Myth Busters: Toyota Prius as a Money Saver


People often wonder just how much money they can save by purchasing a Toyota Prius.  With the Prius’ famed EPA fuel consumption estimates of 51 miles per gallon city and 48 highway, everyone believes it is not a question of whether, but how much, the Prius will save you.

Sadly, the notion of the Prius being a sound frugal living choice is another myth generated by shortsightedness and tremendous marketing.  The myth is easily exposed by following one of the basic rules of practical frugal living of thinking it through.  When we do that, we can easily see that any sensible, traditional gas powered compact or economy class car will match or beat the total cost of the Prius.

The problem lies in the Prius’ starting price tag, which is a good thirty to forty percent higher than comparably sized non-hybrid models.  The Prius, you see, relies on two engines, one of which is powered by a hugely expensive battery, for power.  When you put two engines in a vehicle, the price rockets upward pretty quickly.

Let’s see how that increased purchase price negates the eventual gas savings even before you drive the first mile.  Start by looking at some “base prices,” (i.e., those MSRPs that are always a few thousand dollars short of the actual price needed for a car with basic options.)  The Prius Two weighs in at a starting price of $24,200 for the basic 1.8L four cylinder engine.  The Chevrolet Cruze LS automatic starts at $18,225 with the same size engine (and still gets you 35 miles per gallon on the highway, by the way.)

Just to give Prius the benefit of every doubt, let’s liberally assume that you will do all of your driving in the city, where the Prius’ fuel efficiency advantage is the greatest.  By comparing only city fuel efficiencies, you will average a full 26 more miles per gallon of gas with your Prius.  Let’s also assume gas prices of $4.00 per gallon.  That $6,180 in additional sales price and sales tax that the Prius will cost you equals 1,545 gallons of gasoline.  That’s how much you are in the hole the day you put the first mile on the odometer.  That means that you’ll need to drive your Prius for about 65,000 miles, entirely within the city, before you break even on the cost.  Yes, I realize that if gas prices soar above $4.00 per gallon, the breakeven point would come sooner.  But I think we also all realize that most of a car’s miles are driven on the highway, where the Prius’s fuel efficiency advantage shrinks to 16 miles per gallon.

Now let’s compare Prius to another Toyota, one with a well-earned, decades-old reputation for reliability, the Corolla.  The Corolla’s starting MSRP is $16,230, making for a roughly $8,240 difference in sales prices and additional sales tax.  Meanwhile, the Corolla boasts fuel efficiency numbers of 27 city and 34 highway.  With this comparison, you have a wider price difference gap and a smaller fuel efficiency advantage to work with.  The end result is that, even if you do all of your driving in the city, after 100,000 miles of driving, you will still be about $1,700 in the red with the Prius.  If you check the numbers on other sensible cars, such as the Hyundai Accent and Elantra or the Kia Forte, you will quickly notice that there are plenty of other opportunities to beat the Prius in savings.  Then there is the Nissan Sentra, which starts at $15,990 and brings you fuel efficiency numbers of 30/39.

So why would you do that?  Why pay over eight thousand dollars more for an uglier car?  And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for green living.  I recycle and reuse religiously, and I’m conservative with my consumption habits.  But, I’m sorry, I don’t believe in putting myself in the red for the sake of being environmentally friendly.

Some will respond that the Prius is cheaper when purchased used, and that’s absolutely correct.  So is the Corolla, the Sentra, and every car made, by the way.  The price gap between the Prius and a non-hybrid model might narrow a bit the older they are, but so will the opportunity to recoup the difference through gas savings.  In other words, if you buy your car with 80,000 miles on it, it becomes much harder to go another 100,000 without incurring substantial mechanical expenses.  The expenses that arise after 100,000 miles, by the way, are likely to be much higher with the Prius, as those expensive batteries and computer systems begin to fail.

I’m not sure why people are so quick to overlook the financially losing proposition of the Prius.  Some folks, I suppose, are just so ecstatic at the thought of 51 miles a gallon that they don’t even think of comparing prices.  Others will say that it is worth paying more in order to “save the planet.”  To me, it’s not.  And until hybrid technology reaches the point where comparably sized cars are comparably priced, the practical choice is a traditional model with better looks, better rear view visibility, and a forty percent cheaper price.

Update 07/25/2014: You might want to review my more recent post on Emotions, Pride and the Myth of Prius Savings, which discusses comments received on the above and how emotions and pride often prevent people from thinking through the financial wisdom of purchases like this.


This entry was posted in Myth busters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to Myth Busters: Toyota Prius as a Money Saver

  1. Very good points here. It’s also worth noting that the Prius doesn’t actually “save the planet”, since it takes such a ridiculous amount of energy to make it’s engines that it more than evens out any gas you might save.

    I heard an interesting point on Priuses listening to the Freakonomics podcast – they pointed out that it might be conspicuous consumption that continues to drive their sales; if someone wants to be known as green, a Prius is a quick and easy (though not frugal) way to do it.

    • Person McPersonface says:

      I realize this is an old page, but how exactly does it take a ridiculous amount of energy to make a Prius’ engine compared to any other car? A tiny 4 cylinder and a tiny electric motor are hardly massive when put together. The average 4 cylinder is larger than both the Prius’ components combined.

