A couple on the choir drives a Prius around town. They live on the west side—in Sun City West, which is quite a ways to the west—and so to get to the activities they enjoy in their retirement, they have to do a substantial amount of driving.
Yesterday evening at choir they reported that the Prius’s batteries died, to the tune of thirty-three hundred dollars! Yes. That’s $3,300 for new Prius batteries. The batteries were warranteed for five years, and our friends have had the car a few months longer than that.
Wow! That about made up my mind about the Prius. I don’t think these are wealthy folks—before they retired, she was a teacher and he a minister. From things she’s said, I gather they live frugally.
I sure couldn’t afford $3,300 to replace a car’s batteries, and I’ll bet it’s a stretch for them, too. At least they have two Social Security checks coming in…but they also have to buy food, clothing, and meds for two.
We’re told that, other than the batteries, the Prius is cheaper to maintain than a conventional gasoline-operated vehicle. Let’s think that through.
If it gets 40 mpg, it achieves approximately twice the mileage my Sienna does. I’m now paying about $110 a month for gas, or $1,320 a year. Because a Prius is a hybrid with a gasoline engine as well as the electrical component, the cost of routine maintenance is about the same. Some insurers will give Prius owners a little discount; others charge more—so we could call that a draw, too.
So, all told, if the mileage is twice as good as a fairly clunky gasoline-only vehicle, one would pay about $660/year for a modest amount of driving (I average about 10,000 miles a year).
Meanwhile, since few of us have $3,300 sitting around the house waiting to be spent on a new battery pack, the average frugalist suffering from a chronic aversion to debt would want to self-escrow enough to cover the cost when, after about five years, it comes up. How much would that come to? Well, $3,300 ÷ 5 years = $660 a year.
Yes. Exactly the gas savings engendered by owning a hybrid vehicle.
In other words, every penny the car saves you in gasoline will have to be set aside to pay for new batteries! Unless, of course, you buy into the idea that you should get a new car about every three years. Calculating that cost is more than my feeble brain can contemplate.
Image: 2004-2008 Toyota Prius. IFCAR. Public domain.