My Adventures in Prius Gas Savings | Does it Really Save Money?

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by on August 30, 2012

photoMy Adventures in Prius Gas Savings

As most of you know, I’m currently testing out a Prius (free of charge) right now in part of PriusChallengeAZ.com. As I mentioned when I first started this program, I was definitely curious about what kind of gas savings I would find driving the Prius and ultimately to find out if it would save me money by driving it. The last few weeks were a perfect test for me because I was driving all over town with errands, meetings and teaching coupon classes.

prius MPGIn one day, I clocked a total of 92 miles (all in 110+ temps – yuck!).  You can tell by my picture that I averaged 48.5 MPG – not too shabby, right?!  I was actually quite impressed with that considering I had the A/C cranked up the whole time, I drove on both streets and freeway, and I wasn’t “easy” on the accelerator since I was in a hurry most of the day.


What kind of gas savings did I get?

Please note: I am comparing the Prius V to my SUV because that is MY car and I wanted to see what kind of savings I would have – or other families that need a car that will hold all their cargo, plus have room for the family.

For starters, I drive an SUV, so my gas mileage isn’t anywhere near that good.  It is, on average, about 18 MPG. So, what does that actually mean when it comes to paying at the pump?

gas savings prius vs suv

You can see from this handy chart (made by Mr. SavingSense) that with the cost of gas at $3.80, I spend about $7.25 on that trip in the Prius. Had I been driving my SUV, it would have cost me $19.53. That is a savings of $12.28, which over a month’s time is a savings of $245.61 (and close to $3000 in a year!). That is a HUGE savings, and especially as gas prices soar, I’m glad that I have the Prius to drive around in right now.

And I’ll be sad when I have to give it back :(

A couple things to note regarding this gas mileage:

I’m currently driving the Prius V, aka “the wagon,” which is bigger than the standard Prius and therefore tends to have a lower MPG than the traditional Prius (or Prius C). The V is only 6” longer, 3” wider and 1” taller, but it ends up having 60% more cargo room than the original, which comes in handy for families with plenty of baby gear, school items, sports equipment, or other items to cart around town (like mine).

I was also driving alone on this day, and that can also effect how well of gas mileage you are going to get in any car.

More gas savings tips

If you don’t have a Prius, or another hybrid with great gas mileage, but you still want to get the most out of your gas money, make sure you read my 9 Ways to Save at the Pump.

For those of you in AZ, don’t forget you can enter to win your very own Prius and start your own Prius gas savings! To enter, just visit PriusChallengeAZ.com (will take you to Facebook to register).

Do you own a Prius or other hybrid? How much do you save each day, month, or year?

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Disclosure: I was given free use of (including free fuel) of a 2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid vehicle to test drive for 8 weeks, however, all views expressed here are my own and not altered by the sponsor.

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  • Keven

    I enjoy reading your site and you have a lot of good information, but I hope you realize that comparing a Prius to an SUV is rather silly. You should instead compare the Prius to a traditional small to medium sized sedan. According to my calculations, if your average sedan got about 30 MPG, in your situation you would only save about $1000 per year in gas with a Prius versus such a vehicle. Given that there can be about a $10,000 price difference between a Prius and the average small to medium sedan, it would take 10 years before you would start seeing any savings by buying a Prius.

  • Thanks for your comment Keven. I appreciate your thoughts, but wanted to share a few more things that may help – first I would like to say that this post was trying to show MY experience with the Prius, so that is why I used my car and why I have been honest with the numbers.

    You are right that it would vary depending on what car you compare it to, but so does cost. The Prius C starts around $18,000 (and gets way better gas mileage that what is mentioned above, so it could save you MUCH more in gas each year). But at that price, it is more comparable to other small cars. (Sedans usually cost more and have lower MPG).

    I am testing the Prius V, so gas mileage is different, and price is higher. However, it also has more cargo room than 80% of small SUVs. And compared to other small SUVs – the price difference isn’t that great – making the V a more “family friendly” and cost savings option for families like mine.

  • Pingback: Win a New Car | Arizona | Toyota Prius()

  • I’m driving my 3rd Prius and just love them! I average about 48 mpg, although I’ve gotten as high as 62. I wouldn’t have any other car for the money. I also have all the safety devices, like the automatic slow-down and lane-keep assist since I drive on the freeway quite a bit. I’ve frankly never used the parking ability of the car since I rarely parallel park. When the newer ones have the alarm to warn of a car in the “blind spot,” I’ll consider trading.

