in it).

    Bottom Line: the Prius rocks!!

    Reply
  • Steve D March 21, 2012, 8:15 am

    RE: “They have a larger environmental footprint than a Hummer”, No,

    considering the battery CO2 is a start, but a full Life Cycle Assessment would need to be completed to get a true understanding. Considering things like where the parts are procured, recycled content, production location, and even the R&D costs (how much mountain dew did each engineer drink while designing the hybrid system)? Of course, comparing a Prius to a Hummer, the Prius would win out, just based on VOLUME of production and sheer amount of materials in the Hummer.

    But also, it helps to consider locally produced / procured parts and products.
    Luckily some Priuses (Prii?) are produced in Mississippi now (woo!). Shipping cars across the ocean isn’t very environmentally friendly (but those container ships are still surprinsgly efficient! Here in the motor city, purchasing a vehicle produced locally can have less of an CO2 impact just based on shipping and locally procured supplied parts.

    But, the best way, duh, is to just buy a used car, and not worry about that footprint!

    Reply
  • J March 21, 2012, 4:32 pm

    A DIESEL is a much better idea.

    Higher efficiency engine technology.
    No batteries to increase vehicle weight.
    No loss of battery efficiency.
    True fuel consumption excellent. Hybrid fuel consumption data will be flattered by official drive cycles in which the car always starts at approx 23C and drives slowly with lots of stopping.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 21, 2012, 10:18 pm

      Actually, the EPA cycle punishes the hybrid cars these days rather than flattering them – just like it punishes all cars. Good drivers can exceed EPA ratings by a good healthy percentage – about the same amount for gas-only cars as for hybrids.

      The best solution depends on the driving conditions. Short drives? A bike. Long city drives, like you’d get in Phoenix, AZ or Los Angeles? A pure electric car like the Nissan Leaf. Cross-country freight hauling or road trips? Diesel or natural gas vehicles. A compromise of big city and highway use? A hybrid car. Diesel hybrid would be ideal.

      Once you live close to work, though, all this will sound like a silly discussion. “Why would I want an expensive high-tech car? I barely even use the thing! I’ll be fine with my $1000 beater for at least the next couple of decades.”

      Reply
  • SS March 22, 2012, 5:50 am

    I had a Prius for a few months, and I liked it for what it was – great mileage, spacious, quiet, low maintenance, very interesting to my inner geek. Great for short trips and traffic jams when it shuts off and keeps all the goodies working for your comfort :-) Props to Toyota for producing it and to the people that buy them for their support of needed tech advances. Bought it used from a dealer at a great price so I could ‘long term test’ it, something I do often on Craigslist, just not usually with cars.

    Just couldn’t live with the soulless, boring, uncomfortable (most awful seats ever) driving experience and tin can feel however, so I sold it after a couple months for $2k profit. Nice!

    I’m looking forward to moving and bike commuting in the near future, but until then I’ll carpool when I can and would take my ‘unreliable’ 46-53mpg Jetta diesel any day – it feels worlds better and safer and is a blast to throw around corners at double the speed of the Prius. 801 miles on one tank is my record so far :-)

    Personally I think the most ridiculous thing of all is that we live in a ‘free’ country but I can’t buy a freaking FORD diesel car that they are happy to sell to europeans but won’t here because they have people convinced that 35mpg is good mileage and can rake in profits with half-assed engineering. With today’s technology, 50mpg is poor mileage for something that’s only going to carry a commuter or two. Fast, fun, safe cars that get far more than 50mpg are available, just not here in the US.

    buy used! be frugal! yay Craigslist and MMM!

    Reply
  • RieLeo April 16, 2012, 1:55 am

    Thanks for this. I’m going to buy a used Prius next month and this really set my mind at ease about buying an older Prius.

