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We'd welcome your thoughts on whether we should purchase a Prius.

Our situation: We're moving to Western Massachussets (i.e., lots of snow and ice in winter), where the our new car would be my commuter car (i.e. about 40 miles daily on a mix of highway and local roads) rather than our family car (we have two kids and a Subaru outback). We're interested in the Prius mainly because we want to reduce our fuel consumption, emissions, and cost.

Our questions:

1. What are your thoughts on safety?
-has the Prius received an IIHS safety rating yet?
-how does the Prius handle in snow and ice?
-how important is the lack of AWD/4WD?
-how important are the additions of the vehicle stability control and air bag curtain features?
-is there really a stalling problem?
-has anyone heard about increased risk of fire/explosions in collisions due to the electrical wiring throughout the car?

2. How does the overall financial cost of the Prius compare to a less expensive non-hybrid that nonetheless has decent gas mileage (say, the Corolla?).
--will the battery likely have to be replaced, and if so at what expected cost?

3. Is there any way to guarantee early delivery of the Prius to perserve the full tax credit?

4. Given the demand/supply, is there any way to negotiate a price below MSRP, or are people generally paying MSRP?

Thanks for your thoughts!
 

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sjbshb said:
We'd welcome your thoughts on whether we should purchase a Prius.

Our situation: We're moving to Western Massachussets (i.e., lots of snow and ice in winter), where the our new car would be my commuter car (i.e. about 40 miles daily on a mix of highway and local roads) rather than our family car (we have two kids and a Subaru outback). We're interested in the Prius mainly because we want to reduce our fuel consumption, emissions, and cost.

Our questions:

1. What are your thoughts on safety?
-has the Prius received an IIHS safety rating yet?
-how does the Prius handle in snow and ice?
-how important is the lack of AWD/4WD?
-how important are the additions of the vehicle stability control and air bag curtain features?
-is there really a stalling problem?
-has anyone heard about increased risk of fire/explosions in collisions due to the electrical wiring throughout the car?

2. How does the overall financial cost of the Prius compare to a less expensive non-hybrid that nonetheless has decent gas mileage (say, the Corolla?).
--will the battery likely have to be replaced, and if so at what expected cost?

3. Is there any way to guarantee early delivery of the Prius to perserve the full tax credit?

4. Given the demand/supply, is there any way to negotiate a price below MSRP, or are people generally paying MSRP?

Thanks for your thoughts!
Car has an excellent safety rating, especially if you get the full airbag and VSC package.
Your commute should save you gas, as the Prius only does about 35 MPG for the first 5 minutes as it warms up (which in retrospect is not too shabby compared to a conventional car). I travel 50 miles one way at an average of 45 MPH and get mid to upper 50's in MPG. Highway speeds tend to yield low 50's to upper 40's.

Car will do fine in snow, though you may want to change the tires. It has great torque, but the traction control is a bit sensitive, stoping the wheels when it senses slip. Better tires would reduce the slip, so the traction control won't trip.

As for saving money, that is somewhat subjective. The Prius as of 2004 is classified as a small midsize with lots of neat features (even for the base model) so it can be unfair comparing it to a corolla. Camry maybe, but not a corolla. If you don't mind what the corolla gives you, then if you consider total cost of ownership for both, go with the corolla, especially a used one. But the Prius is a marvel, has lots of good features that you usually only get with more expensive vehicles, roomy, and has great mileage to boot. It seems to hold its value quite well also.
 

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Have been driving our Prius in Vermont since January 2nd. We got VSC and highly recommend it for places with real weather. Also got Bridgestone Blizzaks and are very happy with the results we're getting. Feels much safer than any other car we've driven. I read that Consumer Reports estimated that VSC is going to save more lives than airbags in the long run. In my opinion, VSC is going to do better than 4WD or AWD for most of your driving. 4WD/AWD may get you up steep hills better, but VSC is what'll keep you from going off the side of the road -- well, VSC and some good sense and careful driving, of course.

The stalling problem was on earlier models and has been corrected. If you're buying now, no need to worry about that. There's no evidence of increased risk of fire or anything like that; you've got more electricity and less gasoline in the car, and which one is more volatile?

If you get on a waiting list now, odds are extremely extremely good you'll get the full tax credit. It'll probably last until late in this year.

It's pretty doubtful you can beat MSRP, particularly in the northeast.
 

