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Buying decision - Prius vs Corolla - Reliability

Discussion in 'Gen III 2010+ Prius Main Forum' started by Gen 3 for me, Jun 9, 2009.

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  1. Gen 3 for me

    Gen 3 for me Junior Member

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    I need to buy a new car to drive 130 highway miles a day round trip. I figure 360,000 more miles till I retire. I have calculated the cost of ownership assuming I would get 45 mpg with the Corolla and 55 mpg with the Prius on my highway commute for various possible gas costs in the future.

    If the maintenance costs would be the same the Prius would be the clear winner for me based on current or high future gas prices. I drive gently and maintain my cars very well. What I do not know is when the Prius' expensive components typically fail. I know that the HV battery, inverter, and transaxle repairs can be very expensive. My basic instinct tells me that the Corolla would be more reliable saving me money in repairs, and less time getting it repaired over the Prius.

    Are there Prius Gen I and II owners with 200,000 miles or more?
    What major components failed and when did they fail and what was the cost to repair?

    I should mention that I found one dealer that offers a lifetime powertrain warranty (doesn't cover Synergy drive) for free, but it seems somewhat gimmicky. You have to call for preauthorization each time you get your car maintained at someplace other than the selling dealership, and you have to pay the cost of teardown when failure happens to determine what needs replacing. Repairs can only be done at the selling dealer if failure occurs within 150 miles. Any opinions on this type of warranty?
    Thank you
  2. lensovet

    lensovet Not your typical youngin :)/BP Brigade 207

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    while I don't have any specifics – i know many on this forum will be able to provide them though – the idea that a prius is somehow less reliable is total FUD. very few people ever need to replace the battery or any other HV components. brake wear is reduced due to regenerative braking.

    however, my bigger question is how you're considering these two vehicles anyway? a prius is not a corolla with a hybrid system. in some dimensions it is actually bigger than a camry. so i don't entirely see how you can be happy with a corolla if you want to get a prius.
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  3. Steve Cebu

    Steve Cebu New Member

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    I just don't see how you can get 45mpg with a Corolla in the real world. It's not rated for that. It gets 36mpg on the highway and while many people can beat the EPA numbers getting an extra 9mpg out it would be impressive! If you can get that then you should easily be able to get 65mpg out of the Prius.
    So the Prius would still win. I've been testing out the power in my 2010 and it's lowered my fuel economy down to 48.7mpg.
    I can easily get 50mpg with no effort at all. Hypermilers will get a lot more out of the Prius especially in areas that are mostly flat.
    That warranty sounds a bit off. Labor is the most expensive aspect of working on the car. Teardown is 100% labor.
    You can always get the extended warranty but the best one is only good until 100K miles.
    The Corolla will be cheaper to repair, it's a simpler car.
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  4. Calbeach95

    Calbeach95 New Member

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    We have a 2004 Prius with all the bells and whistles available that year. We took delivery in So Cal, put highway and city miles on it there, drove it across country to FL where it spent 2 years in the hot, humid south NOT GARAGED, and drove it to Colorado where it has spent the past two years in all kinds of weather. We have over 96,000 miles on it now and it still looks great. (Thanks a great deal to an excellent & extensive Clear Bra installation.) Regular maintenance and TLC has gone a long way.

    The ONLY issue we have had occurred last summer. Without getting too technical, the issue was that the harness that connects the internal computers either became disconnected or went bad. After almost two weeks at the dealership here, with a complimentary TOyota hybrid rental during that time, the techs had a hard time determining the issue. Whatever it was, Toyota made it right. It was out of warranty but they took care of it.

    It has been a great car and we will keep it in the family even after we get out 2010 Prius in the fall.

    Go for the Prius!!
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  5. gofast

    gofast Member

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    if you are going with one car past 300,000 I think the Corolla is the car
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  6. NoMoShocks

    NoMoShocks Electrical Engineer

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    The Power Split Device in Prius is much simpler than the automatic trany in a Corolla. They call it a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) for the sake of the public familiarity with that term, but in reality, the Power Split Device is much simpler than tha. There is beauty in simplicity.
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  7. Tideland Prius

    Tideland Prius Moderator of the North Staff Member

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    Well do you need the luxury features on the Prius? do you even need the modern features or are you ok with manual windows and door locks? If it's the latter, I'd just stick with the Corolla and that thing will run forever.

    If you do want modern conveniencesm flexibility of the hatchback and extraordinary mpg, then the Prius is the car. 200,000 miles isn't a problem. The 00-03 Prius should be in that range.

