My 2005 Prius is aging. What comes next?
January 6, 2019 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I drive a 2005 Prius, and while it's in great shape now (fingers crossed) I want to be poised when the time comes to replace it. Help me figure out what my next car looks like?

The answer to this question might be "get another Prius," but I don't love the new generation of Prii (particularly the cabin layout/feel/design), so I'm curious to hear your recommendations.

Here is a constellation of random things I have loved about my Prius:

1. It's super reliable. I live and commute within NYC. I drive on lots of cobblestone streets. I put my car through a lot of wear-and-tear. It takes lots of dings and scratches. My next car has to be able to survive this, not to mention surviving it during northeast winters.

2. It's cheap and easy to own. I'm not amazing at maintenance. I love how reliable the Prius has been, and - perhaps more importantly - how its ubiquity and Toyota base means that I can go to the same little hole-in-the-wall repair shops that the cabbies and Uber drivers use to get it maintained. I'd be very concerned to drive a car that's less reliable or less ubiquitous; I don't want to be tethered to a dealer and I don't want to be constantly debugging check engine lights.

3. It hasn't really been a theft target. While I value the ubiquity and reliability of driving a Toyota, it's not a Camry, and ne'er-do-wells mostly seem to ignore it.

4. It has a built-in community. I've learned a ton from the priuschat forums, and I'd hope that whatever I drive next will have the same support system.

5. It's surprisingly roomy and utilitarian while being very reasonably sized. I can throw down the back seats and stick big sofas or long tables in there -- but can still parallel park in tiny NYC spots.

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by thejoshu to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, what about a newer-gen but not newest-gen Prius? Say, a 2014 model or so? My mother has one that's got tons of miles on the clock and is still going strong, and my company uses them for our sales fleet, seemingly with few complaints. They are very reliable and efficient and if you get a good one from near the end of the run, it should still last a long time. The cabin layout is quite similar to that of the 2005-era Priuses.

I mean honestly, they are legit great cars. As long as you don't need AWD or high ground clearance or towing capability, and as long as you find they have enough headroom for you (I find the ceiling a bit on the low side, personally), and you're not looking for something sporty, they are fantastic. Good cargo room, very reliable, excellent gas mileage. The newest ones have kind of love-it-or-hate-it styling (a mistake by Toyota, if you ask me) but the ones from the generation between them and yours are pretty dang similar to yours except about ten years younger. I imagine they'd be very good value as a used car.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:10 PM on January 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

In your shoes, the first thing I'd be doing would be checking for good deals on the just-discontinued Chevy Volt. Everyone I know with one really likes theirs, and even prior to being discontinued, very significant discounts were sometimes available.

I'd also take a good look at the Honda Insight and the Kia Niro (and maybe the Niro's cousin, the Ioniq). Finally, I'll just add that the just-redesigned RAV4 hybrid is soon to arrive, and looks like a very good value. The hybrid version is only a few hundred dollars more than the regular engine, and actually more powerful.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:44 PM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had a Volt and I loved it. It was such a fun car.
posted by chocolatetiara at 4:46 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

The $7500 fed tax credit on the Volt is expiring in March, I believe. That alone makes it really competitive. Without it, less so.

However the Volt is a plug-in hybrid. If you’re like most NYC drivers and street parkers and live in an apartment, that’s a non-starter.

I would def look at that hybrid RAV4 coming soon.
posted by spitbull at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2019

It might be time to look at a pure electric vehicle. Depends on if range and recharge considerations work for you. EVs have even less maintenance than hybrids. No oil changes.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2019

Honda Fit? I have a 2007 that I'm still driving (only half the related mileage). It's been very reliable, and you can literally "fit" a ton of stuff into it (more than in my parents' Toyota crossover). The interior is quite roomy, too, with lots of headroom.