  2. Pingback: Frugal Vehicles - Saving Advice Forums

  3. Maria Gralak says:

    Maybe a few of your site’s readers will want to take advantage of this offer. I am not sure how long it will run. I just ordered a new baby sling that normally costs $39.99 and I got it for only $11.90. The only thing you are being charged for is the “shipping and handling.” Anyhoo, the website seems like it specializes in “designer”-type slings so I think this is a decent bargain. There’s also “size insurance” which costs something like $5 but it can be removed from the order. Visit this store site: and then hit “Shop Now” and then select the sling you want. Make sure you select your size and any other options! When you are taken to the page where you put in your information, enter ENBABY into the discount code box and the cost will be reduced to zero plus S&H. Enjoy!

  4. Wade K. says:

    With the exception of a few owners who damaged the battery by tinkering, there’s no known case of the battery failing, or so I’ve been told numerous times. Where the Prius V(the biggest Prius) will shine for me is I plan to live out of one to travel fulltime. What’s so special about a Prius in that regard? The a/c runs off the big battery, so when the battery gets low enough the gas engine will turn on to top off the battery. So one can sleep in the Prius in comfort with a few minor mods. And that is pretty frugal!

    • zuchowskiw says:

      “there’s no known case of the battery failing, or so I’ve been told numerous times.”

      You were told wrong, I am running 3 Toyota Prius as taxi cabs in southern Florida, all of them are 2012 models and in all of them I had to replace main battery after they went over 110K miles mark, an +$3,000 expense at local dealership.
      I just can not wait to get rid off these cars……

      • Natsume Tsukino says:

        Regarding no battery failures vs 3 for a taxi company, you only have anecdotal data for both.

        My experience, I have a 2006 Prius with 243,000 miles on it,. So far I’ve put a water pump in it and replaced the wheel speed sensors and brakes (at 240,000).

        So for me, $1500 in repairs over 9 years is worth it. Someone else might have a different experience, like very heavy use in a hot climate like Florida reducing the service life of the battery.

        Regarding the main article, how is the manufacuring of the electric motor or ICE any higher than a non-hybrid? You are citing dramatically increased costs, but not specifying how much more or why (The ICE is a normal 1.5L 4 cylinder).

      • John says:

        Nat is right. It’s common knowledge across the industry now that hybrid batteries will outlast the car. They are in fact recycling the batteries in consumer electronics. After you drive your Prius into the ground, bring it into a scrapyard that handles batteries and you’ll get your money’s worth. Any part of a car can have a defect, and it’s good to hear that the battery has an extraordinarily low defect rate among any part of the car. The battery outlasts the car.

      • Sable Beale says:

        you should have looked at your warranty Toyota backs the Prius battery in different states in Cali its 150000 or 10 ten years if the battery dies before then it will be replaced for free by Toyota

    • Person McPersonface says:

      lol, “no known cases”? Really? Their batteries fail all the time. I personally know of two people who had them fail, and neither of them “tinkered” with it, they barely know how to put gas in a car. Some crap out at 50k miles some last hundreds of thousands, it’s just the luck of the draw like any other component of a car.

  5. EvilShin says:

    WOW, after years of doom and gloom predictions of Prius being a white elephant, comes this article that flies in the face of facts.

    It is interesting that the author states, ” The expenses that arise after 100,000 miles, by the way, are likely to be much higher with the Prius, as those expensive batteries and computer systems begin to fail.” Without any source material for such a speculative claim.

    In Vancouver, British Columbia, a fleet of Prius taxis from 2004 are hitting their 1,000,000 km mark (that’s 625,000 miles) on the original batteries, with only minor repairs and routine maintenance. This track record have prompted more taxi companies to switch their fleets over to the Prius and Camry hybrids.

    The way the Prius is designed, it does not have a starter motor or alternator, replaced by the much larger brushless hybrid motor. Since it is brushless, there are no brushes to fail (number 1 point of failures in alternators and starter motors), and the motor is sealed, so it does not suffer from corrosion. The regenerative braking (just a fancy word for engine braking using the electric motor) reduces brake wear, and prolong brake life.

    My Prius is 200,000 miles and still going strong. The front and rear brakes have been replaced just once. Some windshield wipers, and headlights, and a set of spark plugs along with the usual maintenance (ie oil change every 5000 miles) are the only maintenance it has needed so far.

    This compared to my previous vehicle: a chevy lumina minivan, which by 200,000 miles needed two transmissions repairs, 4 wiper motors replaced, two starter motors, four alternators, air conditioner repaired once, one engine over haul, four tail gate locks replaced (finally gave up on it and the tail no longer locks), two door lock repairs, one sliding door latch replaced, two coolant system repairs (one pump, and one leak), 5 fan belts replaced, four car batteries, two driver seats replaced, and 4 brake replacements (3 front: calipers, discs and pads, 1 rear, shoe and drums). Total cost of all repairs $13,000+ not including the $800 that would have been required should I have repaired the broken axle that did it in. Cost of lumina (purchased used 2 years old with 30,000 miles on it): $9,000.