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Our questions:

1. What are your thoughts on safety?

-has the Prius received an IIHS safety rating yet?

** I read this somewhere on-line:
Prius Driver seat has a 5 rating others a 4. (IIHS crash/injury Scale 1-5)

-how does the Prius handle in snow and ice?
** I Live in S. Calif. 8)

-how important is the lack of AWD/4WD?
** In snow/ice, the 4WD/AWD SHOULD always be better. The ? is; how much better..? In severe conditions. I'll take the Suburu. Otherwise you're probably wasting energy ($) driving those other 2 wheels. They don't run for free.

-how important are the additions of the vehicle stability control and air bag curtain features?
VSC will prevent some accidents. That's invaluable. Air bags only work when you have one. I bought em both.

-is there really a stalling problem?
The stalling was problem was minimal..(unless it happened to you) It's been fixed.

-has anyone heard about increased risk of fire/explosions in collisions due to the electrical wiring throughout the car?
Another Prius myth that has little foundation in fact. If your car has the back end ripped off, don't grab the orange wires. Unlike current Lithium batteries, NiMH battery contents are not generally "explosive".

2. How does the overall financial cost of the Prius compare to a less expensive non-hybrid that nonetheless has decent gas mileage (say, the Corolla?).--will the battery likely have to be replaced, and if so at what expected cost?
On a PURE $ COST basis; The Corolla is probably the best buy. The more you drive a Prius the closer they get. Bear in mind that you get more for your Prius $ than just the Hybrid system (when compared to the Corolla.)


3. Is there any way to guarantee early delivery of the Prius to perserve the full tax credit?
Probably..but that's up to your dealer's delivery schedule. . If you want the tax break, don't wait too long.

4. Given the demand/supply, is there any way to negotiate a price below MSRP, or are people generally paying MSRP?
A few have bought under MSRP but don't count on it. MSRP is the norm.
 

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We've had our '06 Prius in Maine since early January. I fitted steel wheels with Blizzak's and it's great in snow, ice, whatever. AWD does enhance stability at times but most of the time people don't have trouble "going" - they have trouble stopping and/or turning. Good tires are more important than AWD.

(I sold my Subaru Forester to get this car and don't miss the AWD at all. We have a 100' long driveway that climbs about 10' - no problems at all.)
 

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I am also a Prius driver in Vermont (central). I commute 80 miles, 3 days a week...and also I have an Outback ('97). I think you'll do fine in just about any snow conditions with exceptions of poor plowing and to a lesser extent, steep hills. The below quote is from a Dec. thread in response to an upstate NY potential Prius owner with similar concerns to you. I would say I feel about the same now as then, if anything, feeling more confident about winter traction having driven it more in snowy conditions.

As to financial comparisons to a Corolla, I think, with the strong possibility of $3.00 gas this summer, your long commute, a much better depreciation factor, and hopefully qualifying for a tax credit, you'll do well to chose the Prius. My winter mileage has averaged 48. I'm expecting close to 60 this summer with a more broken in motor and higher inflated tires.

As to the battery, in Vermont and I think 6 other states (maybe incl. MA) the warranty is 8/yr./150,000 mi., elsewhere in the states, 100,000 mi. If you still have your car then--it's still rather unlikely you'll have battery problems--replacement cost will probably be less (higher production) than today's approx. $3,000, not even considering getting one from a "junk" yard.

Definitely get VSC and side air bags.

wayneswhirld said:
My Prius has done adequately in the snow here in Vermont (commuting between the Middlebury and Barre areas). Equipped with 4 Hakkapelliita RSi snow tires, the traction has been fine on level to hilly roads. My commute to work takes me over a mountain gap that rises 1,300' in 3 miles. Today, I drove over it in a moderate to heavy snowfall with 1-2" accumulation on parts of the road (before the plow came through). I had to be very alert to accelerate correctly around hairpin curves, both going up (not too fast so as not to slide; not too slow so as not to lose traction uphill) and down (knowing when to slow down on a straightaway appoaching a hairpin curve). There was the feeling of lightness in traction around curves without really any sliding. The "swervy" traction warning only came on once. It went ok, but to be honest, I probably should have taken my Outback today.

Tires are important, both the type of snow tire, whether to go with studs, and the tire inflation. I could have gotten Hakkapelliita 2's which are more aggressive and they can be studded. I think I would definitely have better traction with that, but then a more noisy ride and lower fuel economy (the RSi's are a low rolling resistance tire). My inflation is a compromise between mileage and traction: 33/31.

