Should I buy a Prius (short trips, low mileage)?

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by moisiFr, Jan 22, 2008.

  1. moisiFr

    moisiFr New Member

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    Hello,

    I am considering buying a new Prius soon. But I read several threads on this forum, and now I wonder if it's a good solution for me. My current car is a 1998 Ford Escort bought 3.5 years ago (25MPG, mileage 120K). I drive about 7000 miles per year, and my commute is a 2-mile drive (less than 5 min). I kept track of my car expenses, it cost me about $8 a day (gas, insurance and maintenance). My concerns are about the short trips I used to do to commute to work.

    The reason I want to buy a new Prius are:
    - I am a "green" person.
    - Fuel Efficiency
    - Old car can be dangerous (2 weeks ago, my steering/tie rod broke, hopefully I wasn't on the highway)
    - Old car cost a lot to fix (everytime I have something to fix, it is above $500)

    Would you buy a new Prius for the reasons stated above, knowing that I have a lot of short trips, or would you keep the Ford until it dies? I also read about the Engine Block Heater. Do you think it can be an option to improve the fuel efficiency and overcome the problem of short trips?

    Thanks
    Sydney
     
  2. donee

    donee New Member

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    Hi moisiFR,

    Hmm. If the mileage on the Escort was not so high, this would be easy. But then again, at the range of trip, a broken down car is not like you will be stuck out in the cold. Assuming you can walk the two miles in a pinch.

    If you can tough it out with the Escort for two years, you might be able to get a PHEV Prius. Which would be allot better, although not ideal for your situation.

    Do they have any NiMH (Nickel Metal Hybride battery) EV cars available in Australia? These tend to be socalled "Neighborhood" cars at this time, which are limited to about 35 mph. If that 2 miles is so limited in speed that might be a better choice than waiting for the PHEV Prius, or getting a Prius now.

    The tie-rod end problem is totally avoidable. Just get down and shake on them every once and a while, and it will be quite obvious when one has gone bad. The Ball Joints, on the other hand can let go with no warning, and are much more dangerous when they go.

    In the warm weather there in Sydney you definately will be able to improve over 25 mpg with a Prius. But it wont be double that like many of us do here with longer commutes. If you do up a spread sheet, count on at least 35 mpg. Also, count on the Prius brakes lasting at least 125K miles.

    I am sure somebody will come along with warm humid weater, short trip EBH experience. I would guess that N/S Carolina or the Cheasapeak bay area would be similar in weather to Sydney.
     
  3. moisiFr

    moisiFr New Member

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    Sydney is actually my firstname and I live in Maryland (the DC area).
     
  4. SSimon

    SSimon Active Member

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    If most of your trips are truly going to entail a 2 mile, less than 5 minute drive, then you will only witness MPG in the 25 range. It's only after this initial time frame that you'll witness the increased MPG.

    My work commute is an approximate 15 minute trip. The first 5 minutes record an MPG of 25, the next 5 minutes = 50 MPG and the last 5 minutes hit around 75 MPG. So you can see the disparity concerning shorter trip durations.

    I personally don't think it would be worth it from an economical standpoint, unless you have frequent occasions that prompt very long commutes.

    I know you're probably conflicted driving your current vehicle since you've mentioned you're a greenie, but consider that you'll be driving your current vehicle until it dies....thereby reducing the energy and resources required to create a new Prius that wouldn't do much to lower your fuel consumption. Although if emissions are of concern to you, that may warrant the premium you'd pay for a Prius and negate your concern of the diminished, short trip MPG.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd look into whether or not I had options of converting my existing vehicle into a pure battery electric vehicle. You sound like a perfect candidate with such a short commute time and your concerns over maintenance and operational costs would be reduced significantly. Check around your area to see if there are any associations performing these conversions and then you can cost this out to see if it makes sense.

    There are things to be concerned with when considering a pure electric vehicle such as range, so if you go this route, just make sure to do your research. There are plenty of threads on this board that should get you started.
     
  5. JimboK

    JimboK One owner, low mileage

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    The others have raised valid points (except the Australia thing ;)). Another angle: a less expensive new car like a Yaris or Corolla.

    I wouldn't keep the Escort until it dies if it's already showing signs of dying. It could become a money pit.

    Do you do any other driving? Recreation? Vacation? Longer trips will see better mileage, though with the engine block heater Donee suggested, you could probably nudge the first five minutes to 40 MPG or better. And yes, for short trips, the EBH makes a lot of sense, IMHO.

    I agree that with your mileage, economically the Prius doesn't make sense. But buying a Prius -- or any car -- should not be done strictly on economics. Your decision will be based on your own situation and priorities.
     
  6. Rae Vynn

    Rae Vynn Artist In Residence

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    Perhaps you should look at an electric vehicle, like the Zap, or a scooter.
    Two miles... a bicycle? Just a thought.
     
  7. darelldd

    darelldd Prius is our Gas Guzzler

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    Yeah, I'm with Rae on this one!