  • Thanks for sharing Joanne! I do have to say that all those little features make the Prius so much fun to drive – more than I expected!

  • I was a Pilot driver who stair stepped my way down to a Prius with a Camery hybrid in between. As a REALTOR I average about 3000 miles/month on a car so the change from the SUV to the Prius was a very beneficial one for our family of 4. Still plenty of room for everyone (my cleints are always surprised at the leg room in the back) and my monthly gas savings has been huge!

  • That is a lot of mileage Shar! I completely understand why you would turn to the Prius – and how much it really is saving you in gas each month. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love the Prius, it is certainly is a great car. My clients/customers are very impressed with the roominess and as far as mileage I get well under a half a tank in a 9 hour shift. Wish everyone luck with the contest! Bill K in Peoria

  • The contest link isn’t working….:(

  • JustAthought

    You are comparing the Prius to an SUV…not really a fair comparison for those that can not afford to lose the cargo space…I think a better comparison would be to compare a Prius to another Toyota, like the Corola…I would bet the savings would still “appear” to be there if you only look at the gas savings…but then when you factor in the price difference of the car…the savings between a Prius and an actual comparable size vehicle is neglagible. You are usually better off buying the less expensive car, than a more expensive one that promises gas savings….that being said, if you can get a used Hybrid like an Altima Hybrid, you will see most of the premium charged for its Hybrid features have drpreciated off and it is nearly the same price and the non-hybrid Altima…giving you a more real savings.

  • Ex-Prius Owner

    Only a Prius driver would grab a megaphone and proclaim to the world that their savings in gas and the environment justify the higher cost of the car (it’s called being smug). But as a previous Prius owner myself living in Phoenix, I could not justify the additional cost of the new batteries you must purchase every 5 to 7 years (especially if you live in hot climates)? Last I checked they cost about $3000 for the battery itself (not including installation). Score 1 for the “non-hybrid” economy car.

    As for saving the environment… Battery manufacturing plants which manufacture the Prius battery put off more deadly CO2 gases than what their cars save and have caused hundreds of lead poisoning deaths in Asia. “Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage”, search this on Google and you’ll hopefully not make the same mistake I made (buying a Prius)… Score 2 for the “non-hybrid” economy car.

    So if you are one of those that “smuggly” talk about how great your Prius over other cars then you are foolish for believing the hype and lies from a large corporation abroad (Toyota). Search online and you’ll find the overall cost of ownership is no better than a Mazda 3 or Ford Focus, you’ll also find that the Prius has one of the lowest rate of repeat buyers in their class. Obviously the owners posting comments here have not had to change our their batteries yet or your headlamp bulb which will set you back about $1500 from the dealer! (No Joke)

  • Wishing you luck!! Would love to see one of my readers win! :)

  • Hi Tanya – the link is working for me right now, not sure what happened? Maybe it will help to go directly to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ValleyToyotaDealers/app_312403735523067

  • Hi – as I mentioned to another commenter – the reason I am comparing the 2 is because the SUV is MY car, so that is all I can compare it to at this point.

    Also, I am testing the Prius V (not the standard Prius), which has more cargo room than 80% of small SUVs. And
    compared to other small SUVs – the price difference isn’t that great –
    making the V a more “family friendly” and cost savings option for
    families like mine. Hope that helps!

  • First of all, I want to make clear – as stated in the post – I am NOT a Prius
    owner. Actually I love my SUV – but I’m testing and researching the Prius
    because like everything else here, my goal is to help people save money. I’ve
    been really impressed with many of the features, including the gas savings,
    which can really add up and make a huge difference in some people’s monthly
    budget.

    Regarding the battery, the hybrid batteries come with a 8 year/100,000 mile
    warranty. And for those of us in AZ, here is more information that may help.
    The nickle-metal bydride batteries are not affected by AZ heat in the same way
    conventional 12-volt lead acid batteries are. Hybrid batteries are made to last
    the lifetime of the car, and are tested for several hundred thousand miles in
    all kinds of extremes, including desert heat and sub-zero winters. So, if you do
    happen to need a battery after 5 years, be a smart and savvy
    Prius owner and take it to the dealership to be replaced.