    Total cost of Prius maintenance to date: <$1500. Cost of purchasing the Prius (used 2 years old with 60,000 miles on it): $15,000.

    Any ways from my experience with my Prius, it is the lack of repair cost that has made this vehicle more than worth the extra cost. (Which was not that much since a used Toyota Matrix would be about $11,000 at the same age and mileage.)

    BTW, battery is perfectly fine. The little (car battery sized) auxiliary battery might need to be replaced in 2 to 3 years time.

    • Philip says:

      I agree completely !

    • sphismmatt says:

      This is the most truthful thing on this page

      • James Wadd says:

        I agree. The Prius is probably the biggest best kept secret! If I’d known years ago how good the car was, I would have bought one years ago and saved a lot of $$. This year I bought a secondhand Gen2 with about 50,000Km for $12,000 and it will pay for itself in less than 5 years. It does 1000km on a 45L tank if filled to the brim with regular unleaded (don’t use cheaper ethanol mix fuel as it is less efficient by over 10%). The car drives better than anything else I’ve ever driven. The only negative would be the slight driver’s window wind noise and the fact it doesn’t have blutooth for the kids, but who wants to listen to their music anyway?!

  6. Maneesh says:

    The Prius does not save you money in the long run:
    1. Psychologically, you will spend more money elsewhere knowing you are saving on gas, and that is not saving money.
    2. Prius is really painful journey for your back, especially your hips, so the longer you have driven your Prius, the more likely it is you will be going to physiotherapist and churning up all that saved money to correct your body alignment.
    3. The cost of maintenance for hybrid models vs standard gas models is much higher, and it is true that after 100,000 miles, the computer systems may start to become rusty, and they will charge you to your last dime to get it up to normal operating conditions.
    Unless you are in the Taxi business, this car is not for the normal person for daily commute to work or just for leisure.

    • Wade K. says:

      Toyota has sold millions of them to private owners, they’ve been rated highly by Consumer Reports, Consumers Digest, and others. It’s not a sports car, but it is a very practical daily commuter. And many have found that with practice they can get the mpg way up, known as hyper-miling or something close to that. And there are cushions that work well with your back while driving.

      • Maneesh says:

        Yes, but in the process of hypermiling, you are isolating yourself from the simple pleasures of driving. In the long run, it is not much money saved, unless the gas prices were to shoot to $8 per gallon. The top ranked family car in USA for more than over a decade is still the Camry, even though the Prius has been around for a long time.

      • Wade K. says:

        I’m a courier, and for about 4 years delivered a very rural route in East Texas. You’d be surprised how many ranchers had a Prius sitting next to their big pickups. When you drive 30+ miles to a supermarket, every bit helps. The Prius has proven to be super reliable, which means the cost savings between fuel and maintenance and not having to replace the car every 5 years(or less) really saves in the long run. From what I’ve read the only car that edges the Prius in overall costs of ownership is the Honda Fit, which costs considerably less to buy. But just barely and the Fit is smaller. And that is without hypermiling. If you want to drive a car for pleasure there are many better choices than the Prius. But this blog is about practical frugal living, and the writer makes assertions that don’t bear up under scrutiny.

    • EvilShin says:

      Maneesh, do you own a Prius? If not where do you get the idea that the Prius is bad for your back? I own one and I’ve driven it for most of the 200,000 miles. (It was purchased used at 62,000 miles.) My back is fine. I’ve only had the vehicle for 6.5 years. It is now at 225,000 miles. So here’s the deal, I drive the car 25,000 miles per year, about 10,000 miles more than the average driver. I can tell you my back is fine…

      Further more, I can tell you the expensive complicated electronics has not failed, in 225,000 miles. But what you claim is true, it would have failed twice. There has been a minor electrical issue with a fuse box, but that is something that is in all vehicles. It was fixed for $100. The wheel bearings had to be replaced, but that’s much better than par even compared to other Toyotas, let alone domestic cars.

      And your number one point, is just plain stupid. So maybe you should buy the most expensive to operate car so you will save money elsewhere? As for taxi businesses buying the car, that’s the proof in the pudding, no business where they drive cars to the ground (often 80,000 miles per year!), has more relied on the Prius in recent years than the taxi business. Next time you hail a cab, it will likely be a Prius or a hybrid Camry. Why, because they last forever with very low maintenance costs. They are NOT being subsidized by governments, they gas savings would not compensate for maintenance costs if what you say has an ounce of truth.

      This is all climate change denier BS…

      I have yet to see a Prius owner testify that the car is a piece of crap, just climate change denier fan boys. And don’t give me this Prius owners are too proud to admit their mistake crap. I owned a Lumina for 8 years and it is a piece of crap. So I call it as I see it.

      • Maneesh says:

        A lot of people are complaining and I am not sure what year you bought your car, but mine is the 3rd generation, and I found the driving position to be awkward. The car is excellent as it gives great mpg, but the ergonomics are poor. I can tell because my wife owns a Camry and I drive it sometimes. The difference in driving is quite obvious between the two. As for the Prius, well let me give you the big picture. They are rolling out hybrids like crazy now for only one purpose….extend the life of the oil fields and to maximize oil profits. If people continue to ride in their gas guzzling vehicles, the life span of the oil fields will be significantly shortened and not much money can be made. So increase the life span, and increase the gas prices over time and VOILA….maximized oil profits. It was never really about saving the planet.

