How Affordable is the Prius c?

Priusc500

We've just published our full review of the new 50-mpg Prius c hybrid from Toyota and posted the detailed pricing for the Prius c's trim lineup: One, Two, Three and Four. But how affordable is this sub-$19,000 hybrid versus traditional subcompact cars that get decent mileage without the hybrid system or higher starting price?

It turns out the Prius c does pretty darn well.

Prius c

We do an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to affordability, and all the cars we picked this time out must be equipped with an automatic transmission, power windows and locks, remote entry, USB input, Bluetooth connectivity and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

Those features come standard on the Prius c, but most of its competitors in this affordability story were forced to add significantly to the sticker price for just the automatic transmission.

Because of hybrids' nature, we figure car shoppers in this segment want to see the long-term impact of fuel savings in terms of total price so we included five years of fuel costs versus one or two years.

Put those two factors together and the Prius c comes in second in affordability only behind the Nissan Versa with its much advertised starting price of $10,900.

Compact hybrid[1]

The Prius c is No. 2 on our affordability chart, but it's a tight race. Only hundreds of dollars separate it from the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent sedans or Yaris hatchback, and that difference is only realized after five years. That will do little to sway shoppers making a decision based on a monthly payment where a difference of $2,600 could mean $50 a month over 60 months with an average interest rate.

Despite the Prius c One's lengthy list of features, it does have a fatal flaw: cheap seat materials. To move up to the Prius c Two with seats more in line with the competition will cost another $1,000 and then the Prius c would only beat out the Chevy Sonic and Honda Insight.

For our affordability study, we assume gas prices are at $3.44 a gallon and a driving range of 15,000 miles a year with 45% city driving and 55% highway driving. The Prius c gets substantially better city mileage — 53 mpg — than its 46 mpg highway, so where you drive will alter the equation, as well.

The Prius c delivers a similar driving experience with a comparable level of space and refinement to its compact-class competitors, but after five years it won't cost you more to own it. Taking the price premium of a hybrid out of the ownership equation should be a big win for the Prius c.

Comments 

Dan

Thanks for explaining your methodology, David. We just don't see that all that often any more, and it is very important for honest reporting. That's especially true when doing a numbers comparison. Plus, this way, people can substitute their own behaviors and habits, and include any other factors they consider important to customize the comparison for themselves.

Keep up the good work!

Amuro Ray

If I may add, a secondary but quite important factor will be resale value.

Prius (reg) has very good resale value, and I'm pretty sure that the "c" will have a much stronger resale value than Versa, Accent, Yaris or Fiesta too, simply because of its hybrid status.

Skankzilla

Can you please explain to me the difference in the seats?

Thanks.

Amuro Ray,

Not just because of its hybrid status, but because of its higher purchase price to begin with. Even if it depreciates at the same rate as the Yaris or the others, you can sell it for more at the end of your experiment.

Say each one is worth 50 percent of their original value at the end (based on easy math, not any sort of prediction), at the point where the total costs of each hit roughly $25,000. You can subtract $9,500 for the Prius C resale and just $8,200 for the Yaris.

So not only do you break even during the five-year ownership, but then you have more for your next down payment at the end.

Skankzilla,
The base seats are one piece in front. Meaning the headrests are fixed. The rear bench is one piece not split 60/40. The material in the base is a nappy fabric, meaning there are rows of raised textures. Kind of like some couch fabrics. The Two and Three trim levels have a nicer fabric that has no nap to it at all and more in line with most other automakers.

Amuro Ray

@ Brady Holt,

Yes, that's true. However, I'm also referring to the lower depreciation % of the Prius vs those others in the chart above.

Consumer Reports have ranked the Prius one of the best value for trade-in/used sale among fuel savers. I believe that long time commenter Cody was a good example of this; he traded in his Prius for a Cruze ECO with almost no loss in depreciation!

cody

this is what the insight should have been. i'd still go with the sonic for the sportier ride and nicer interior, but i'd get the 1.4L turbo w/6sp manual vise the lower mileage and slower 1.8L used in the calculations above. it would bring the cost of ownership closer to the competition on the list. gm really needs to add DI to that base engine, or just drop it altogether.

cody

yep, i traded in my prius with about 20k miles on it for roughly the same price as i bought it for a year earlier. of course, that was during the period after the earthquake when priuses were hard to come by.

cody

@AR,

you missed out on a compelling response from our discussion about the volt/leaf/prius a week back. might have had you trading in your leaf for a volt. j/k

Ziggy

Drive the Prius C (or any Prius) for more than 15,000 miles a year and keep it for more than 5 years - it will top any list on value.

Jose

Also, remember that maintenance costs will be lower. For example, no timing belt change at 60,000 miles because... there are no belts! That'll save you $500+ after years 4-5!

Jonathan

I drive 200 highway miles a day. How might this change the above equation? Or are there other cars I should consider? I like the price of the Prius C - can't afford much more.

DeBinder Dundett

The Prius c is a great value.

It may be lethargic when it comes to acceleration but it will do as well, if not better than, the wildly popular Prius that has already sold over a million copies in just ten years.

Phil

Interesting...no diesels on the list. How far down would you have to go to find one?

litesong

If some of these cars are run mainly on the highway, the advantage of the Hybrid C is greatly reduced. Also, the primary advantage(cost) which is toted for the 2012 Nissan Versa sedan is reduced, primarily because most reviewers just can't see themselves in the cheapest versions (S model) of the Versa. However, large numbers of actual purchasers of the cheapest versions of the Versa($11,000-$12800) have been delighted with their money outlay AND report real-world mpg as great & greater than the Fiesta, Accent & Yaris, tho Versa EPA highway mpg is reported as lower than those cars mentioned. Significantly, the EPA may not have wrung the full capability of the Versa highway mpg rating, because the Versa(specifically the CVT) has an extremely low rpm at highway speed.

In essence, the Versa which DOES show a monetary advantage should be even greater for the truly fugal among us who are delighted with cheap.

litesong

Also, those considering resale price. Why are you? This article is about saving money, not paying a big new car price & then throwing that money away, after you've lost the most part of that money in depreciation, then selling the car with exceptional usage still in it. Two cars I've purchased were & have been with me for 22 years. One of my present cars will be with me beyond ten years. Chuck those people who think they buy a car for its value then throw that value away by re-selling.

William

This was super helpful.

pat

Litesong, whether you like it,or whether you don't..and you don't..the prius will BLOW AWAY the Versa and all others past the 5 year mark...at the 10 year mark the figure will be in thousands of dollars difference....and you will have a MUCH more valuable car whether you keep in 10,15, 20 years or forever.

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