    It is also interesting to note that according to Intellichoice, hybrids actually have a LOWER cost of ownership
    than conventional models. And according to Kelley Blue Book, the Prius has a very high resale value,
    partially because of the hybrid system. And because they last so long, I imagine that has a lot to do with why people don’t need to buy another.

    If you are a reader of my site, you know that I encourage people to buy quality products that will last – not cheaper alternatives that you need to buy again and again.

  • KArizona

    If you compare it to a similarly equiped Civic rather than the Pilot, you get different results. After financing a vehicle and putting fuel in it for a year after 12 months and 12,000 miles here are results.
    Honda Civic (non Hybrid)
    $21445
    $430 for 60 mon
    28 – 39 mpg
    $25800 total finance payments
    12000 miles
    $5040 payments
    428 gals x $3.85
    $1649 fuel
    $6689 total expense
    Prius HB
    $32159
    $644 for 609 mon
    51 – 48 mpg
    $38640 total finance payments
    12000 miles
    $7728 payments
    235 gals x $3.85
    $905 fuel
    $8633 total expense
    Just something interesting.

  • Patricko99

    I have to agree with some of the posters here, if the Prius is compared to virtually any compact or subcompact car of the same model year it will take close to a decade of ownership to realize any real savings, and that’s assuming gas prices will stay at historic highs and the hybrid components outlast the warranty. This applies to the Prius V versus a Toyota Matrix (a similar sized vehicle, which in fact is very similar to the Lexus CT 200h hybrid in regards to interior and size) as well.

    Honestly, though, I would not worry about the hybrid battery dying out. The battery is never fully charged, which apparently helps extend the life greatly. I had a courier from LA tell me he drives back and forth from Phoenix in his 2006 Prius which now has 300,000+ miles and has only had to change the battery once (it was at 200,000 miles).

    It would be unwise, however, to expect the Prius to have any better of a resale value than other Toyotas. The Prius is still a niche vehicle and it’s value fluctuates wildly. As soon gas prices start to fall, demand for the vehicle evaporates. I’ve this happen twice now. Though there are some that genuinely love the Prius, many people are only interested in it for the fuel savings. Once that factor is diminished, many choose a more traditional vehicle.

    All that set aside, if someone wants to buy a hybrid for whatever reason, they should really consider a Prius. It’s the gold standard of hybrids and nobody else has come close to its performance or reliability. From what I understand, Toyota has locked down so many patents for their Hybrid system, virtually all the competition except Ford (they have a cross-licensing agreement with Toyota) have their hands tied.

  • Patricko99

    I have to disagree with the claim that the Prius has a low rate of repeat buyers. From my personal experience, I have never seen such brand and model loyalty as I have with Prius owners. If that rate is indeed low, the only reason I could imagine is because Prius owners keep their car forever.

  • Tim

    t they real owner will have to fork out THOUSANDS for a new batteries in a few years.

  • Hi Tim – the batteries come with a 8 year/100,000 mile warranty, so owners should not be paying extras. They should be taking it in, if needed.

  • Thanks for sharing! Comparing to a civic, we should compare the Prius or Prius C – which I am not testing. The Prius V is more comparable to a small SUV (not exactly a pilot, but more true than a civic).

  • Thanks for sharing, Patrick – and you have some good points. I want to remind you that I’m testing the Prius V – so comparing to a compact or subcompact car isn’t exactly the same since the Prius V has more cargo room than 80% of small SUVs.

    And my favorite feature on the Prius (besides the gas savings) is that the door unlocks and locks with just the wave of my hand – makes it so easy when my arms are full! It has some other fun features, too – definitely worth checking out. :)

  • mlimberg

    I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris. I looked at the Prius and bought the yaris insstead, here is why.
    I drive alot of highway miles. The Prius will not help me on the highway as the battery cuts out in the first 100 feet after a traffic light, given their is on stop and go traffic.
    My Yaris gets over 40 MPG highway, even more than the 38 claimed on the window
    sticker.
    I have had my Yaris for 6 years now, bought it in 2006, and change my own oil. I haven’s spent a penny on anything other than an air filter, battery, oil filters, and Mobil 1, which I change every 5000 miles. I currently have 100k on the Yaris.
    The price of this car was ~$12,500. The Prius was about $19,000 back in 2006.
    I have not spent any money or worried about a huge Prius battery.
    I had concerns about how or what they do with the huge rechargable battery in the Prius? I still have never heard how much effort or affect on the environment the dead battery has?
    Would I ever buy a Prius, NO. I’ll always buy Toyota, they run for ever!
    Do the math folks, compair a similar sized car and the hybreds will never make sense or save you money or do anything special for the environment.
    Prove me wrong…..

