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Chevy Volt versus the Toyota Prius, again

By Hybrid Cars on 07/28/2010 – 11:12 am PDT6 Comments

Far more cost-effective than plugging in?

The reality of hybrid cost effectiveness

Sure, we’ve pitted the Chevy Volt against the Toyota Prius in the past, but this time we have some real numbers. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look good. So, if you think the Volt is set to save America, you might not want to read any further.

Since yesterday, many have compared the Nissan Leaf to the Chevy Volt. I don’t believe in such a comparison. Range anxiety is real and a vehicle like the Leaf will never resonate with the masses unless you can cut the price of the vehicle in half, minimally. The Chevy Volt, on the other hand, could easily convert the masses into plug-in vehicles, as long as the Volt is cost-effective.

Cost Comparison

Today, you can lease a Prius for $199.00 per month, while a Volt lease will soon cost $350.00.

The average Prius drivers spends $825 per year on fueling costs. The difference between Volt and Prius lease payments after a year is $1800. Consequently, even if the Volt uses nothing but free electricity, it will still cost $1000 more to lease per year. Of course, perhaps if gas prices hit $6.00 per gallon, then the Volt will be competitive, but considering higher gas prices push the cost of everything higher, will most Americans even be able to afford a new car?

But won’t the Volt cost much less to maintain than a Prius?

Certainly not on a three year lease, and since you can buy two Prius hybrids for the price of one Volt, there isn’t even a reason to compare purchasing cost-effectiveness. When it comes to purchasing, the Prius is a far better deal. Moreover, the battery pack on the Volt will probably not be as reliable, long term, as has been the much cheaper Prius battery pack.

In fact, in terms of maintenance, insurance is easily the biggest cost, and if insurance companies price Volt insurance fairly, it should cost more to insure a Volt than a Prius, a good bit more.

Today, the Volt just isn’t very cost-effective compared to the Prius, and that’s even after a $7500 tax credit that some have reported enables GM to reduce lease costs by $200 per month on the Volt’s 3 year lease option, but what happens after the tax credits expire?

While battery costs will come down, will they drop by $7500 per car in the near future? Likewise, wouldn’t such battery cost improvements also make the Prius cheaper, lighter and more fuel efficient as the king of hybrids could then switch to lithium?

And, yet, that isn’t even the most disturbing Volt news. After a decade on the market, hybrid cars still account for less than 3 percent of market share. Hybrids, such as the Prius, are just not perceived to be cost-effective by most consumers, and the Volt will even be far less cost-effective and much more expensive.

Related Articles:

  1. Chevy Volt for $41,000 or $350/month to lease
  2. Chevy Volt pricing tomorrow
  3. Battle of Warranty: Chevy Volt versus Nissan Leaf
  4. Is an 8 year warranty enough for the Chevy Volt?
  5. When will a plug-in vehicle outsell the Toyota Prius?


  • kd01 says:

    Everyone always wants to perform an economic study to see if bying a plug-in hybrid or EV offers an acceptable payback. However, how many people do an economic study before purchasing a Suburban? How many people do an economic study to see what the paypack is on the options of the chrome wheels, stereo system, GPS, etc which can easily run a car price up $10,000? No one does this. They buy the car because they want it - it makes them look successful, cool, whatever. Car manufacturers have to make plug-ins/EVs something that people want - in that case price will not matter.

    The comparison of the Prius and the Volt is not really fair. The Volt can go 40 miles on electricity only which requires a much larger battery - so of course the price will be higher. Also, this is the first time the Volt is available - while the Prius is on it’s third generation. The price for the Volt will come down as the cost of the batteries decrease.

    • paul says:

      You’re right, I sold cars for many years, and we all knew that you were selling the sizzle not the steak… You want to be competitive, offer, a car that gets your ass from point a to point b.. loss the following, electric windows, locks, ignition, remote anything, automatic transmission, leather, a/c,(my favorite, since I live in Michigan, it’s only warm 3 months a year), gps,(if you don’t know where you’re going, learn to read a map), Huge stereo’s,( radios should be optional), if you have to pay a big price for it, you might decide you don’t need an entertainment center in it), Bring back “sealbeam headlights), didn’t cost 900 bucks to replace them…And my favorite savings device…If you’re a 100 lbs woman with a skinny ass, you don’t need an expedition to drive to work…Americans will always overspend, not save, live on credit, and bitch about it…Just part of the landscape that is America…

    • David Packwood says:

      the safety of my family is most important,I’ll drive the big safe Suv at any cost!!!

  • usbseawolf2000 says:

    The comparison is not fair because Prius is a mid-size 5 seater. Volt is a 4 seater, likely a compact size.

    When Prius is compared to a similarly equipped non-hybrid mid-size car, the payback is 5 years (per Intellichoice). Of course you get back more than the hybrid premium. You get premium features specifically available in a full hybrid.

    Volt will not be able to pay back plugin premium over a hybrid like Prius, never mind it’s gas-only cousin ($17k Chevy Cruze).

    Prius would consume 3,000 gallon of gas over its lifetime (150k miles). Volt has potential to displace all 3,000 gallons at best case. In order to do that, Volt costs $24k more. In essence, it costs the owner $6 per gallon for saving it. At $3 per gallon, who would pay twice that amount to save it?

    There must be a better solution. Just wait for more information from PHV Prius.

  • JustLurkin says:

    Does everyone think when they buy a volt, that electricity at their house is suddenly free? Am I missing something? Any cost analysis that does not include the money and time to recharge this thing is flawed and not complete.

    The reason no one does cost analysis on buying a suburban is because they know they are going to be buying a lot of gas to fuel it. They are giving up no comforts to have it. That certainly cost something. When you are considering buying a prius or a volt, you are giving up many comforts and conveniences, so you then look to net operating costs for any net gain to justify your purchase.

    Me? I like the prius because I think it’s fun to have a car that is engineered like a diesel electric locomotive, only more refined. I think that “wow factor” would get me past some of the negatives in the decision. In other words, for me that is sizzle.

  • tlb73737 says:

    Forget all these four-wheeled vehicles. Where is my flying car?

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