    • samidog67 says:

      It’s obvious Maneesh is a Troll. Please don’t respond to him.

    • Person McPersonface says:

      So I shouldn’t save money on something because I’ll just spend it elsewhere. That’s your argument against a Prius? Using your logic I should just burn my paycheck because I’ll just spend it otherwise.

  7. Philip says:

    I own a cab company. I make a living using and maintaining cars. I have a dual technical degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology. I have been turning a wrench for 16 plus years. I have studied oil and filtration. I have taxi cabs with upwards of 400,000 miles. I do 10,000 mile oil changes in extreme taxi service with approximately 700 engine hours between oil and filter changes. There is a term called (planned obselence) the engineering of things to fail or have a certain life and it all started with the light bulb in the early 20th century. It is not uncommon for diesel semi-truck to go 1,000,000 miles between overhauls. But cars only seem to make it to 150,000 miles? This is by design, because car manufacturers have to sell new cars and dealerships have to keep there mechanics busy. In 1965 the SR71 black bird plane was launched and could fly over 2000 miles per hour and almost leave are Atmoshphere and you actually believe car manufacturers can’t build a longer lasting car? I would bye every second generation Prius in the United States if I had the money. They are being used in over dozen countries as taxi cabs and they don’t fail EVER… And if the high voltage battery ever does fail eventually you pick one up at a salvage yard $200 bucks, the salvage yards can’t even sell parts on those cars because they don’t fail. That’s just my 2 cents! PhilforGOD

  8. Laura says:

    Your article was so ignorant I barely got through the entire thing.
    1) instead of comparing to the cruze and corolla (both COMPACT cars) try staying in the mid sized class to get an apples to apples comparison.

    2) talk about why ‘drive an ugly car’ many people VALUE things like reducing emissions more than styling. They just must not be on your stylish level, thank god.

  9. The Fox says:

    i love the prius

  10. Scott says:

    This is an absurd article. Comparing the Prius to a Sentra or Corolla??? Not quiet as big as the Camry, but closer to that then the Corolla. I’ve had my Prius since 2006 and it recently passed 200,000 miles and is going strong. Changed the brakes once and the tires twice so far (first time because of nails on the highway). Other then that, just oil changes and once light that went out. Prior to this, I never had a car pass 100,000 miles. This is by far the best car I’ve ever driven. Also, I’m 6 feet tall and 225 pounds. I (and my wife and two kids) take all our driving vacations in the Prius and fit everything with no problem. Comparing it to compact cars is just silly.

  11. Pingback: Suck it Prius owners, Mercedes E-Class luxury sedan gets better mpg!

  12. Stan Peterson says:

    Most states don’t charge sales tax on hybrids ( saving 10% in Seattle). Also, lower annual registration fees. Finally, a quick look at the high reliability rating of consumer reports does make it pencil out especially at resale which remains high. More space in a Prius 3 than a corolla too.

  13. BJ says:

    The gist of your op/ed piece here is that you don’t think using less oil is worth any investment or expense at all. I would think its better to spend more to protect our environment, you don’t have to go “into the red” to do so. Its fine to have differing viewpoints. A hybrid can have more benefits price wise if you purchase slightly used. There are used low mileage hybrid vehicles on sale for thousands less than the retail price. Just like gas only cars, once hybrid cars get sold in mass numbers, the aftermarket brings the price down for everyone when used purchasing comes into account. You can really, really save if you purchase a moderately used hybrid in great condition vs traditional gas cars.

  14. Pingback: Consumed by the Digital Divide | the becoming radical

  15. johnP says:

    Is the author of this article or the other dissenters here even on the same planet… I’ve seen the carfax of 30 priuses in the last two weeks and not a single one needed anything other than the brakes…once.. at 200k average… My 2001 prius at a net cost of $9000 after selling it saved me $11,000 in gas over the smallest four door audi we owned then. How many cars pay you to drive? And that would be much more over that once very nice Nissan SUV we had which fell apart at 170k. These hybrids cars resell so fast and high. What planet I ask again? There is a whole cottage industry to help handy folk fix the batteries themselves for $45 in parts total… or by a pro shop for $450 and that’s so much cheaper than the honda civic transmision at $1300 (usually at half the milage the battery on the prius will need a rebalancing of cells. LOL. I watched my engineering student friends at my school make an electric car in 1992 and I can say with tesla, the end is near for the ICE. For sure. Finally. The chevy volt and new plug in hybrids have an interesting dynamic when coupled with even a few solar panels at the work garage or at home. This is the future. Get with it brother.

  16. johnP says:

    And twice I have convinced the most frugal wife in the world to pay $10k more for a prius because when you actually crunch the numbers, the prius is cheaper to own than almost any comparable or even less equipped and cheaply made economy car. All via actual numbers on a spreadsheet by this engineer. All that before we really knew if the batteries would last 100k.. and they seem to average 250k or maybe 500k with one or two $400 rebalancing and reconditoining of the battery pack. And before we realized toyota was going to make almost every component of this car run for 500k or so.