    Any 2004+ taxi would be in that range within 2 or 3 years. We all know taxi duty isn't exactly easy on any car. IF there was a major failure, i'm sure the media will be all over it.
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  8. cwerdna

    cwerdna Senior Member

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    I think 45 mpg, even on the highway w/a Corolla is too optimistic. FWIW, see where the Corolla is at Most fuel-efficient cars vs. the Gen II Prius.



    FWIW, John's Stuff - Toyota Prius Owner - Jesse 4 is the highest mileage Gen I Prius owner I know w/349K miles until its life got cut short.

    I recall seeing 200K mile Gen II Prius owner post here in the past few weeks but can't find the post.

    I'm going to have to agree w/Tideland Prius' thoughts.

    FWIW, I had a rental 09 Corolla about a month ago and let's just say it sucked compared to my 06 Prius. Admittedly, it's not an apples to appples comparison since the rental Corolla didn't have nav, Bluetooth, smart key system, touchscreen color MFD, etc. I was stuck in plenty of stop and go traffic to on the way back to the airport and having the gas engine run the whole time was err... annoying w/the thought of all that gas being wasted. (I avoid taking my Z if I know I'll be in bad traffic/idling a lot for this reason.)
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  9. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    I can't speak from experience with Corolla or Toyota or anything made this century, but ...

    My '86 Accord, rated 28 hiway (2008 EPA scale), can regularly bang out 34-36 mpg on the hiway, in summer on non-ethanol gas, with my pre-hypermiling drive style. Though that style included several mild elements of hypermiling.

    My '97 Subaru now achieves a similar actual-to-EPA ratio in summer, though it took eleven years and more serious hypermiling to get there.

    If the modern Corolla is proportionate, and not hampered by unfavorable gearing or some other factors, he ought to find 45 mpg within reach.



    I'll form an opinion on this later this summer.
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  10. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web 03 and 10 Prius

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    So the time is:
    5*130 = 650 miles/week
    554 weeks
    ~10 years?


    You might start by looking at www.fueleconomy.gov and comparing the two vehicles. Don't go by just the EPA reported numbers but also look at the user reported mileage not only for the current year but previous years.



    That remains a puzzle. The Dept. of Energy has been running fleet studies but other than early problems with steering in the 2001 (3 generations ago,) we're not finding hard failure rates based upon time. It does look like high temperatures, altitude changes and high speeds are associated with some failures but there are plenty of exceptions. But the weakest areas such as encoders have been improved by using Hall effect devices instead of wiping arm pots (done in 2004.)



    Part of reliability is the stress and strain put on the vehicle parts. The engine in the Prius is running at ~75% of the power of the equivalent engine block in the gas-only vehicles. In addition, the engine is completely computer controlled so it stays in very conservative operating regions. Finally, it has a pretty powerful motor generator set that provides smooth, non-pulsing power. In contrast, the Corolla engine has to carry the whole load and supply all of the power via piston driven pulses that put peak mechanical stresses on the drive train.



    The Dept. of Energy did fleet studies on hybrids in 2001 and continue today. They stopped the first pair of NHW11 Prius studies after 160,000 miles. Their detailed records showed a steering problem in 2001 that appears to have been subsequently fixed.

    Near as I can tell, the weaknesses in the NHW11 model, 2001-2003, were mostly corrected by the middle of the 2002 production. The NHW20 model, 2004-2009, had a few problems with a weak solder joint in the MFD that appears to have been fixed by 2006.

    Patrick Wong has done an excellent job of tracking the Toyota TIS (defect repair notices.) Near as we can tell, Toyota has been pretty good about finding weak areas and coming up with repair notices and corrective action. Furthermore, they have often gone the extra mile to cover a warranty repair that just fell outside of the window. Patrick Wong is the expert in this area.

    Speculation on my part, it is as if Toyota has been under-running their warranty budget. I suspect they are as amazed as we are at these vehicles and how difficult it is to find systemic faults ... not impossible but gosh these are very reliable vehicles.

    Now you realize we know a lot about the Prius but almost nothing about the Corolla. We had a gas-only, 2001 Echo with 29,500 miles and sold it for a 2010 Prius. There was nothing wrong with the Echo but after 9 years of service, the 2010 Prius is a distinct step up: more space, comfort, power and efficiency.

    Toyota has over 12 years of Prius operational experience spanning the NHW10, NHW11, NHW20 and now starting the ZVW30. They also have Lexus and larger hybrid experience that has contributed to the ZVW30. There are no guarantees in life but for a hybrid, the Prius has the longest track record and we see distinct improvements not only between models but even within model years.