  • Thinking4once

    I like the assumption on the savings that they drive that much every day so it must be that total? Bad at math. Second, While I appreciate the savings, isn’t the idea to save the environment? What do you do with the 1500 pounds of batteries when they are depleted? Wouldn’t a 45 mpg VW diesel be better for the environment over the long haul or some of the turbo diesels that Ford makes in Europe that gets 74 MPG on the freeway with no batteries to dispose of? Or how about a CNG Honda?

  • As an owner of two Prius cars (a standard and the V model) I can tell you that first and foremost they are fantastic cars. You aren’t giving up anything by choosing one of them like you would with some other hybrids or “ev” cars. The fact that my wife and I both drive 20-25k miles a year made the decision a fairly simple one. Our decision was based on Return on Investment and the Prius, for us, is a winner.

    Our logic is as follows. The Prius V cost us $28k out the door. I’d say it would compare to a $22-$25k car otherwise so lets say it cost us $6k more. We estimate saving $2500-$3000 a year in gas so it will take no more than 2.5 years to pay for itself, at current gas prices. Obviously if prices go up the savings will be faster. Since we plan on keeping the cars for at least 5 years it was a no brainer for us.

  • You are 100% correct. Prius owners are very loyal – generally on circumstances change that, like needing a mini-van for a growing family or a truck for work. We love ours.

  • Your research was well done. We bought my wife’s Prius in 2010 for $25k and were recently told it is worth about $18k now. That is very good resale value for a car with 70k miles on it and 3 years old.

  • Patricko99

    By the price of $25k, I’m assuming you have a Prius Level II. If that’s correct, your vehicle has a lending value of $14,500, which is what the banks think it’s worth to them. But that figure is absurd, because on average that same car is consistently fetching about $16000 at the auctions in the Valley. If you sell private party, you should be able to get close to $18k for it.

    Toyota dealers have to certify their pre-owned Toyotas whenever possible. With the cut-off being 80k miles, many comparable used Priuses are going to have that $1,700-2k mark-up, so you will still be very competitive at $18k. Now, if you had decided on spending the same amount of money on a Camry LE instead back in 2010, you would have a car worth almost $4k less.

  • mbrosch

    Batteries, or anything else, can be made affordable if you sell them at a loss and make up the difference in “tax incentives.”

  • Excuse me – but what about my “math” is incorrect? You may argue that a person doesn’t drive that much each day, but the truth is that some do and some don’t. If you don’t – then you can figure out your own math on how much you can save. Personally, having tutored calculus and 4 higher educational degrees under my belt, I don’t think I need to be told my math is incorrect.

  • My 1999 Saturn SL2 (1.6 litre, 4-speed automatic) gets about 33 mpg around town in Phoenix, with a mix of street and highway (“freeway” is some weird California term for “highway” I guess) driving. So for your trip my monthly gas bill at $3.80/gallon would be $212.80 — and your Prius saves only $67.85 monthly compared to my perfectly ordinary gasoline car. You won’t ever recover from the high purchase price and higher battery maintenance cost of the Prius even compared to a 15-year old car that costs under $3,000.

  • As I have mentioned before, there is no battery cost – not sure where that myth came from. And you should also check out the different types of Prius, like the C, which get higher gas mileage and are much lower in cost.

  • James

    These comments are ridiculous…..why not just compare the prius to a horse or a bicycle…..some of your comments about math are horrible and i am a math teacher, it definately makes sense to buy a prius if you drive alot…..the moron that said he had some ridiculously old chevy……your cost of ownership should be through the roof…..u will need new suspension and other major repairs….people need to start thinking logically and stop spreading their ilogical crap.