    Now add to that: being able to drive in the HOV lanes alone for a decade? put a price on the extra gas and maintenance saved there. Then add the power of the electric “turbo” off the line… I beat mustangs daily from a red light. Then being able to leave the garage without making any smell for my kid to inhale? Then add this intangible. Something I never even imagined before owning a prius: when we are stuck in 40 mph traffic and seeing that we are getting over 100mpg for up to 20 minutes like that? and watching others pound the dashboard? The reduced smells of cars in our cities? Less asbestos dust from brakes all around? In the newer priuses I average 65mpg with almost no change in driving and it’s not even a plug in. Hello. We just bought a once $700,000 house for half that… in some part becuase we saved about $18k in gas over the average image enhancement fool out there. When that equity goes into gold again for a tripling.. we will both retire. Good luck in your corrolla… wait… every car is getting a hybrid option? even ferraris and now every military boat too? hmmm… stupid tree huggers huh?

  17. I think the writer picked a poor choice of car (Chevy Cruze) to compare the Prius to. The only reason i think that, is because the Cruze is in the top ten in fatalities when crashing. I forget the percentages and stats, but you can look it up. I think if we are comparing cars and prices; it should be noted the more expensive Prius has better safety. And Toyota makes better cars than GM. That is a fact.

  18. Pattie says:

    As I was saying on the other comment before it posted and I was not ready for it. I also drive long distances with my Prius and have never had back or hip or any kind of pain. So it must have just been the person. Prius is a great car.

  19. DE says:

    Just bought my first Prius (II), a 2012 with 16,000 miles for $18,000. I’ve been averaging 65 to 75 MPG driving in Boston. I averaged 60 MPG driving from Boston to Providence,RI. Unfortunately, the “Practical” frugal author who wrote the article can’t see the forest through the trees. And if he/she continues to gas her/his car up, we won’t have any trees left. Some people are so frugal they completely lack common sense.

  20. Pingback: Emotions, Pride, and the Myth of Prius Savings | Practical Frugal Living

  21. 65,000 as a break even point? That doesn’t sound bad to me. From what I understand, it is not at all uncommon for a Prius to accumulate 200,000+ miles over its operational life span. Using your own math, this car would completely pay for itself in gas savings even compared to a car considered quite efficient by non-hybrid standards. Am I missing something?

  22. Aaron says:

    You guys crack me up. Do some basic math and assumptions

    Rough Cost for a Prius V with good option package. 32,000

    Rough Cost for Camary SE with a good option package. 25,000

    Gas 3.50 a gallon.

    If Robert Purchased a Prius V for 32,000

    His payment would be 575 a month 60 months @ 3%

    What would his yearly operating cost to drive 15,000 miles a year at 3.50 per gallon of gas and 45MPG?

    1166 spent on gas, 6900 in payments. Total spent 8066 dollars.

    If Jill Purchased a Camary SE 4 cylinder for 25,000.

    Her payment be 449 a Month 60 months @ 3%.

    What would her yearly operating cost to drive 15,000 miles a year at 3.50 per gallon of gas and 30MPG?

    1750 spent on gas, 5388 in payments. Total cost 7138 dollars.

    Who has made the better decision over the course of the 5 year loan?

    Robert has spent 40330 to drive his prius 75,000 miles
    Jill has spent 35690 to drive her camry 75,000 miles.

    Obviously Jill has made the better decision saving nearly 5,000 dollars over the course of 5 years in her Camry.

    • EvilShin says:

      Dude, my Prius is now 235,000 miles old. I have spent a grand total of $2000 on maintenance on the vehicle. This includes summer and winter tires, brakes, spark plugs, oil changes, air filters, etc, It also includes a total of $400 on repairs.

      During this time, I did not have to change the batteries, though the little lead acid battery is getting to the end of its life, but still usable after 7 years. There were no replacement of the starter motor or the alternator, as these are taken care of by the one of the two hybrid motors which are brushless. (If you don’t know what that means, let’s just say brushes are the point of failure in almost all automotive dynamos.) The only failure of that sort was a blower motor. Nothing special about it, typical brushed motor for blowing air into the passenger compartment…

      Anyone with a Camry at 235,000 miles that can give me some anecdotal maintenance costs on the Camry?

      Also, the assumption of your calculation is that fuel prices won’t rise in the 10 years or so that you will own your car. Who here believes that fuel prices won’t rise in the next 10 years?

      Let me remind you that in 2004, gasoline was just getting above the $2 mark. Today it is nearing $4

      Now go back and redo the calculation taking into account fuel price increase for your five year lease…

      Of course you can do what a lot of smart people are doing: buying a used Prius. Since they are so trouble free, a high mileage Prius is a bargain. It will save you fuel costs, maintenance costs, AND purchasing costs.

    • Choo says:

      First, you are cherry-picking the prius V because it is the wagon that is much more expensive than the Prius IV or lesser models. Then you are assuming that someone is dumb enough to finance the whole thing at 3% with no down payment. Then you are assuming that you live on a highway with the mpg. Most people live in a city or suburb where camry is 25 mpg and prius is >50 mpg.