    What does 25mpg mean? Is that your average, or is that what you get on your impossibly short commute? I'd be astonished if you get that in two miles. Just like the Prius, no ICE will get good mileage in that short trip. The Prius will still be better than just about all other ICE cars, but not as good as when it is warm.

    The best option for being green is to lose the gasoline car! Your Escort and the Prius are both terrible choices for a five-minute commute. Many, many other better "green" options, and most of them are far cheaper than a Prius while being far cleaner and better for you (and everybody else).

    Before I let the dead horse alone... we don't even need to talk about fuel efficiency if we're talking about a two-mile commute. This is not what we should be using gasoline for!
     
  8. discoganya

    discoganya Junior Member

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    Why not buy a pair of running shoes?
     
  9. Neicy

    Neicy Member

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    OK, I'll throw a monkey wrench into this. I went from a '03 Corolla to a '07 Prius and also have a short commute, but is that all you use your car for? I bought it because I saw how little my DH was paying for gas compared to me with my Corolla, which got good mileage. I also feel safer in a vehicle with side curtain airbags. I prefer the improvement in emissions (PZEV). Better cargo space. I think it is still worth it IF you love the Prius since even my worst mileage is still better than I was getting with the Corolla doing the same type of driving. Just my 2 cents.
     
  10. Tideland Prius

    Tideland Prius Moderator of the North
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    I'd keep the Escort (it's paid for, right?) and just get an electric bike (if that's a viable option and you don't want to pedal). A good one will run you $1,000-$2,000 and there's no gas or insurance! Just electricity cost. This way, you can reduce your insurance coverage on the Escort (cause you're not driving it to work).
     
  11. wowser

    wowser New Member

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    I am sorry, but you guys are giving terrible advice: wait until the car breaks down and then buy? In the meantime continue to pour money into a clunker and then try selling after that big breakdown. Wait until 2010 for plug-in Prius? Unfortunately they won't be available except corporate leases. A bike or running shoes? Come on, most people can't show up to work all sweaty. You try riding a bike in a two-piece suit. An electric bike or scooter? Yea, the extra expense of a week in the hospital is worth the extra $4 a week in gas! Funny how we talk of needing 8 airbags and then recommend a scooter, a virtual deathtrap.

    While this gal's short commute isn't going to yield the best MPG, it wouldn't in ANY CAR (except electric). I am guessing the Escort gets 25 MPG on the sticker, not 2-mile commutes. So a Prius would give much better gas mileage on the short trip and 2.5X the gas mileage on longer trips. Does Sydney go anywhere besides work? I am guessing so. Those combined trips to the grocery store, friends' houses, park, etc. will all start to show a very nice combined MPG. What about vacations? When it costs just $50 to take a 1000 mile trip, flying seems ridiculous. Think of the money saved.

    How about knowing your getting a car light-years ahead of the Ford in terms of reliability and resale?

    I just stuffed a twin mattress in my Prius. Try doing that in an Escort. I drive a quiet, nearly zero emission, fun-to-drive car with a kickin stereo, lots of gadgets, and it costs just $22k new. I drive 480 miles on a full tank, and that's just 9.6 gallons! Go, Sydney, run, or drive your Escort to your nearest Toyota dealer and trade up. Even though you won't get 52 MPG, you will still be WAY AHEAD OF THE GAME! Test drive the car and tell us what color you decide to buy!
     
  12. leftheaded

    leftheaded Junior Member

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    the PHEV would be ideal, but it's your call if you want to wait that long. i'd say get a prius now and do the "EV mode" mod for $50. I only learned of this option today when I found this thread here.

    looks like there are plenty of online videos and user help to make it a cinch.

    The EV MODE mod "[FONT=arial, Arial, Helvetica]the electric only feature can be turned on and used up to a speed of around 34 mph at which time it will automatically turn off and the car will operate as usual."

    more info here
    [/FONT]
     
  13. judymcfarland

    judymcfarland Queen of Moral Indignation

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    I bought my Prius just over a year ago. Being retired I have no "commute", unless you count those runs to Starbucks ;) but I needed to replace an aging car and decided that my next car should be a hybrid. I know that in the big picture my contribution toward lessening oil dependence is very small, but I wanted to do it & do it in a way that would be obvious to people (as opposed to a HCH like my son drives) so I could talk up the idea of hybrid cars to people that would notice Fiona.

    If you budget can do it, buy your Prius now. Find a local owners group (a great source of information), read Prius Chat forums & your owners manual, come to Hybridfest in Madison, WI next summer if you can. Enjoy your new car - and send us a picture when you have her (or him).
     
  14. HolyPotato

    HolyPotato Junior Member

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    By my back of the envelope calculation, your 2 mi commute is only a small fraction of the driving you do in a year. What's the rest like? Even though it's not many miles, if it's largely in stop-and-go traffic in segments that are long enough for the car to be good and warm, you might see a lot more upside there.