    Reply
  • CJ June 15, 2012, 7:01 am

    In April 2012 my 2006 Prius had 92,000 miles on it when the hybrid battery started acting really strange and the hybrid warning light came on. I had the car towed to the dealer and was told that the hybrid battery was dead or dying. I am still waiting (since mid April its mid June now) for the replacement battery to come in from Japan. I am lucky that this problem occurred before the end of the battery warranty at 100,000 miles. Since I am an engineer and think like one, I have always been concerned about the Toyota battery longevity in southern Arizona where June/July/August temperature can reach a peak of 110F. I am now convinced that the hybrid battery probably was not designed to last beyond 100,000 miles in this climate. So my advice to anyone living in Phoenix or Tucson is, be aware of this limitation when you consider buying a hybrid vehicle. The dealer told me that the replacement of the battery would have cost me $4000 had I not been within the warranty coverage. If you have a Prius now, it might be a good strategy to trade-in for a newer model before it gets beyond 100k – if you live in a climate similar to Phoenix Arizona. I was impressed by the 200-300k longevity of the battery in milder summer climates in southern California – southern Arizona is an entirely different story!

    Reply
  • Brian Bridle June 17, 2012, 4:47 am

    The “trick” with the Prius is to relax and enjoy the ride. Her in UK land with heavy traffic the seamless changes of the CVT box is a delight and local running gives 45mile to the UK gallon. A long run to Inverness and back gave 58mpg being driven “normally”. 75/80mph on motorways. It will easily do more than 600 miles to the tank full. Its VERY comfortable, has lots of leg room for rear seat pax. In addition UK vehciles pay very little Road Tax. (US = plates).
    MY only moan is that they no longer do “lagoon blue”.

    Reply
  • Seaside $aver August 14, 2012, 11:45 pm

    My husband covers a large territory for work. He decided to take my new (used) Prius on a 1000 mile business trip and spent ONLY $60 on gas!!! We redeemed our “hotel points” for gas cards, receive a $50 per diem for meals (I used 2 for 1 coupons for evening dining), and got reimbursed 55 cents per mile. We listened to our favorite music, books on CD’s (free from the library), current news stories etc on the drive. He loves to “pilot” and I love to navigate…..I wish the “mileage efficiency” screen could calculate higher than 99.9 mpg.
    Bottom line: Stayed in nice clean hotels (free breakfasts & great coffee),
    exercise facilities, swimming pools, Wall Street Journal and local newspaper each morning, took laptop & cell phone for my consulting work, watched HBO movies at night and my husband made all his marketing goals!
    Oh PINCH ME!! Saving money/working has never been so enjoyable…..
    While many of our “spend-like-no-tomorrow” friends have fallen on tough economic times….. The Priu$ continues to Free U$ from debt.
    PS…this is a cool site..I’m hooked! I think SEAN is my long lost fraternal twin.

    Reply
  • Thomas October 10, 2012, 12:24 am

    The $5.00 gas was here in San Diego for a day, it backed off to $4.50 but I think it’s on the horizon in Cali. Great Blog, I’m looking at a 2012 Prius Plug in.

    Reply
  • LV October 16, 2012, 3:47 pm

    who’s the person in Los Angeles to see for the $1000 dollar replacement battery?? let me know please lvance@taxgroupcenter.com

    Reply
  • Andrew December 27, 2012, 8:47 am

    A lot of the misinformation comes from Rush Limbaugh (he either started or spread the rumor about the Hummer being better for the environment than the Prius – I know I heard him directly say it). That’s not a surprise to me, but it might be to some people. You cannot trust anything that comes out of that man’s mouth, no matter how compelling it sounds.

    Reply
  • Carl January 8, 2013, 6:52 pm

    I don’t have the average price of gas since I purchased our 2004 Prius in December of 2003 and I haven’t tracked our actual average mpg so I can’t give a guestimate as to whether we’ve amortized the extra purchase priced of the Prius against a less expensive standard car. Actual mileage is roughly 43mpg. We did know that the battery pack was expected to last 8 years and was expected to cost ≈$3800 to replace. We’re at 222,000+ miles and 9 years so far and the battery pack hasn’t failed yet. We did have the battery pack computer fail (year 8) and that was $1040 for the dealer replacement. Shocks were ≈$900 at 200,000 miles and the brakes were replaced at 202,000 miles for ≈$600. Unless I’ve done the math wrong (probably), that’s about 9¢/mile for maintenance costs excluding tires and other consumables. That’s not too bad but I don’t know how that compares with standard cars since I haven’t owned one for nearly a decade. The Prius seems to have invisible targets painted on it though, its been hit four times with repair costs totaling nearly $20,000. Insurance companies are weird. They won’t total a Prius when they honestly should. We’ll just keep soldiering on in the little bugger though and when the battery eventually fails, we’ll trade it in. With as many impacts as it’s suffered, the probability of the body lasting through a second battery pack is less than optimum.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 9, 2013, 10:15 am

