Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Corolla or Prius?

I drive a 94 Corolla automatic with 135K miles which needs ~$1200 in repairs - 2nd timing belt, CV joint (?), exhaust repair… Have never bought a new car, but used prices for <30k mi. Corolla/Prius are so high, seems like it makes sense to buy a new one, but which one? I drive about 10K miles a year, mostly city driving. The Pruis is about $10K more to purchase. Would I be buying a dinosaur if I buy the Corolla? I care about the environment, but economics is a big factor, too. Thanks for your input.

You’d come out ahead with the Corolla or Yaris. It would take a long time to recoup the 10k in gas savings even with mostly city driving.

The corolla gets pretty good gas mileage. Do the calculations yourself. Either gas prices have to go back to the $4/gal mark or you’re going to have to increase your driving. If neither happens then buying the Corolla makes the most sense.

The Corolla is the most economical of the compacts. For the little you drive, it would take $7/gallon gasoline for you to come out ahead with the Prius. Agree with other posters, you don’t drive enough to recoup the difference any time soon. If this was the last car you ever bought, and plan to keep it 20 years, buy the Prius. I am in exactly the same situation, and bought a Corolla.

Just my two cents . . . but wasn’t the Prius designed for city driving, getting better mpg in town than on the highway? Your post says you drive mostly city, right? You also state that you want to be “green” about things . . . isn’t the Prius “greener” than the Corolla. 10k per year? You’ll have either car 10 years before you have to do anything to them except brakes and maintenance. Sounds like you’d rather have the Prius. Having said all of that, I’d buy the Corolla, they last forever and the mpg difference is next to nothing, IMO. Rocketman

I haven’t checked the prices, but I think the difference is a good bit less than $10k. You won’t go wrong with a Prius or a Corolla.

At 10,000 per year, assume (max) 50 mpg for Prius, (min) 25 mpg for Corolla, 200 vs 400 gallons/year, 200 gallons saved/year, $400/year at $2/gallon. Take 10 years to save this if Prius was $4000 more, fewer years if gas goes up. If the Prius get 45 and the Corolla 30 mpg, would take longer.

If the body isn’t rusting out, you could take a chance on the work that the car needs. It’s not a really risky affair. Buying a new Corolla isn’t bad either, although we had an 06 that I didn’t like at all because there was no room in it for a 6’3" driver. Watch out for the map light being left on. The 06 had the switches on the rear view mirror; just plain dopey. Too bad they don’t make 1983 Corollas anymore. I would buy one in a minute.

Let’s say you get 45 mpg in the city with the Prius and 30 with the Corolla. It will take 45 years to pay off the $10,000 difference at $2 per gallon.

From reading on both cars, the Prius is a more enjoyable drive, and has the added utility of hatchback design. So, not only is the Prius 40% more efficient than the wonderfully efficient Corolla, it is simply a better car. This means that the calculation of “payback” may be inappropriate for your needs since the calculation
is too simplistic, considering only the dollars dimension.

Without beating it to death, a BMW 3-Series has a very similar form factor as a Corolla, but at twice the price. For some people the BMW offers more total benefit than the Corolla. For others not.

The improvement in the 2008 Corolla over the 94 that you drive puts you more in line with a Scion/Yaris if city driving is your only consideration. I would ALWAYS lean towards a used car for city driving, saving money and not worrying over that first dent.