  • lee

    Wow. It seems true that for every good, reliable, well established product there is someone out there that has to be a hater without really knowing what they are talking about.

    I had a 2007 Kia Sportsge LX. It was a VERY small SUV with surprisingly little cargo space. It got between 15 and 18 mpg and cost me $400-$500 per month to gas up. For about $400 per month, I now drive a Prius and have a combined car/gas payment and i drive 84 mikes per day, M-F. A lot more than I did when I drove the Kia.

    For the mileage naysayers… I get 46-53mph highway. The lower mileage is at 75mph on clear roads with no traffic. The higher is with varying degrees of stop and go. But 46 is still higher than the Yaris. BTW I priced the Yaris and it was selling for $19K MSRP in my area, and I paid $17K for my Prius plus a Toyota extended warranty because I will eat. Most of the base warranty in a year.

    For the folks spreading battery falsehoods… The $3000 every 5 to 7 years for a new battery is a lie. The batteries are built to last for hundreds of thousands of miles, are covered under an 8 year, 100K warranty, and only cost about $500 to actually replace.

    For those who say Prius owners have a low rate of repeat purchase, simply not true. I have met many Prius owners and 100% love their cars and would either buy again, or already have.

  • Prius Experience

    Pros:
    Aside from the fuel savings:

    -FUMES- In major cities a lot of people use bicycles, I my self cycle and when i’m behind a prius i get a sense of relieve that i wont be exposed to so much fumes, waiting at a light. another one i’ve noticed which is a huge factor to me is when walking past a car in an underground garage, fumes tend to build up much more condensed then outside in the immediate area, not having to breath in as much fumes gives me a more comfortable feeling walking behind a prius or behind a car in a driveway on a sidewalk, with your pet or children, which are much closer to the tail pipe. Cutting down fumes in a city in general makes a big difference in the quality of life IMHO.

    -BATTERY- From the research i have done, the batteries are somewhere around 90% more less recyclable if not more, (for the ones who wonder where the battery goes). A little research on prius battery recycling process on google has a lot of information, one being Edmunds long article.

    -ROOM- if you compare sedans to the prius or even prius v, i have not seen many people post about this, there is enough room to make a prius a completely flat surface in the back to sleep 2 people(60/40)seats, thats right folks, you can sleep in a prius and use it as a camper on road trips and protect your self from wildlife or inclement weather, not to mention the bed bugs in motels and hotels on the side of the road,not saying they have but if they do, your covered, plus you save money not paying for a room(get out into nature more often,you will thank your self) :). A few people 6″+ blogged how roomy it is to sleep in. Having a car as a back up to sleep in is also a nice security blanket in certain extreme scenarios.

    TECHNOLOGY- The prius comes with quite a nifty technology package inside the cabin with bells and whistles a lot of compared cars base models don’t, so when you are comparing the price, i think this is an important detail with the other cars mentioned in comparison.

    These points are ones that i have found and my opinion based on a bit of research and experience with a priuses on the road.

  • beth

    Geez, why are some people so eager to try and point out “errors”, if we are doing this then someone was in error by not reading the article fully and comprehending what was stated. It was very simple to understand the math and where the numbers came from. I am loving my Prius V it has tremendous leg and head room, and cargo space. The back seat is very roomy! In the end is saving me from my old Blazer mileage of 15-19 mpg, as I drive many miles a day this in turn means fewer trips to gas station per month, and I don’t have to be great at math to know this helps it pay for itself . I traded in my old Saturn that got an amazing 29mpg but I had no AC and no cool safety features or nice leather interior. I got the last 2013 V on the lot – the upgraded version for little over 25k and had 121 miles on odometer. Sometimes you just have to embrace technology, whether from Ford or Honda or Toyota. This article was just an opinion and wasn’t meant I’m sure, to be a debate topic.

  • Thanks for sharing Beth!

  • Johnny Bigrig

    Why is that people always skew results to what they want by negligently leaving out important variables? Is that really all the info you should have included on your spreadsheet? What about the TOTAL costs of owning both cars throughout the ownership? Such as maybe the price of purchasing the vehicle? Maybe it makes more sense to have a Prius versus a spendy car, but do you save money vs an average car? And throw in repairs and the expected ownership period. Then you can take this info seriously.

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