      That’s an interesting story. First of all, if your repairs were $900+1040+600 over 202,000 miles, that’s only 1.27 cents per mile. But really for the “car” portion of driving costs, you need to include tires, oil, and the $15,000 or so in value the car has lost over those years if you were to re-sell it right now, so closer to 10 cents. Then the insurance/registration/taxes/opportunity cost of capital can be added later.

      As for your gas savings, you probably saved 25% over the similarly-sized Toyota Matrix, so around $4100 if you figure gas at around $3.50. In other words, it usually doesn’t save money to pay a $5k or more premium for a hybrid, even with your very high annual 20,000 miles of annual driving. But it’s fun, and the premium is lower in the used market if you shop around.

      Reply
  • Sean McCloy February 19, 2013, 3:58 am

    We got very lucky when we purchased our 07 prius for $19.3K after governmental rebate. The cars were not selling so well at the time since fuel prices were low. I wanted the car for a greater reason hurricane preparedness. We live in Baton Rouge we experienced 2 very large storms back to back in 05 Katrina and Rita each caused gas shortages and increased prices. If you have been in a gas shortage you will never forget it nor will you wish to repeat the long wait in the lines to buy fuel. A lot of people in the NYC area experienced this for the first time in their lives when Sandy caused interruptions. The old adage is sooo true waste not want not. It is a whole lot easier to squirrel away fuel for a prius than it is for any other ride. I saw the news of one man that installed an inverter in his prius and powered a TV and a few items for over a week only burned a quarter tank. We are not quite over 100K miles yet it is now 2013 Feb. I know of no other car that can refund you your total purchase price the more you drive it if you don’t put in at least 130K miles in 9 years forget it this is not your car. We have had ONE issue we had to replace an O2 sensor 30K miles that was it other than that it has been all warranty work and for 3 weeks we got to drive a 2012 for free. I have to say I LOVE the 2012. I plan to drive this car for 300K miles at this pace it will take 15 more years I might have to convert my prius into a camper and take it on the road to make it a shorter length of ownership. I have seen some folks that have done just that they took front seat out and made a good bed to sleep in.All you need is health club membership to shower cooking is very easy wood gas stove and you are fed or pop into a wally world grab a tv dinner warm in a solar oven. I would consider a trailer to tow as long as it did not destroy fuel economy. I have heard that towing will drop your MPG to around 30 and to me if you have a teardrop camper you can travel very comfortably but if I go it alone I can deal with just converting the car slightly returning it to spec upon return. I have seen a tent attachment that one can place on the car. Our car does great at high speeds too 80 mph we got 38 mpg 420 miles range.65 mph= 48mpg range over 500 miles this is an incredible feat. When there is a hurricane we usually go about 45 mph max locally this means the fuel will last a very long time when called to do so.

    Reply
  • Mike Graf May 2, 2013, 10:24 am

    A link to back up the claims that a Prius + Battery pack is much better than a Hummer (or even better than most regular cars)

    http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/climatesnapshot/do-electric-cars-cause-more-or-less-climate-pollution-gasoline-cars-take-look

