I drive a Prius. I have driven a Prius for 3 years now, and I don’t have a desire to change that anytime soon. I really love my car. In 2009, I purchased my first Prius, a certified pre-owned 2006 Prius with 67,000 miles on it. The purchase price was $14,800. I drove a TON for work, (about 400 miles in a two week period just for work at that time) and gas prices were skyrocketing, so purchasing a Prius just made sense. In the summer of 2011, I was hit by a red light runner at 56 mph in my driver’s side door. My car was then thrown into another vehicle and we collided head on. Though it was a terrifying experience, I am quite certain my Prius saved my life. Though the exterior of the car was quite crumpled, other than my driver door window the driver’s area remained intact. I don’t want to think about what could have happened had I been in a less safe vehicle. So, after my first Prius saved my life, I did the logical thing — I replaced it with another Prius. At the time I bought it, the difference between buying used and new was about $15 a month, so I decided to go for the new one. I’ve now had my 2011 Prius for two months shy of a year, and I just love it.
I get asked questions about my car a lot. And though hybrid cars have been available since 2003 (possibly earlier, though not mass marketed) there are a lot of things that seem to remain a mystery to those who’ve not driven or owned a hybrid, so I thought I’d take a moment to answer some of the most common questions here.
“Do you really get that great of gas mileage?”
Yes. On average, in my current Prius, I can drive about 50 miles on a gallon of gas. On a single tank I can go just under 500 miles, which lasts me a little over two weeks with my current commute and weekend errand running. My tank is about 10 gallons, and usually it costs me around $38 to fill it. In the summer, with the AC on full blast, the mileage decreases a little, but not a ton. I still get around 450 miles on a tank. (By the way, I don’t have to do anything special to get the mileage I get either. I don’t have to watch the gauges and accelerate super slow, I just drive normally. It’s a hybrid, but ultimately it’s a CAR. You can just drive without obsessing.)
“Do you have to plug it in?”
No. Hybrid vehicles charge their batteries when you brake. The friction created by braking provides a charge to the battery. The battery will never go completely dead, because even if you don’t brake enough to charge it, the gas engine can also charge the battery.
“How fast can you drive before the gas engine kicks in?”
It depends upon the weather. For example if I’m using the AC or heater, usually the gas engine kicks in whenever I accelerate. If not, sometimes the electric engine powers the vehicle by itself until I hit around 25 miles per hour.
“Is the car really silent?”
Yes, when it’s operating on the electric engine. So, at slow speeds you’ll often notice hybrids make no audible engine noise. This can actually be annoying, because sometimes I’ll be trying to drive through a parking lot but people will be walking across the path, not realizing a car is approaching!
“Hybrids are pretty fragile though right? Like the battery parts can fry or you can have computer issues, right?”
I drove my first Prius until it reached nearly 130,000 miles and had no issues with it whatsoever. My current Prius has also shown no signs of trouble.
“Is maintenance expensive?”
No. Newer models require a special zero weight oil for oil changes, however it lasts twice as long as regular oil. So, though an oil change will run $50, the oil will last for 10,000 miles, so it does not actually cost the driver more. Other than the oil, the only other hybrid specific part of the car that might require normal maintenance would be the tires. There is a special eco tire that can run a bit higher than a regular tire, but does contribute to optimal fuel efficiency (however, standard tires can be used). Other than those two things, maintaining the vehicle is like most other vehicles, and the recommended maintenance schedule is actually one of the least complex I’ve seen. Additionally, many hybrid cars come with a free maintenance package that will cover you for the first few years. (Yay for Toyota Care!) I was told by someone in the shop at the dealership that the Prius is designed to be a “15 year vehicle” meaning no major system components should require replacement (assuming typical use and maintenance) until the car is 15 years old. I think that’s pretty cool.
“They’re small inside though, right?”
If you’re used to an Escalade and have more than two children, yes. Unless you get a hybrid of another car/SUV or a Prius V. If you’re used to other economical vehicles (prior to my Priuses, I’ve had a Saturn 2-door, a Ford Focus and a Corolla) it’s pretty darn spacious. Compared to the Corolla, there’s a lot of foot room, especially in the back — thank GOODNESS because my kid kicking my seat while I drove was driving me batty.
“Are they slow?”
If you’re used to a car with a lot of horsepower and drive really fast, yes. If you’re used to economical vehicles, nah. I have no issues with the power or strength of the car. It’s able to do everything I’ve needed it to do and can pick up speed quickly if necessary without a hiccup.
“Any other perks I should know about?”
Well, if you’re hoping to get a tax incentive for buying hybrid, sadly, you’re out of luck, as they stopped those in December of 2010 (DANG IT! I missed it. Boo.) Now those are only for fully electric vehicles. If you like getting up front parking spaces at buildings constructed recently in California, you’re in luck as you’re likely to find special hybrid car parking. Additionally, you get out of smogging your car. That’s right — no smog tests required. Woot woot! Last, but not least, hybrids are still in high demand due to rising gas prices. Because of this, hybrids also retain a lot of resale value. So much so that in some cases, the value actually APPRECIATES. I’m not kidding. When my car was totaled, the Blue Book value even with the added miles I’d put on the car, was higher than what I paid for the car three years earlier. I MADE enough money on the total of the vehicle to put a down payment on the replacement. That’s pretty much unheard of as far as I know.
I hope this post helps clarify some of the questions people may have about hybrid car ownership. I can’t speak highly enough of the Prius. I have not been asked to write about my Prius and this post is not sponsored in any way — it’s just my personal account in regards to Prius ownership.
[featured image via techcrunch]