      But you are right. If you were comparing these two different models, were stupid enough to pay full price and at 3% apr, and if you lived only on highways – you are right.

      If you even just put 10k down payment though, prius would save you money, ceteris paribus.

      If you had 0% APR like they offer now, obviously putting a down payment would be stupid (since money in the future will be less than money now).

  23. CJ says:

    Evilshin, my Mother drove a Camry and sometime around 110,000 miles, the engine blew. We had a used engine dropped in (IIRC total cost installed was about $2500) then a few months later the transmission blew, lol. Had that rebuilt for $1700. At some point, the air conditioning stopped working and she gave the car to my Aunt. At least in our experience, the Camry was far from low maintenance. I just googled it too and a lot of other reports came up with blown engines and transmissions. I opened a tab next to it, and searched for prius blown engine and transmission and barely anything came up, lol.

    • Patrick K says:

      Yeah… They tax you $2500 for a 125k/5yr warranty. If I was buying a Camry I would skip the extended warranty.

  24. theheapstoe says:

    This a hoax article, written by someone that hates the Prius. I agree that the price tag makes it less of a bargain than anticipated, but comparing it to much smaller vehicles is completely unfair.

    Also, 16 MPG on the highway? Did you disconnect the electric motor before going on that road trip? I’m getting 45 miles per gallon driving OVER the rockies. I don’t know where you got your facts, but you are pulling the same marketing stunt as everyone else. You have fancy words and facts to throw out there and you’re going to catch a few consumers that are either already on the fence or hate Prius because it challenges their pride.

  25. Dwayne D. says:

    So… to sum up:

    Toyota > Chevy
    Prius cabin > Cruze cabin
    Prius 0-60 faster than Cruze 0-60
    Prius = HOV lane while driving solo. Cruz !=HOV lane while driving solo
    Calculations for gasoline need to be made for 200k miles.
    Calculations for gasoline need to extrapolate the change in gasoline prices
    Brushless motor > Alternator
    Prius = less trips to the fill-up station (time in $$)
    Prius = less toxic fumes in your household (health is $$)
    Prius III seats could possibly use some work.

    This vehicle seems like the real deal for a FWD family car. It’s alsos unclear to me why the author thought that people mostly drive on the highway. Where’s the data to support that? My anecdotal experience is that most driving happens in the city.

    I can’t wait until there’s a hybrid version of the Venza (AWD).

    Taxi companies use the Prius. Those cars total 80k miles per year. That’s 219 miles per day.
    It looks like, then, given the cost of the Prius, if Tesla does launch a $35k retail car, that can be had for $30k, stripped for fleet needs, that delivers 200 miles of range, Taxi companies might solidify the bottom line for those battery electric autos. Especially if battery swap tech is present. That would mean a LOT less smoke in the city.

  26. Pingback: » Frugal Money Belts Passport

  27. Thomas Greenwood says:

    What an idiot. Clearly, the Prius is more comfortable, the back seat is huge with fabulous leg room. The car is unbelievably reliable, Bluetooth, nav, safe with multiple airbags, you can drive it hard and still get 40 MPG.
    It is a hatchback from 2005 on and thus will hold an unbelievable amount of gear.
    I had an ’07 for 4 years and it was the best car I ever owned. I have owned many cars too.
    Don’t believe this fool with an axe to grind…

  28. sam says:

    I have a 2005 Prius with 300,000 KM and still going strong! The author is a SUV fan. Prius, pls come up with a SUV and your life will be easier

    • vster says:

      Sam, Congrats on your 300K, but if you think I’m an SUV lover, you need to read more carefully. Try clicking on a few of the posts on SUVs.

  29. Patrick K says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article. I do not argue your logic it is sound. I do hope, however, you will consider the following:

    For uber and taxi work a large backseat is very important. Taxi cab fleets don’t covet the Prius for its cool factor, it is a shrewd business decision. I don’t know if you have ever sat in the back of a corolla…. not so comfortable. Prius has an amazing backseat, sit in one if you ever get a chance.
    To get a car my customers would be comfortable in I would need something like a Camry, which has a combined 30 mpg, a corolla wouldn’t do.

    The numbers:
    For my prius, With maintenance for the first 75k miles paid for, (inspections, oil, filters etc) ALL TAXES, and a bumper to bumper 125k/5yr (150k battery) warranty it was under 28k. (Toyota kicked in a $2000 discount plus a $500 AAA discount.(Santa Monica Toyota)) Because the car has a long warranty I can drive it for long enough to save literally $12,000 (Versus my Corolla averaging 24 in the city assuming my Prius will do $48 at $4.00 a Gallon) Very realistic numbers.


    A) I get a car my customers are comfortable in… And it is cool!

    B) I realize the difference in msrp vs a corolla in mpg savings over 150,000 miles

    C) I do my part to keep oil imports down, as we are becoming a more energy efficient nation.

    I hope you will consider this argument and realize there is a nitch for a good prius!

  30. Rob says:

    I have not seen it mentioned here that when a Prius gets 48MPG city (give or take) that INCLUDES TRAFFIC! A Chevy Cruze rated at 25MPG city does not get 25MPG when sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So to make comparisons on life savings on gas based on EPA MPG alone is misleading.