It's probably not what you're looking for, but our next car will likely be a Nissan Leaf. A little on the small side, but we just drive to the grocery store, walk everywhere else. Or a Prius.
posted by JamesBay at 5:07 PM on January 6, 2019

My vote is for another Prius (like the C), or an all-electric car.
It reads like you have had the 05 Prius since it was new, or almost new. If you plan to buy a new car and keep it for around a decade, the economics already favor all-electric, and will only improve. Cities in Europe are already banning gasoline engines in cities within the next 5 years.
For the current choices I'd say a Leaf.
posted by TDIpod at 6:11 PM on January 6, 2019

I would recommend a VW Golf.
posted by creiszhanson at 8:11 PM on January 6, 2019

Youngest daughter has a Prius hybrid. We looked a Toyota and Honda, and bought a RAV4 hybrid.
We will miss the room in our Honda Odyssey when it finally gives out (so much room for lumber!) but we can't beat the gas costs. The RAV4 is a learning curve (no key, lots of tech gadgets, beeps at me when I cross the paint on the roads) but I like our quiet little buggy.
posted by TrishaU at 10:24 PM on January 6, 2019

If we perform the equivalent look-ahead that you would have faced in 2005 when you got your Prius - then we are looking at 2033. By this point, I think it would be very unlikely that non-EVs would be viable vehicles to drive - we are going to go through a tipping point - with an inflexion somewhere in the early 2020s - where manufacturers are starting to ramp down ICE vehicle production, governments are legislating against them and it is starting to become hard to find gas stations in which to fill them up or garages to conduct repairs. The "Prius Equivalent" for Uber-drivers and the like, will be an EV rather than a Hybrid - I would guess - from the early 2020s onwards.

So - if you would like a car that lasts as long then you should be looking at a pure EV at this stage. The problem is that battery storage capacity on all but some of the newest models - is going to look pretty poor in 14 years times - for many contemporary models. If I was going to look to buy a car now which I could conceivably imagine having for as long as your Prius - then I would go for a Hyundai Kuna 64Kw Edition. This is the case even if you don't have a means of charging at home just now: the existing range of nearly 300 miles would be enough to allow you (I guess) to go through most of the week without having to charge up.
posted by rongorongo at 11:23 PM on January 6, 2019

I think predictions that a non-EV car will be obsolete or undrivable in 10 years are absurd. Americans are buying hundreds of thousands of new ICE cars a year right now and will be for the next few years. Many of those cars and trucks will easily last 10 years or more. In fact I think the opposite — we haven’t settled on a post-ICE technology, hybrid and full electric are both competing (and the hybrids still need gas too).

OP lives in NYC. Odds they have a charging solution are low. You barely see electric cars in NYC except the occasional Tesla S. How is charging supposed to work “through the week” - a weekend trip to Connecticut to spend 6 hours at a rest area waiting for your car to charge?

If ICE cars can’t drive anywhere in a decade that will be a massive economic blow to millions of people and businesses. Politically I can’t see it happening.

Predictions of ICE’s imminent demise are just wrong in my opinion.
posted by spitbull at 2:44 AM on January 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

The US electric grid is currently nowhere near where it needs to be if it's going to deliver all the energy currently delivered at gas stations in the form of gasoline. Efforts to upgrade it are underway, but they're orders of magnitude short of what they would need to be in order to make pure EVs the dominant form of vehicle by the early 2020s. My company has been struggling with the electric utility for months just to get a single transformer upgrade done to support a half dozen EV chargers at a public park, and that's with tapping into the utility's billion-dollar make ready program that exists specifically to fund such upgrades and with multiple powerful stakeholders on our side pushing to get it done. And that's not even touching issues like charge stations for people who use street parking.