    GOOD LUCK!
    Bob Wilson
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  11. cwerdna

    cwerdna Senior Member

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    If the OP is interested, the studies bwilson4web is referring to are at Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity - Hybrid Electric Vehicles.
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  12. Gen 3 for me

    Gen 3 for me Junior Member

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    however, my bigger question is how you're considering these two vehicles anyway? a prius is not a corolla with a hybrid system. in some dimensions it is actually bigger than a camry. so i don't entirely see how you can be happy with a corolla if you want to get a prius.[/quote]

    Since a short while ago, till the economy tanked, I was fortunate to drive my bike to work 1 mile each way. So I have a 16 year old car for the bad weather. Now I may have to drive 65 miles each way for the next 10 years. So the 2010 Corolla is pure luxury and safety for me even with manual windows, manual trans, etc.

    The reason I am considering both cars is for pure economic reasons of total cost of ownership. I drove the dealers 2005 Prius (since I never drive a hybrid before) with 47K miles right before driving the 2010 Corolla and I truly like the old Prius better. I'm sure I will like the 2010 Prius even more if that is what I buy. Thanks for all the replies.
  13. The Critic

    The Critic Resident Critic

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    Sizewize, the Prius is best compared to a Toyota Matrix.

    In the long run, I would have to choose the Corolla over the Prius. The Corolla seems more likely to give you trouble free service than the Prius. Also, the battery life of the Prius is still questionable. While failures have been very low so far, most Gen II Prius are still at under 100,000 miles. The ones with very high mileage are taxi vehicles that accumulated the mileage in a very short period of time. Therefore, we know that the batteries can handle a lot of miles, but we don't know if it can handle both high mileage and actual time.
  14. lensovet

    lensovet Not your typical youngin :)/BP Brigade 207

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    a citation please?

    the prius has fewer mechanical moving parts, which would make it more reliable, not less. also, the multiple computer algorithms work to decrease the amount of stress put on the engine.

    this whole "zomg prius is more expensive to own!!one!" stuff just smells of major FUD to me. it's such a tired story i find it hard to believe i'm reading it on a prius forum.
  15. web1b

    web1b Active Member

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    Toyota doesn't really have another high mileage hatchback comparable to the Prius.
    The Yaris is tiny and the Matrix really doesn't get very good mileage for what it is.
    Look at the mileage of the new upcoming Chevy Equinox that's much bigger than a Matrix.
    I wish Toyota would do something with Matrix like add a newer, more efficient engine and either a 6-speed automatic or CVT. They could probably add another 5 mpg city and highway of the Matrix for thousands less than a Prius.
    It would really become an attractive buy at that point.
  16. Jabber

    Jabber Chicagoland Prius Guy

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    Gen 3 for me, I'm guessing you saw the warranty at a dealer with the initials FL Toyota since you live in Illinois? Junk warranty. All maintenance has to be performed according to manufacturer's requirements. Didn't rotate your tires? Warranty void. Ask yourself this: If it was such a great warranty, why doesn't every Toyota dealer in the area offer it?

    As far as reliability, the other posters in this thread have it pretty much covered.
  17. DaveinOlyWA

    DaveinOlyWA 3rd Time was Solariffic!!

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    well after 5 years of driving either a Prius or an EV, i might be biased. but the other day, i had to follow my sister home driving her Civic...having an engine running while not moving really really bothered me. i mean it litterally drove me crazy.

    i also have to question your mileage statements. i had a corolla and if doing mostly freeway you might get 33-34 mpg on a yearly average. newer models are better so maybe push that to 36-37... but i would be surprised to see you get better than that especially considering your actual winter mileage will be less by 10% or so.

    now on the Pri. can only give you my very early numbers but i am probably looking at closer to 58+ mpg. granted i drive the speed limit generally 60-65 mph, but its still a good 5 mpg improvement over my SPM...
  18. The Critic

    The Critic Resident Critic

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    The Prius has a traction battery, the Corolla doesn't. Although the failure rate of the Prius traction battery is extremely low, it is still another part that could potentially fail.
  19. cwerdna

    cwerdna Senior Member

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    Well, the Prius' ICE doesn't run all the time when the car is on, the Corolla's does.

    The Prius has no alternator, no starter, has a mechanically simpler transmission, has brakes that should last longer due to regen (many reports of people being on the original front pads past 100K miles), and new for 2010, no belts.
  20. PriusSport

    PriusSport senior member

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    According to Consumer Reports surveys, Prius has the highest reliability of the cars they have polled from their readers. Corolla is very good-just below Honda Civic. Prius II is the most reliable car on the road, according to their polls.
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