  31. David Taff says:

    there seems to be a lot Prius “lemons” out there with various problems.
    Some have poor MPG and drive poorly like your pulling a trailer, including mine!!!

    Possible undiscovered performance and MPG issues with Prius v (lowercase v)

    Very Low Gas Mileage …. Why?

  32. Nema Toda says:

    Just one small point: the mileage you get from a Prius will often vastly exceed the EPA estimate–and one doesn’t need to “hyper-mile.” On my daily commute on the 605 and 10 freeways in Los Angeles, I routinely get 60 MPG, sometimes 63 to work, and about 55 back. In bad traffic, my mileage is sometimes better because of the slower speeds.

    One more point: if I did not buy a Prius, I would have bought another $25,000 car. So the choice was not between the cheapest cars available and a Prius, but between a Prius and a similarly priced car. If that’s the case, it’s absolutely clear the Prius saves money overall.

  33. Roan says:

    All these comments make me laugh! I beat every single one of you on both saving gas money!

    1986 Toyota mr2 cost $400

    Mpg 35-40.

    Maintenance cost over 2 years! $160 shocks and new wires and distributer cap and plugs (only needed wires)

    Say you get 60 mpg and gas is 2.00 a gallon. You would have to drive over 300k mpg to even break even.

    And you know what my car is way sexy than any Prius and people loved it and it was the funnest car to drive!

    So take that and your global warming conspiracy!
    If your talking about used saving money there you go. Or a Honda Civic which can get 45 mpg on the highway which is where most driving is done. They cost around $2500 look way better as well. Justifying your extra 12k now?

  34. Rob says:

    Roan, driving a car made in 1986 makes me laugh. Are you a teenager or something?

    • Roan says:

      No! I love 80s cars. I love the styling and the reliability! I have 5 cars and I’m very hard on vehicles. Anything that I can beat to death and still drives great is something for me.

      Let me ask the Prius owners. How many of you beat the hell out of your cars and still pull over 34. And have no reliability issues.

      And find a car that handles auto cross as good as an mr2 for under 15k.

      • John says:

        I don’t think any Prius has ever pulled UNDER 34 mpg, no matter how hard you drive it. The electric motor alone contributes the torque that limits its gasoline consumption when going uphill, something that gasoline engines lose much of their efficiency because of the gasoline motor’s low torque at low rev characteristic.

        And if you’re going to buy a car for autocross, the Prius isn’t for you. The Prius is for people who want to save money, and for people who realize that cars depreciate fast, and that any extra money spent on a car should have economic returns.

        Also, if you’re going for performance please just spend a bit more over $15 and get a used Focus ST. Or even the new Camero. Both are excellent driver’s cars that punch above their weight and have excellent EPA fuel efficiency (the MR2 was rated on the unrealistic old EPA guidelines). These cars are actually endorsed by Motortrend and C&D (those guys are nuts about performance–like you probably–and shove economics aside).

  35. Pingback: So What Are Quality Frugal Transportation Choices? | Practical Frugal Living

  36. Paul says:

    I purchased a 2010 Prius in April for $11,600.00. It was similar in cost to similar mileage / vintage Hondas. I have been averaging over 60 mpg while putting over 15,000 miles on the car. Based on this I am saving over $100.00 in gas over the Honda CRV (averaging 28 mpg) I used to drive. I don’t see the myth buster rational as described in this article with my experience.

  37. Christine says:

    I have a 2007 Prius with 325,000 miles on it. I replaced the catalytic converters 2 years ago, and that is the only major maintenance I’ve ever done. I purchased the car from the original owner in 2011, who was a medical sales rep. Regardless of what anyone says, my car is paid off and it is paying me to drive it. Can I afford a new car? Yes. Do I want a new car? Yes. Do I need a new car? No. I’m driving this one until it dies. Even if the hybrid batter dies, it would be $1500 well invested.

  38. Matt Fellows says:

    I’m really not so sure this is true anymore…if it ever was….I just bought a new on the lot 2015 Prius in Trim 3 for right at $21.5K…a similarly provisioned Honda Civic EX-L (yeah…the one with the same Navigation) is about $24,700…that’s a LOT more comparable of an Econobox that the Kia Rio or other various junk cars you cite in the article…many of which have ZERO resale value at the end of a 5-year loan. The economics, the total cost of ownership, the amount of your investment you can RECOVER after 5 years…these are all factors. If my Prius loses half it’s purchase price in 5-years….which maybe it WON’T…that’s still about $10-11K I can get back… How much will the cheap Korean cars be worth after 5 years…sometimes little more than $500-1000…in the case of the sub $12K cars…maybe NO ONE wants your headache…period…the car is…basically…worthless… If I drive $10K off the value of my Prius…that’s better that driving the ENTIRE $13K off of a car which I might have paid $13K for…. The economics don’t work AT ALL the way you suggest…not in the slightest…. And get this…there are Taxi drivers in NYC who have Priuses at the 500K+ miles driven mark. Find me another current production vehicle that can come anywhere NEAR that mileage without being completely rebuilt from the ground up… I’m not saying Prius is THE answer…but…the economics of ownership are not nearly as woeful as you suggest…

  39. Rolando says:

    The moment the author mention “uglier”, I lost interest in the article since it is biased.