    Reply
  • Carl May 2, 2013, 11:19 am

    Just passed 216,000 miles on our 2004 Prius last month. Only major repair has been the computer for the battery faulted out and was replaced to the tune of $1061. Battery itself is fine and shows no discernible (with cockpit electronics at least) degradation of the battery. Time will tell. Initially, this vehicle was one of the 34 that had gone into an electric mode where the vehicle had to be turned off and and “rebooted” to proceed (happened 1 time). Computer re-programming cured that. From the beginning, when the car sat in extreme heat or high altitudes, the malfunction light would come on when there wasn’t a problem. The reprogram fixed that as well. The malfunction light will also come on during a long, fast drive in windy hot conditions. Gas cap sensor problem. Open the gas cap and replace it and that particular weirdness should go away. Replaced the brakes at 202,000 miles, shocks at 208,000 miles. By now the extra cost for the vehicle has been amortized and until the battery actually does fail, this will be the lowest cost per mile vehicle I’ve ever owned. When the battery goes, will I replace it? No. This vehicle has been sat on by a Ford Explorer and hit in parking lots by idiots several times. Though I’ve had the body repaired each time, the clock is ticking on the body more than the battery. I may consider another Prius when this one goes bye-bye.

    Reply
  • Rob Smith June 7, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Its interesting to note that while the sticker price of a Prius is on the high side, its operating costs make it among the cheapest cars to own and operate over time. Consider the following 8 year total ownership cost numbers from Consumer reports….

    Toyota Prius C Two: $34,750
    Honda Fit Sport MT: $38,000
    SMART ForTwo: $38,500
    Toyota Yaris: $38,500
    Toyota Corolla LE: $38,750
    Scion xD Base: $39,000
    Toyota Prius IV: $39,500
    Mazda2 Touring: $40,750
    Chevy Sonic LT: $40,750
    Honda Civic EX: $41,500
    Ford Fiest HB: $41,500
    Hyundai Accent HB: $41,500
    VW Golf TDI MT: $43,250
    Kia Rio HB: $43,500
    VW Jetta TDI: $44,000
    Honda Accord 4cyl: $44,500
    Toyota Camry 4cyl: $45,500
    Mini Cooper: $45,750
    Chevy Cruze LS: $47,500

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache June 7, 2013, 1:29 pm

      Thanks Rob, that is great information. And I imagine the case for the Prius would be even better with older cars, because the depreciation is a much smaller part of the equation.

      Those are some shocking figures that really drive home the cost of new cars. My 2005 Scion has cost me far below $10k including fuel during the 5 years I’ve owned it. A big part of that is the fact that it has only depreciated about $2000 in that time! (and 24000 miles traveled since purchase).

      Reply
      • Rob Smith June 7, 2013, 5:17 pm

        I would definitely think so.

        We have two. We got a 2005 salvage/rebuild with 15k miles for $14k in 2007, and a 2008 certified pre-owned with 11k miles for $20k in 2009 for the wife. We’ve put about 70k miles on each so far, with nothing but gas, tires, and oil changes. Based on feedback and oil analysis done by folks over at Priuschat we’re also able to push our oil changes to about 8-10k miles since the engine never works all that hard and only runs when needed.

        Sometimes 50+ mpg vs. 30 mpg doesn’t sound like that big a deal. But after all these years I still love getting over 500 miles on a tank, and then filling up with <10 gallons.

        Seems like a great site, look forward to reading more of your articles.

        Reply
  • Robin Littlefield September 7, 2013, 9:24 pm

    I’m happy to read this post. Several years ago, I bought a 2006 Prius (used, got a good deal) and have driven it aplenty since then. It has been incredibly reliable and versatile, and I have been very satisfied. Oddly, though, I have been “confronted” about it many times, including once at the gas pumps by a guy who told me I’d regret buying it once I paid $5,000 for a new battery and once at a party by a woman who harangued me a la “you might as well buy a Hummer!” My less-than-eloquent response was, “Uh… I bought it used and it’s good on gas.” Now, I can refute this nonsense.

    Reply
  • Christina Annabel September 22, 2013, 5:27 am

    One more important factor to consider when purchasing a hybrid or electric car……

    Last year, 2012, my eleven-year old 2001 Prius had only 115,000 miles on it when all the dreaded warning signs came on the dashboard and the car failed. I’d bought it used from a resident of Boston, and I have driven it carefully (incl. utilizing the “pulse and glide” method when possible) for the six years I’ve owned it and have had regular maintenance performed, as well as some body upgrades.

