Why You Should Consider Buying a Toyota Prius

Few cars have as strange a reputation as the Toyota Prius. Sure, it doesn’t have the muscle of a Camaro, the looks of the Mustang, or the reputation of the Honda Civic. Still, the Toyota Prius paved the way for an entire category of fuel-efficient vehicles that promise to save drivers money on gasoline without sacrificing usability or requiring them to plug their vehicle into the wall.

Yesterday, I went car shopping with my wife after having sold my Hyundai Elantra for a reasonable price. Having heard that gas prices were inching back up towards the $4.00 mark here in Texas, the search for an economical vehicle that sips gas rather than guzzles was on.

We came across a used 2008 Toyota Prius in a sizable lot. With only 52k miles on it, it really wouldn’t be considered a bad long-term investment in terms of depreciation. What really caught my wife’s eye is the touring package that extends the vehicle’s standard equipment to include electronic keys with push-button ignition, better wheels, and a number of other little features that turns an otherwise decent car into something that fits our needs perfectly.

As we went for the test drive, I heard the salesman say something that really had me thinking. He mentioned that he had considered a Prius before, but wasn’t quite at a point in his life where he would see himself buying a Prius. Couple that with some good-natured ribbing that LockerGnome’s founder, Chris Pirillo, receives when he reveals that he drives a Prius, and I’m left wondering why this impressively techy vehicle has such a strange reputation among the general population.

Here are a few reasons that I decided to sign on the dotted line and take home a 2008 Toyota Prius.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is the number one draw for any hybrid vehicle. You’re not going to be drag racing as if you were driving a Tesla in a Prius, but the amount of money you’ll save on gasoline could very well overshadow the cost of ownership.

Let’s break the fuel savings down when comparing the current-model Toyota Prius to another fuel-efficient sedan, the 2011 Chevy Cruze. While the Cruze itself isn’t a hybrid, it does come with a comparable price tag and no “reputation” for being a non-vehicle. It’s also one of the most fuel-efficient sedans in its class.

While the Cruze itself isn’t a hybrid vehicle, it does boast an impressive 36 MPG on the highway and 25 MPG in the city. Compare that to the Prius with its 51 MPG city / 48 highway and you have one serious gas-sipping machine.

Given that gas prices vary widely from state to state within the US, we’ll assume that the average price throughout a year is $4.00/gallon. Assuming that each vehicle is driven 15,000 miles in a year, with half of the miles being driven on the highway and half in the city, the difference between the two couldn’t be more obvious.

The Prius would run you roughly $1,200 in gasoline during the year averaging 50 MPG. The Chevy Cruze would cost $2,000 in fuel during the same period of time averaging 30 MPG. That’s about $800 in savings. Not too shabby.

Just in case you’re wondering, we’re not picking on the Chevy Cruze with this analogy. Here are some MPG averages to consider from other vehicles.

  • 2012 Fiat 500 – 33 MPG
  • 2012 Ford Focus – 31 MPG
  • 2011 Ford Fusion – 39 MPG
  • 2011 Honda Insight – 41 MPG
  • 2011 Hyundai Elantra – 33 MPG
  • 2011 Lexus CT 200h – 42 MPG
  • 2011 Volkswagon Golf – 34 MPG

Even the Lexus CT falls 8 MPG short when compared to the Toyota Prius.

Reasonable Price

The Toyota Prius may save you money in fuel, but what about your payments? What good is saving $800 per year when you’re paying that much more just to own it?

The 2012 Toyota Prius comes in several different options ranging from $24,000 to $29,805 for the top-of-the-line model. If you don’t mind a smaller model, the Toyota Prius C runs just $19,500 as a starting price.

That certainly doesn’t make it the cheapest vehicle on the market, but it is one of the least expensive hybrids out there. The Kia Optima Hybrid starts at $25,700 and goes up from there. The Buick LaCrosse Hybrid will run you between $29,960 and $32,440.

Personally, I believe in buying cars used since the price is generally much more reasonable and the likelihood of manufacturer defects causing you issues is slightly less. Granted, you lose the benefit of a full warranty.

Joy to Drive

This part of the experience is relative. Not everyone will enjoy the way the Prius handles acceleration or feels on the road. Personally, I was amazed at how smooth of a ride the Prius offered.

What struck me as the most impressive feature of the Prius when I first hit the big round power button to start the car was how automated everything was. Even shifting felt less manual, with the switch to park being a simple matter of a push of a button.

A big, bright display screen keeps me updated on the battery charge levels, charging cycles, and allows me to navigate through various radio stations with ease. Oh, and these controls are also built right in to the steering wheel, making it a lot easier to turn music up or down as I desire. As part of the touring package that came with my particular Prius, a rear camera makes it really easy to back up without fear of running over rogue hamsters or other obstacles that may be difficult to see.

