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When to buy a new car (Prius?)

I have a 1999 Honda Odyssey with 91k miles on it. As the kids are getting older (and moving out), it’s now time to downsize. I’d like the Prius, and I’ve read that Toyota is coming out with a redesigned model either later this year or early 2009. Here’s the question: Should I sell the van later this summer (after we take a few more family trips), get a bit more money for it, then buy a 2008 Prius, and be done with it? Or wait a bit longer to sell the van (with the prospect of the mileage being > 100k), and get a 2009 model (and probably pay more)? The first option is the better deal right now, but then I’ll have a year-old car shortly after I buy it. Thoughts?

Your most economical option is usually to drive the Honda till it’s worn out, and yours has a long ways to go yet.

Any accountant will tell you that depreciation is always the largst part of car ownership, unless you completely wear it out.

I would begin with calculating how much you save on gas per year with a Prius; then compare that with the additional depreciation and extra insurance cost you will have with the Prius.

I went through this and a Prius needs to be owned by me for 22 years to recoup the extra cost. Gas prices in the US are just too low to make a Prius economic for most drivers.

You will likley find that trading the Honda on a 2012 Prius will probably make good economic sense. By that time gas prices will also have risen to $7-8/gallon.

If you really want to downsize, and want the ability to carry large objects, consider a Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe. They are frugal, carry large bulky loads, and cost a great deal less to buy than the Prius.

By the way, Toyota is on a crash program to reduce the cost of hybrids, so a future Prius may be less expensive.

I would certainly take Docnick’s advice.

I would add, however, that if you are determined to do it I would avoid the first year of a redesign. This is just a general rule that I have normally used. There are often unexpected kinks in re-designs that take a model year or two to work themselves out. So right now - if it were me - I’d be looking at an 08 moreso than an 09.

I would also take seriously the depreciation issue. I decided a while back that I would not likely ever buy another new car - partly b/c of the immediate depreciation when its driven off the lot. If you really want the Prius, I would look at some low mileage, certified used.

My mother is going through the same decision. I have advised her that trading in her Sienna with 90,000 miles for a Civic Hybrid isn’t an economical decision. She doesn’t drive many miles and according to some calculations, keeping a vehicle until it has 200,000 miles saves as much as $30,000 in over the life of the car in interest payments and new car premium.

I would sell the Odyssey before it hits 100K miles if you’re looking for the best money for it. Something happens to a buyer psychologically when they see 100,000 miles on a car versus 99,000 miles. It just seems much more reasonable to them, don’t ask me why. Hold off on selling it though until you’ve got more defintive information on the availability of the Prius. Worst case scenario is you cross over 100K miles and you have to wait another year for the new 2009 Prius-not a big deal. I certainly wouln’t want to buy the old Prius model (2008) as I can only imagine what kind of technological innovations Toyota has up it’s sleeve for the new 2009 model.

First, you should be aware that hybrid technology (at least as it currently exists) is merely a transitional technology until better systems come along.

What is coming along (probably for the 2010 model year) is a large number of vehicles with the new, clean Blue Tech diesel technology. These vehicles will routinely achieve better than 50mpg, and in many cases, will be able to wring as much as 65 mpg out of their fuel supply. This new diesel technology results in engines that accelerate as fast, if not faster, than gasoline engines, while simultaneously giving extraordinary mileage. Also, they do not emit fumes like an old bus–unlike the older diesels.

A Prius will give excellent gas mileage in strictly urban driving, but in highway situations, a traditional gas-powered car like a Honda Civic will frequently produce better gas mileage than a Prius. In order to amortize the extra cost of a hybrid vehicle, you would need to keep that vehicle for over 12 years, according to many sources. And, in that time period, you would have to replace the battery pack at least once–possibly twice–for an unknown cost that could exceed $4,000.00.

If the new Prius is of the “plug-in” variety, it will be superior to the current Prius technology, but in my opinion, it will still be inferior to one of the new Blue Tech diesel vehicles.

I’ll second what VDCdriver said about hybrids. Too many people are buying a Prius (or other hybrid) thinking they’ll get fantastic mileage. These cars really shine in city driving, where you can make use of the electric motor and regenerative braking. They’re no better than any other economy car on the open road. Unless you’re a Hollywood star and/or want to make a “green” statement, be sure to take a long, hard look at the economics of a hybrid before you plunk down the extra money for one.

Buying a hybrid isn’t just about the fuel mileage for many, it’s about trying to be more green and emit less exhaust. Besides, the movement of people towards hybrids signals to automakers that people want improved mileage, which leads to the expedited development of vehicles that get increased mileage traditionally- like the new breed of diesels. Although I should point out that some of the new blue tech diesels so far aren’t achieving that great of mileage because they seemed to be seeing use in large luxury cars.

Real-world reports from European consumers mention Honda Accords and Subaru Outbacks both achieving over 55 mpg with Blue Tech diesel engines.

I don’t know about you, but I would be VERY satisified with this type of mileage.

I noticed on a recnt road trip that diesel was $4.50 a gallon versus $3.50 for regular gas. If that trend stays in place I’m less excited by a diesel that achieves 25%+ better mileage than it’s gas equivalent for a few reasons. In any case I am looking forward to what some of the new diesels can do.

That’s a good point (I drive diesels), the cost of diesel has gotten way ahead of the cost of gasoline lately. I don’t know how long it will take gasoline to catch up, but I’m sure it will happen sooner or later.

Another thing you should note is all of the posts on this board from people who are not satisfied about the mileage they get out of their hybrids. A lot of this has to do with people buying the new hybrid, but still driving like they would with any other car. If you plan on buying a Prius, also plan on relearning how to drive to get the high MPG.

Part of the price increase is due to reduced availability of the ultra low sulfur diesel. As the new refineries come online the price of diesel whould become comparable to Gasoline. If you want the best of both the worlds, there are some diesel hybrids being introduced shortly. Initially this technlogy is being applied to the delivery trucks in the USA, but it will be introduced in fleet buses amd eventually cars.
Diesel engine is the most efficient form of internal combustion engine known to man under varying load conditions. You not only get better MPG, but also produce less CO and CO2 for the same ammount of work done.

In a recent article, Business Week examined this issue, and they concluded that, even with the increased price of diesel fuel vs. gasoline, a Blue Tech diesel vehicle should still have ~15% lower operating costs per mile than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle.

or they drive them 100 miles each way on the highway thinking they’ll get higher mileage than another car.

Re the poster who said the great Prius mileage only shows in city driving…I get 55 mpg in the city with my Prius, but I do get 51 mpg on the highway at 65 mph. So the lesser highway mileage is still terrific.