    My hypothesis was that the hybrid battery was the root of the problem, but the local Toyota service dealership diagnostic tool indicated an accelerator issue, parts and labour for which were expensive. Just a couple of weeks later the car died again, and they determined the hybrid battery did need replacement. They never confirmed that the first code reading may have been in error, but they did offer a discount on the price of replacing the hybrid battery, which would have cost $4,000-$5,000 for parts and labour. (Ouch!)

    Now, that figure is expensive enough, but when I learned that this new, expensive hybrid battery comes with a mere 1 year warrantee, I was appalled, considering that a hybrid battery that it is absolutely integral to the car’ ability to function should last for years.

    At that point, I asked the dealership to provide me with the average age at which they’ve had Prius cars expire in their shop. Their answer: 230,000 miles. Though they recently had one die with over 300,000 miles. Since my Prius is in very good condition, I am personally familiar with its history, and since I was in no position to purchase a new used vehicle at that time, I took the risk and invested in my 2001 baby. We’ll see if it was a good investment.

    Reply
  • GW October 7, 2013, 1:41 pm

    We bought a used 2012 Prius with 14,000 miles for $20,000 due to my wife’s 100 mile roundtrip commute each day. The car has been great and average fuel economy has been 52-54 mpg with occasional peaks of over 60 mpg. We have saved well over $5500 in fuel costs based on an average of $3.25/gallon in our first year compared to her old 26 mpg average. We also use the Prius for road trips. True the car is not as much fun to drive as a sports car, but it was designed to save fuel and it does that well, Overall, for us the Prius is a winner.

    Reply
  • J Natael November 5, 2013, 9:34 pm

    I recently bough the digital version of Edmonston’s Lemon-Aid book, as recommended by the article that spawned this one (10 Cars for Smart People, linked at top), only to discover that it trashed hybrids. It cites high service costs, a consistent experience of lower than promised mileage (up to 40%), and high insurance costs as all making it less than good.
    .
    So I’m confused, reading a book I learned about from an MMM recommendation I’m seeing directly conflicting information with the MMM article, anyone have thoughts on which to believe here?

    Reply
    • Bruno November 13, 2013, 11:40 am

      Maybe both a bit. The book is geared towards Canada, and the Prius is not made to drive through the tundra in sub 0F weather,
      However, here in balmy MA (26F last night!) it gets promised mileage, costs about the same to insure as equivalent cars and service costs are low. On my 2008 model I only replaced the tires so far (switched to some with more traction, lowered gas mileage from 49mpg to 47mpg), Nothing else needed fixing in the 3 years I owned the car.

      Reply
  • Kerry Kugelman April 17, 2014, 8:36 am

    Regarding battery life: my family owns 3 Priuses, 2002 (188K), 2005 (125K), and 2012 (wife’s so still low miles). Obviously, we’re fans of the car.

    We finally – last fall – had to replace the 2002 battery. At 183K miles, and 11 years of operation! Yes, it was $3K, because we wanted a dealer battery (car’s going to college with the young ‘un), but that’s less than a dollar a day over the time period – and essentially no other issues.

    2005 just needed a new battery, but due to the warranty coverage we had, it cost zero $ to replace.

    Reliability has been great. Performance good (they are sedans, not pickup trucks, so I don’t expect truck power, etc.). Any car can be disparaged, but this is the future of driving. All-electrics just aren’t there yet.

    Reply
  • Oliver July 14, 2014, 3:42 pm

    You would think that it wouldn’t matter as much in Prius as they decline, and that you would have to look at a decline in gas mileage to notice. As my AA and laptop rechargable batteries have aged, they’ve remained fully chargeable, but I’ve had to recharge them more often. In a Prius, I’m thinking this would mean that the combustion engine has to come on more often, with the main noticeable result being that you’d get fewer miles per gallon of gas. Maybe this is strictly a nicad thing though and the Prius batteries would taper or fail in a different way….

    Reply

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