Perhaps the most notable advantage to driving the Prius is the noise level. Because the engine only kicks in when you really hit the gas, you can hardly hear it at all. Instead of a noisy racket going on throughout the entire driving process, you can enjoy the music you’re listening to or take a phone call via Bluetooth without having to worry so much about road noise. Oh, and Chris Pirillo would probably want me to note that it also makes a great environment for video recording as the background noise doesn’t drown out the speaker.

The Prius itself turns on a dime. I was astonished to find out after years of driving everything from an 88 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe to a 2003 Hyundai Elantra just how much easier sharp turns are with a Prius. This is a big plus in a crowded parking environment like Austin, TX during SXSW.

Drawbacks

There are some drawbacks to the Toyota Prius that should be noted. For one, the battery may last quite a while, but when it does start to go out you may be in for an expensive replacement.

Recommended tires are slightly different from the standard ones you can buy for $60 a piece, starting at about $100 per tire.

Even with the rear camera, seeing out the back windows when checking your blind spot is difficult. I had a hard time adjusting to this at first.

Despite its advantages, the Toyota Prius will probably never gain you any attention from the ladies. If you’re depending on a car to help you get a date, you probably have more issues than a muscle car could ever make up for.

Final Thoughts

Before I went for that first test drive, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Prius. After having heard so many comments about it, I was almost convinced that there would be some serious drawback to it that would make it feel like less of an actual car and more like what some people would describe as a glorified golf cart.

After having driven one around and experienced the appeal of a hybrid sedan first-hand, I couldn’t disagree more. I honestly believe that I’ve made a great decision with this purchase, and would recommend anyone out there take one for a test drive before casting judgment on what could be one of the best driving experiences you’ve ever had in an affordable hybrid sedan.

25 comments On Why You Should Consider Buying a Toyota Prius

  • Getting a Prius is rational. Sadly as far as I am concerned car buying has never been rational, I don’t need tyre shredding torque and a loud V8 exhaust note. I truly don’t. 

    Does that stop me? NO! Give me the V8, I’ll glad it put up with the 14 MPG. 

  • Cold_dead_fingers

    I love my Fusion Hybrid.

  • No!

    /signed big ass truck owner.

  • So while we in the UK are having to pay £1.40 a litre, you Americans get it for £0.67 (ish) per litre?! Just proves how much tax our government is slapping on us.

  • Harold Baumbach

    Six months ago I traded in my 2002 530i BMW on a 2011 Prius.  I got tired of the expensive repairs and wanted a trouble free car and better gas mileage.  Prius is rated 5 stars for being reliable and very few repairs are normal for them.  I also have a Lincoln and have owned several Lincolns because I like a quiet, smooth drive.  The Lincoln has been setting in the garage for the past 6 months because the Prius is so much more fun to drive.  The Prius is also more quiet than the Lincoln Town Car. 

    I have a bad habit of jack rabbit starts and driving a little too fast, and the Prius has enough power for me to get away from the stop lights quickly.  Not as quickly as the BMW, but the BMW had too many things that I disliked; like poor drink holders that dumped your drink on the floor on turns, only premium gas, gas tank on the wrong side, and very expensive repairs like the $2,400 repair to the automatic adjustable headlights. 

    Because of my driving style and because I am not usually alone in the car, I have been averaging a 45 – 46 mpg.  That is about twice what I got with the BMW and the Lincolns I have owned. 

    Both my wife and I love driving the Prius and drive that car instead of the Lincoln.  It is the most fun car I have ever owned and I have owned over 20 cars.  Getting the good mpg is great, but I would own the car if it only got 30 mpg.  It is so much fun to drive.

  • Congratulations on your new Prius, Matt … they can be extremely fuel-efficient when driven properly. Once you learn the ropes you’ll be able to achieve some eye-popping numbers under the right conditions.

    To be fair, you might have used the manual-equipped 2011 Chevy Cruze ECO for your comparison … it’s rated at 28 city / 42 highway miles per gallon.  I was able to squeak out an average of 36.3 MPG combined when I tested the 2011 Cruze Eco in a 500+ road test.

    http://www.mpgomatic.com/2011/03/02/2011-chevrolet-cruze-eco-review/

    Given those numbers, the Cruze Eco would use just under $500 more per year in gasoline with 15,000 miles driven.  It’s tough to get an exact price comparison between the two models, given the different options, but it looks like the Prius might be $4,000-5,000 more expensive than the Cruze Eco.  If gas prices crank up much higher, it will change the equation, but if you do the math with the current costs …

    While I like both the Prius and the Cruze Eco, I’m currently most keen on the Mazda3 Skyactiv and Ford Focus in that segment.  But it’s good …  🙂  Enjoy!

  • Just bought a new Prius 2 months ago.  I love going to the gas station.  Even if you’ve driven over 500 miles since the last fill up, you can only get a little over 10 gallons in the tank.  The ride is smooth and quiet.  If you’ve never tried driving a Prius, it’s worth the time to stop in at your local dealer and try one.

  • What is the carbon footprint of the Prius?  How much energy will it take to make the components safe once the Prius is done?  How much energy from oil/coal does it take to drive a mile in a Prius?  What is the battery life and how will we dispose of it when its lifetime is over?