    What else has changed re: your priorities? Last time around, you bought a ~6 year old car. Why are you looking for a new one now? IMHO, if you're going to go for a new car either way, I think the Prius would probably make you happy. If you're just looking for the cheapest way to get around, you should probably look at another used economy car.

    Well, I used to live 1.1 mi from work (1-way), and walked on a regular basis. Just because you're on foot or bike doesn't mean you have to sprint to work full-out! Of course, when it was hot out, I'd come in sweaty. But when it was hot out, I'd come in sweaty when I drove too: the car just didn't have enough time to blow enough cold air to make up for the fact that it was a steambox in the sun. However, to nearly double that distance would be close to my limit for an acceptable walking time, so I could understand someone who might not be in shape shying away from it. Biking is a good option, but IMHO, is not well-suited to commuting in the rain in work clothes. If you want to get hard-core, there are actually 3 professors in my department who bike in wearing full spandex and cleats, and change after they arrive. OTOH, being inside a hospital, there are showers here if they feel the need to freshen up after the ride.

    As for waiting or not, that would depend on a lot of things. If the stress of not knowing what your car might do is weighing on your mind, and if you couldn't do without it for a long period of time if it did die, and if you're in the financial & mentail situation to get a new car now, then go ahead, save yourself some headaches (and you'll be in a better negotiating position for your new car if your old one is still working). If you can get along for a while without your car in the event that it dies, and if you're willing to gamble a bit to squeeze as much value as you can out of it, then stick with the old car.
     
  15. patsparks

    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Get a Corolla or Camry.
    Sorry about the Ford, didn't they have any Toyotas on the day you bought that? :)
     
  16. SSimon

    SSimon Active Member

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    It may be cheaper to find someone to perform an EV conversion than to purchase a ZAP, or some such vehicle. With a conversion, at least you'll end up with the safety element in tact. Also, I think that in some states, you can receive a sizable rebate when performing such conversions.
     
  17. richard schumacher

    richard schumacher shortbus driver

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    That question cannot be answered until you answer this one: what is your priority? Minimizing your commuting expenses, minimizing fossil carbon emissions, maximizing the reliability of your commute, some comfortable combination of those goals, or something else?
     
  18. ny biker

    ny biker Member

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    Okay I'll jump in. My commute is 4 miles each way, so I'm not getting the best gas mileage there. But I do take longer trips on weekends, whether it's too the mall or a few hundred miles to visit family. So although I'm no hypermiler, I am very happy with what I'm getting and am also glad that my car has lower emissions and shuts itself off when I'm stopped at a light or in traffic.

    Also I personally would not keep a car that has 120,000 miles on it and is already causing problems that are expensive to fix.

    As for commuting by bike, I know plenty of people who do it, every day, regardless of the weather, and they don't walk around their offices all day in wet sweaty clothes. Even if you have to wear a suit to work, it can be done with a little planning and you don't have to wear the spandex shorts if you don't want to. If you (Sydney) live in the DC suburbs, check out Washington Area Bicyclist Association [WABA] or sign up for the message center at www.bikewashington.org to find information and advice. If you live around Baltimore, I'm sure there are bike groups there, although I'm not familiar with them -- you can ask on the bikewashington listserv since there are folks there from the Baltimore area.
     
  19. moisiFr

    moisiFr New Member

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    Thanks for all your interesting inputs. To answer some of your questions, 25MPG is the mean mileage I got since I have the car. It includes my commutes and other trips. I used to play soccer twice a week (except winter), so this is 20min to 1 hour drive trips.

    My priority: My car is getting old, and I don't want to spend much money in it. I figured out by buying a used car, I was not sure avoiding problems, so that's why I think about buying a new car. Why a Prius? Because environment is important to me.

    From your replies, it seems that overall even with short commutes, I will get better mileage, better reliabilty with a Prius than my Ford.
     
  20. priusunum

    priusunum priusunum

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    I am in a similar situation as you, MoisiFr. I have been retired since I purchased my 06 Prius. I drive about 3,000 miles a year. Typically I drive about 2 or 3 miles and then park and either go shopping at the mall, or I am going to the gym, or some other close by location. Once in a while I take a longer trip (say 40 or 50 miles one way). In warm weather, I've been averaging 41 or 42 mpg. In the winter, with the same driving, I average 38 or 39 mpg. With my former car, a 96 Subaru Legacy wagon, I averaged about half of that mpg for the same driving.
    Personally, I am not sorry I got the Prius. I love it. Of course the decision is an individual one, but I would say the best reason to get the Prius if cost is a factor is that your Ford Escort is a financial time bomb. I would buy the Prius with the idea that you will keep it a long time and recoup a lot of your initial outlay since the Prius has an excellent reliability record. In addition, there's the environmental argument in favor of the Prius, and finally, have you test driven it and do you like it? If so, then buy it!!
    By the way, I'm intrigued by your user name: in French (my native language), "moisi" means "moldy"! But perhaps you knew that.:)
     
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