EVs are coming up and they're getting more and more viable for more and more people, but ICE isn't going anywhere anytime soon—much though I wish it would.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:14 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just traded my 2011 Prius in for a Subaru Forester. Subaru seems to have a devoted following, like Volvo used to have. There are hybrid Cross-Treks for something more sporty.
The 2019 Forester gets better mileage than previous years at 28/33, so as a small SUV that is quite good. The technology is great, and its a far superior drive than the Prius with regard to smoothness and noise level. A major gripe about the Prius is road and engine noise when accelerating or going up hills. The 2019 has very high scores in reliability and customer satisfaction with Consumer Reports if that matters. Volvo, which I have also owned in my past, has really declined.
posted by waving at 4:25 AM on January 7, 2019

We just replaced an older hybrid with a Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and love it. (The Ioniq also comes in plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions, but we got the old-fashioned hybrid.) Its controls and styling are straightforward, it gets great mileage (they say 57 mpg, ours has been a little less), has a great warranty, good safety ratings, etc. The mid-level SEL trim has all the new electronic safety features (lane departure warning, automatic braking, blind spot warning, etc) that Consumer Reports recommends, at a lower price than you can find them in other cars. For someone in your position it should definitely be on your list.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2019

(Also, the reviews of the Ioniq need some contextualizing because they're by auto writers who aren't used to driving a hybrid - so their complaints are almost all things that aren't specifically about the Ioniq but about a its being a hybrid rather than a sports car. E.g. I like the one I linked because it's like, this car is only good if you want: great gas mileage, low purchase price, great warranty, good safety, straightforward driving experience. Like... okay yes I want those things! Anyway coming from our old hybrid, we've found the Ioniq to be as good or better in almost every respect.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2019

I have been thinking about this myself as I’m a couple years away from replacing my current ICE car (a beloved Mazda that easily gets 40mpg on the highway on regular gas). I too live and street park in NYC. I want to go electric or at least plug in hybrid but it just make no sense and it actually isn’t economically rational to spend $8-10k more on a car really — that’s *years * of gas and oil changes for me at current prices and “free” electric charging is going to disappear soon anyway. (A new battery at 100k will also run thousands.) And short of a Tesla, the other current options are penalty boxes for anyone who loves driving.

I thus follow this debate closely. I’ve also been thinking about replacing mom’s 17 year old Honda with a full electric (suburban home)
But again the numbers don’t really add up and the choices are too limited and involve making a bet on the future I don’t think we can see yet.

VW just announced a massive electric car program the will unfold over the next few years and looks to be a game changer in terms of the scale (millions of cars, all sorts of sizes, international).

So to me the sweet spot is to buy a late model used (or new if you have the scratch) highly efficient gas or gas/hybrid car and hold on 5-7 more years to see if electric gets sorted out at scale for the masses and charging becomes a trivial challenge. If we are all still here.

OP, if you like the Prius, and your reasons are all good and make sense to this NYC driver of many years, you basically can’t go wrong with a newer one. To me, the major drag of the Prius is that it simply feels numb to drive, offering very little pleasure for those of us who like hooning an otherwise sensible car. But that’s irrelevant to most people and it drives just fine for normal purposes. It’s bulletproof. It keeps its resale value. It is cheap AF to keep running. It’s efficient and functional and comfy and carries huge loads for its size. It’s a Toyota. Just a boring one, in all the good as well as bad senses of boring. If you only drive in the city that’s truly irrelevant anyway. If you just buy a late model used one, as someone suggested above, and drive it a long time, you’re doing more for your carbon footprint (all in) than buying any car they had to newly manufacture for you.
posted by spitbull at 8:47 AM on January 8, 2019

Also if you are looking at a new Toyota and can consider an ICE only option, the automotive press is currently almost *raving* about the forthcoming 2019 Corolla hatch. A full redesign, it is super basic, super cheap, comes in manual, looks great, gets awesome mileage from a little NA motor, and apparently is a hoot to drive. It also has relatively minimal electronic nanny stuff.

Plus it’s a hatchback. A Corolla hatchback. Guarantees the aftermarket will be robust for performance upgrades and spare parts for the rest of your life.

It’s a Corolla, so it will likely last 20 years. By then we will all be in solar/hydrogen powered personal aircraft, or civilization will have collapsed.
posted by spitbull at 9:06 AM on January 8, 2019

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