Prius or Corolla?

Somebody on the Cartalk forum asked about hidden surprises/costs for the Prius. I wondered where the break-even point was on gas, since everybody is “buying a hybrid because gas is so high”.

Here’s where my research led me: 280,613 miles.

This is using a worst-case difference for the Prius, in this case EPA Highway, and price numbers from Edmunds.

My rusty high-school algebra (work below), assumes comparable maintenance costs and $3/gal gasoline. If common battery worries pan out, score down the Prius. If WWIII breaks out, score down the Corolla. If either car makes it to 280K, call Guinness!

I picked the top Corolla to be pretty close in options, but if you want to save more, you can. A really fair comparison would add ABS to the Corolla, so somebody please price that and re-run the numbers. Similarly, an all-in-town (Taxi-service) calculation would be better for the Prius, somebody can run those numbers too.

So, don’t buy the Prius to save money. You’ll definitely save on gas consumption. Whether the Prius has a total carbon load lower than the Corolla is a matter of some debate, given the additional electronics involved, and the high cost of nickel mining.

And, obviously, I’m quite used to high school algebra teachers bleeding all over my work, so have at it, in the name of science.