Another factor to consider is the VSC option. I'd say a must for north country.

Fuel MPG is currently averaging around 44, down from 52 pre-December/pre-snow tires.

Bottom line in your area, while the Prius can be adequate for all but the worst conditions I would not go without at least a backup of AWD/4x4 in moderate to heavy snow conditions, especially in mountaineous terrain.
 

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HunterGreen said:
In my opinion, VSC is going to do better than 4WD or AWD for most of your driving. 4WD/AWD may get you up steep hills better, but VSC is what'll keep you from going off the side of the road -- well, VSC and some good sense and careful driving, of course.
That is a very good point. Excellent really.

As you point out, yes AWD does have better drive traction, which is great for hills and true offroad driving where it's difficult to get any traction. But for handling stability in poor traction environments like most people need, VSC will be better. Of course both would be ideal.

I'd take VSC unless going offroad. VSC will actually handle better on snow/ice by preventing spins and such.
 

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sjbshb said:
1. What are your thoughts on safety?
-has the Prius received an IIHS safety rating yet?
You can check crash test results for vehicles:
http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/testing/ncap/
http://www.euroncap.com/content/safety_ ... uction.php
http://www.hwysafety.org/ratings/default.aspx (haven't tested the Prius yet.)

2005 Prius, no side air bags: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/NCAP/Cars/3268.html
2004 Prius, RHD, with side air bags:
http://www.euroncap.com/content/safety_ ... =3&id2=193

sjbshb said:
-how does the Prius handle in snow and ice?
-how important is the lack of AWD/4WD?
-how important are the additions of the vehicle stability control and air bag curtain features?
A fine FWD car, if you drive it as such. I'd probably recommend investing in some snow tires, though, if icy hills are in your future (traction control can be a little over-agressive). I've never had a 4WD/AWD for comparison.

VSC is usually considered a good choice for a safety feature, so get it if you can. Side and side curtain airbags is up to you (most packages do have them), but some insurance companies may charge you more for them (but if they're useful in preventing injuries I think it's worth it).

sjbshb said:
-is there really a stalling problem?
-has anyone heard about increased risk of fire/explosions in collisions due to the electrical wiring throughout the car?
just media hype and misinformation. a few 2004s, under certain conditions, may stall due to an older computer programming or due to lack of weather protection (but those cases should be fixed by now, not only in new models, but also by the owners bringing the vehicles into the dealer for the free fix/upgrade in the service campaigns). Some other of the reported "stall" incidents could be the simple issue of some people forgetting that their car still needs gasoline to run (ran out of gas), or that they're not used to the engine "stalling" by turning itself off during driving because it's not needed. There was an erroneous AP story a while back about "hybrid accident dangers," but the AP correction was rarely reported by the same media outlets the next day... If you're concerned, then read: http://techinfo.toyota.com/public/main/2ndprius.pdf

sjbshb said:
2. How does the overall financial cost of the Prius compare to a less expensive non-hybrid that nonetheless has decent gas mileage (say, the Corolla?).
--will the battery likely have to be replaced, and if so at what expected cost?
Just remember that for a total cost of ownership, you have to take into account the original purchase cost (and please compare like vehicles and options - the Corolla is a Compact and the Prius is a Midsize), fuel costs, maintenance costs, insurance costs, and the big one most people forget: depreciation. (In the US, Prius have been holding their value pretty well - see the For Sale listings on this site for an example.)

You don't say where you are moving from, or if you are buying your Prius there or in MA once you move. In the US, the battery is covered along with the other hybrid components for 8 years/100,000 miles. If your car is owned and primarily operated in a CA emissions state (MA is one), then the hybrid battery is further covered by the CA emissions warranty out to 10 years/150,000 miles. So, you shouldn't have to worry about a hybrid battery replacement cost for quite a while... Cost on the battery has been coming down (new just around US$3000 now), but used on eBay from crashed vehicles tend to go for far less than US$1000.

sjbshb said:
3. Is there any way to guarantee early delivery of the Prius to perserve the full tax credit?
Call around to various dealers. If you are flexible on package or color, you can probably get a delivery faster. Some dealerships may also have shorter waiting lists (or no list at all - first come first served or just luck of who walks in the door that day), or a dealer is more flexible with trading cars with other dealerships to get you the one you want. You may not have to wait at all, or you may have a few months wait. My projections based on the sales data (see the sticky in this forum) is that the full credit (before it starts phasing out) will probably be good until the end of 2006Q3.