  40. Gabe says:

    Electric and hybrid cars probably do not save the planet like people think they do. Watch this video of someone who did the research and bought it through…

  41. Laurie says:

    I have a 2005 Prius with 221,000 miles – bought it new and got a rebate. I consistently get 47-51 mpg and drive 53 miles for work 5 days per week and lots of recreational mileage on weekends. My only expenses for 10 years has been an auxillary (starter) battery and brakes aside from tires. If I wanted to get rid of it, I am sure someone would buy it for a cheap commuter vehicle. Couldn’t be happier.

  42. Murad Osman says:

    I drive a 2009 prius and it has over 241,000 miles. I haven’t replaced the battery up to now, and the only maintenance I’ve done by far; brakes, struts, spark plugs, tires, and of course synthetic oil every 5k miles. I’m a high mileage Driver and prius is the best car and investment I’ve ever had. It costs me with today’s gas price ($1.94 per gallon) less than $14 for up to 330 miles. It still runs like new cause I take very good care of it.

  43. Bill says:

    This is an old article…but…

    I was in the market for a new 4 seat car that was to be used for a lot of city driving and some longer trips. Had to fit my family…all of us around 6′ and our stuff. I test drove the Prius V. Not a fan. Test drove the latest Prius, the interesting looking one, and wasn’t too bad at all. But I ended up buying a 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid (clearance prices and 0%) and love it. We all fit great, very roomy and comfortable, and all our stuff fits. It drives great. It gets great mileage. Over a similar car I am saving a lot of money in fuel (12000kms since I purchased in April).

  44. Paul says:

    I bought a 2001 Prius in 2002 (I bought it from a company that was renting them). I paid 11,000 for it. I had to do the front brakes every 85k or so, had access to the HOV lanes for years and didn’t need to do the hybrid battery until 250k. Drove the car hard (in the end 180 miles a day with a drop in 5,000 feet and an ascent of 5,000 feet every day) until 350k where the tyranny died (and maybe the inverter with it). I have been using it as a parts car since the tranny died for another one (it only has 130k). Do you think I could have ever gotten the use and mileage savings out of non-hybrid with the with the same vintage. BTW, when the car had 50k on it I would drive it an 8 mile round trip. I would get over 60mpg (driving at 35mph the whole way). The engine would never even come on after it warmed up on the way to work. If I had the ability to keep the engine from warming up I bet I would have gotten in the high 60 to low 70mpg.

  45. Ricky says:

    Prius is a light weight piece of shit set to break to make more money of people who want to think mpg.had 2014 model 3 put 5000 miles on it and in that time had a problem with car thieves trying to use 17dollar device to copy codes Prius is good for grandma going to bingo.

  46. Ricky says:

    Prius is a Japan scam period.

  47. You bettcha says:

    You numbers do not add up. And stop the dub let talk. I’m doing 422 miles a day on about 22 dollars. In a prius.

  48. nikedunks13 says:

    Did you strike a nerve? I think you’re just not that bright and people called you out on it.

  49. ricardo says:

    If you are going to write an article, write it acurately. dont just pull up what you think are the important fact that tell the whole story and say its complete. i have been a mechanic for over 15 years and the prius is the only car i have seen go as far as it does for so little money. not to mention is is extremely well thought out in its design. it allows comfort and practicality in a compact space that still allows for leg room. i think you give away the bias of your argument when you say the car is ugly. is the article about cost effectiveness or looks? i can argue the chevy cruize is not the nicest looking car..

    this article in ** Popular Mechanics** gives charts of the most and least expensive cars to maintain. The prius takes 1st place in least expensive in multiple lists. chevy does not even show up. there is a reason why the japs are selling more cars. its because they are not as greedy as detroit. remember how tied to the oil companies we are. it takes oil to make all the gaskets that go bad on the american cars and bigger engines take more oil. also bigger transmissions. cars are engineered to fail now a days and it seems to me that the prius is the only one that isnt so.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree. I now have nearly 249,000 with no problems except replacing the starter battery and usual brakes and tires. Where is the argument when I still get around 46 mpg average after 12 years of commuting and going on trips within the midwest? How have I not saved money? I recently met someone who worked on the EV1 until the project was axed years ago. He is working with electric motors as a hobby and passion. He said when my Prius goes, he would take it and easily turn it into an all electric vehicle! I do think if it weren’t for oil pressures and high cost of American labor, we would have something on market.

  50. Pat McMahon says:

    I have a 2005 Prius (12+ years) with 248,000 miles. The only battery that had any issue was the standard 12 volt battery (that runs mostly only the radio and lights) died. Other than that I have done oil changes, replaced tires, and head light bulbs, and at 180,000 miles replaced for the first and only time the brake pads which is another cost saver with the Prius.
    So even with the savings on brake pads that is 248,000 miles on gas savings, do that math and tell me there wasn’t a savings?
    As for price; In 2005 I compared it to the Camry, which had the same cubic interior space, and even though all the options that the Prius came with weren’t available on the Camry there was less than $1,000 difference. However I guess you perfer to use your numbers to try and develop the answer you want.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s