  • What happened to Buy American?

  • Jonathan Wakeman

    Prius are cool.

  • diesels such as the Ford Focus are far more fuel efficient than a Toyota Prius

  • True, true, true, must admit I was a bit reticent when we went to buy another car.
    We were driving a Ford KA, which used to use 0.264172052 gallons every 0.621371192 mile (thanks to Google translate 😉 )
    A 0.264172052 gallon costs about $ 2.35! So 1 gallon is about $ 10,60!
    So you can imagine we went for a economical car.
    We visited all the dealers with their A class label cars, and there was always something there that reminded us that talk is cheap, and cars aren’t really.
    Until my wife saw a nice Prius, and said the immortal words,”that one also looks nice”.
    I had no idea she was ok with such a big car, also the fact it had automatic transmission didn’t help.
    But in the end, we more-a-less fell in love with the car due to all the things you mentioned, and one big other plus…
    It has got a (parking assist) camera mounted at the rear, a godsgift, which did help making up our minds.
    We bought it as is, also at a very reasonable price, and it runs as smooth as a baby’s behind 😉
    Especially when driving on electric only, which it can until approx 40-50 mph, is a nice felling, feels like riding a bumper cart, without the bumping off course.
    Well spend money, a investment for years, and no road tax until 2014!
    Concerning the batteries, this is also a topic in the Netherlands, still, I DO know of 2 men I know personally that have had there Prius for about 7 years, mileage above 1K, no problems with the batteries, or anything other for that matter.
    Only tiny drawback is that you pay more then comparable cars in our country.
    Still if that’s what it takes to not have any problems when you drive, that’s an investment too!
    One other drawback is the amount of money one has to pay to get the navigation charts upgraded, unbelievably costly!
    Still, the command centre itself is a joy!

    Ps; the way Toyota handled their problems 2 years back made me also choose for them, because they did a good job, although it did cost them their number 1 position in the Netherlands in terms of customer satisfaction.

    Happy mileage Chris!
    Regards,
    Leo.

  • Compare the Prius to the manual-equipped Chevy Cruze Eco, which is rated at 28 city / 42 highway miles per gallon and the numbers look a bit different. It will take years of driving to eclipse the cost differential between the two … this could be as much as a decade or more, depending on gas prices.

    I dropped a more lengthy comment on this last night, but it wasn’t vetted …

    • I dropped a comment, too, and it also was not vetted.  This monitor must not be paying attention.  Anyway, I purchased a Prius 2 months ago, and love it.  I especially love going to the gas station after driving 500 miles on one tank, and having to only pay for a little over 10 gallons.

  • We were looking to get economical cars back in 08 to replace an old Jeep and Grand Am.  They were long paid off but were getting to expensive repair stage.  We looked at the hybrids but hey we can’t afford that price.  We ended up getting 2 Kia Rio’s, one loaded, one not, for the cost of one Prius.  They get great mileage.  For a family struggling in this economy, hybrid’s are not an option.

  • I wish hybrids and electrics would come down in price. It’s cheaper to gas up my car than the difference in the payment between my normal car and a hybrid.

  • As someone who lives in NYC, I rely very heavily on the mass transit system here. Still, when I do buy a car, I am looking at fuel economy, then aesthetics, then price, then functionality, then tech options. So far the Prius is on the top of my list. ButI am also looking at the Chevy Volt as well as the Sonic. I also like the Honda Civic as well. I was disappointed with BMWs on average of 27 MPG and the Sicon tC wich cocks in at 27 MPG. They had the potential to be great cars but if they guzzle less than 35 MPG, I’m not considering it.

  • Thanks for the feedback. I drove a Cruze for about a week in California earlier this year. It was a blast to drive, though I did go through gas a bit quicker than I appear to be in the Prius. If I had a non-hybrid alternative, the Cruze would probably be it.

  • I’m a believer in buying American. I bought a used car at an American dealership that doesn’t answer to any manufacturers. While this isn’t a pure “buy American” approach, the car is already here and it’s saving me money to spend on other goods.

    I wish I could have found an American-made used car with great gas mileage in my budget, but it wasn’t in the cards for me.

  • I may get burned for saying this, but I carbon footprint is the furthest thing from my mind when buying the Prius. I enjoyed the tech in the dashboard and the savings at the pump.

    I see your point, though. At least it isn’t a minivan or big SUV. 

  • We drive a 2007 Camry Hybrid, easy 40 MPG in the summer, 35 MPG in the Minneapolis winter.  Given the cost increment of the hybrid Camry (over a plain old Camry), I don’t think it will ever “save” me any money over the long haul.  But it sure is fun to listen to my friends crab about the mileage in their Tahoes . . .

  • I don’t care what the fuel economy is. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds I simply can’t fit into a Prius. I don’t like eating my kneecaps while I’m driving or riding in a car!

  • a fat slob who owns a muscle car vs a gq male model who owns a prius. who do you think gets more chicks?

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