sjbshb said:
4. Given the demand/supply, is there any way to negotiate a price below MSRP, or are people generally paying MSRP?
Again, it depends where you are and what dealer you talk to. MSRP has been the common price for a long time now. Only pay above MSRP (or for dealer-added packages or accessories) if you really want those items or you must have a vehicle today (otherwise, walk). You might be able to haggle on things like adding floor mats or getting a better deal on your trade-in or your financing. (You can always haggle on the extended warranty and prepaid maintenance, if you want those.)
 

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If you buy a house up on a hill, talk to your neighbors. Western Ma. has been clobbered with snow storms this winter and the town my son lives in (Westfield) is slow on clearing the secondary roads during storms. He lives on top of a hill and after twenty years has replaced all his cars with two Suburus and a 4WD Nisson pickup.
Several Boston dealers have been advertising as many as 7 Prius available immediately for as much as 3,000 dollars below MSRP however that may be because of the tax write off on your next years return.
 

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I think all of the above is good advice. I replaced a 4-wheel drive Subaru with a Prius and have been pleasantly surprised by the snow performance in Colorado, despite the fact that I have the stock tires. Apparently the Prius has a high percentage of its weight over the front wheels. If you get a lot of snow, you might consider buying Michelin X-Ice tires for winter-only use, as they were top-ranked by Consumer Reports.

The Prius is a great deal right now with a federal tax refund in excess of $3,000. That will last at least until June 30 and probably until September 30.

The Prius has excellent safety features, and its crash test results are very good, although IIHS has not tested it. Remember, however, that crash tests are done into fixed barriers. Therefore, the results only allow you to compare vehicles within the same weight class. Because the Prius weighs only 2800 pounds, you cannot directly compare its rating to that of a vehicle that weighs more (e.g., a Camry), because that will not be a good indication of performance in a two-vehicle crash. I agree with others that the VSC is a very important safety feature.
 

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Clarification on the 'stall' issue, though as of late is a non-issue.

When the glitch flaired up, the car did not 'stall', but rather the ICE failed to start within the time period allowed. Unlike a conventional car where if the ICE stops, the car no longer has auto-motive power, you still had electrical power to safely drive off to a safe place with the Prius, for at least 1/2 mile, possibly further. This is also true if you happen to run out of gas.
 

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just a note to say that my wife and i just happily bought a 2006 prius (first car), and are expecting it in about 3 weeks. :) this forum was a big help in selling us on it.

as for price, we went to a couple of dealerships, and they really wouldn't budge from the MSRP. a couple of hundred off tops. so, we ended up trying to buy it through an online car agent (http://www.dealfinder.org). he was able to get us $1500 off, and, since he only cost $150, it was well worth it. the whole car agent idea seemed sketchy to us at first, but i'm pretty glad we did it. he was very reputable.

unfortunately, that's a canadian website and those figures are in canadian dollars, so you'll have to adjust accordingly. :)
 

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FYI, for the winter, I purchased a set of Michelin X-ice tires and had them mounted on a set of steel wheels. I will leave these on until mid or late march then go back to the OEM Goodyears.

Observations on the winter tires. They were a lot quieter (surprise) than the OEM tires but cost me about 1-2 mpg hit. Good on the road whether dry or snow, but we have had a very mild winter anyway. The steel wheels are ugly as sin but I opted not to get a set of hub caps to hide them a bit as the caps were too expensive and the ugliness will serve to get me to change things a little faster this spring. I think the spare wheels are a good buy so I won't have to go through a remounting process and can change the tires myself with a little jacking.

Since chains are occasionally required in mountain passes here, I picked up a cheap set of cables and keep them in the hole where the spare tire is. They serve as an extra insurance policy. For a short while (long time ago) I was a safety inspector so am used to wearing both a belt and suspenders.
 

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In terms of going below MSRP, I have helped folks get $500 or more off MSRP on Priuses in the Chicagoland area, without a fee, and a 4-6 week delivery time (assuming not already on the lot). We have to stop paying ridiculous MSRP prices on a car which is less evil for the environment. Let me know if I can help.
 
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