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Discussion Starter #1
Hey hybrid fans,

I’m trying to decide between a couple of cars, and I would love to get other’s opinions on my decision. I’d appreciate anyone’s thoughts about my decision. My first objective is lowest cost, but a shorter commute via HOV lane access (I’m moving to San Francisco), and easier parking (again, I’m moving to San Francisco and planning to street park) are also important to me.

I’ve been looking at four cars: an Insight, a Civic HX, a Civic Hybrid, and a Prius. I’m open to other cars if they make sense, but these seem to be the best choices so far. There are two components to my cost equation: car payment and gas (insurance and upkeep seem about the same for all four cars). Below is how I’ve calculated the costs:

Miles Driven
Miles Each Way - 70
Ways/Day - 2
Days/Week - 5
Weeks/Month - 4
Miles/Month - 3,033

Variables
Loan Length (months) - 36
Cost of Loan - 7%
Current Gas Price - $3.18

Comparison
Insight
MPG – 72
Gallons Uses/Month – 42
Gas Cost/Month – $134
Car Cost – $11,000
Finance Cost/Month – $340
Total Cost – $474

Civic HX
MPG – 40
Gallons Uses/Month – 76
Gas Cost/Month – $241
Car Cost – $5,200
Finance Cost/Month – $161
Total Cost – $402

Civic Hybrid
MPG – 51
Gallons Uses/Month – 59
Gas Cost/Month – $189
Car Cost – $15,000
Finance Cost/Month – $463
Total Cost – $652

Prius
MPG – 55
Gallons Uses/Month – 55
Gas Cost/Month – $175
Car Cost – $13,000
Finance Cost/Month – $401
Total Cost – $577

So currently, I think I'm sold on an Insight. It's a little more expensive than a Civic HX, but I'd be able to have HOV access and I think the Insight will be easier to park in the city.

What do you guys think? Is there anything I'm missing? Thanks in advance for any help or thoughts guys!

Notes:
1. I’ve been shopping for cars on craigslist and auto trader. The prices I’ve listed appear to be around the best prices for a good condition car with average miles.

2. I’ll be able to get HOV lane access with all of the above except the Civic HX.

3. The easiest car to park appears to be the Insight because it’s quite a bit shorter and smaller. Does anyone have any opinions on this?
 

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If you're looking for a car with low gas costs and HOV lane access, then there is nothing better than the Insight. It looks to me like you've done your homework. I say get the Insight...if you can find one!

There is no doubt that you can save money by getting Civic HX. However, I can tell you from personal experience that it's REALLY NICE to have HOV lane access in the Bay Area. It will take a huge amount of time off your commute. Plus the Insight is 200% more fun to drive than a Civic HX.

:)

James
 

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jbrasure is right - If you are commuting during peak rush hours (7-9 am, 3-6 pm), that HOV lane is mighty nice. The Civic HX will save you a few bucks each month over the Insight, but you might be silently cussing out the lucky hybrids that are happily enjoying the HOV lane without you.

I, for one, am thankful for that HOV lane access. If I travel during peak commute hours, my ride is reduced from 1 hour and 45 minutes to about an hour. Gotta love it! :D
 

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go for the Insight!

I just purchased an Insight and am totally sold on the bonuses of this car. If you are going to go hybrid go for the best when it comes to MPG's. With the distance of your commute, it will make a difference. There is someone in NC who has 263K on an Insight and still going strong.
 

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There is a prestige that goes along with driving a hybrid, as well.

One other consideration is whether you plan on carrying more than two people. That was a consideration for us, but we decided to get the Insight anyway to see if we could get along without the extra seating capacity. One good thing about a two seater is that you don't pay bridge toll in the Bay Area if you have two people. We sure have missed that since we sold our Honda del sol, but look forward to it again when our Insight becomes available (in 6 days, 6 hours and 47 minutes).
 

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Discussion Starter #6
minako said:
If I travel during peak commute hours, my ride is reduced from 1 hour and 45 minutes to about an hour. Gotta love it! :D
Hey Minako,

Where you commute to/from?

My commute is going to be from the city down to south San Jose. It appears it's about $70 more a month to get an insight, but if it'll save me that much time everyday, I'm sold!

Thanks again for your help.

Brad
 

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Hi Brad :)

I commute between San Ramon and Antioch every day (although I only go roughly 70 miles round trip, as opposed to your 70 miles each way :!: ).

Are you planning on taking 101 between San Francisco and San Jose? That, my friend, is a VERY h*llish commute. My mom used to commute from San Jose to San Francisco every day at 2 pm (she worked the late shift), so everybody was going home to SF at the same time she was going to work in SF. That stretch, roughly 50 miles, took her almost two hours every day. She had to leave at 2 pm in order to make it by 4 pm. I don't remember what the HOV lanes are like on the 101, but you might want to try checking this page out:

http://rideshare.511.org/carpool_lanes/

I think your category would be "South Bay". Hope that helps!!
 

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potential Insight buyer

Hello wonderful people,

Terrific site and a bunch of amazing info about the Insight. I wonder if I can trouble you all for some opinions?

I'm trying to decide between the Prius and the Insight. I have driven both and am kind of in love with the Insight, but I'm afraid, after reading the Troubleshooting files, that this might be a car that involves a lot of maintenance by the owner. I already work two full-time jobs, I can't have a car that is a third - I need to be able to just get in and drive.

For all of you owners, how often is that kind of tinkering with the car necessary? Is it the exception rather than the rule?

Thanks in advance,
Sam
 

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The troubleshooting section contains the distilled issues faced by thousands of owners. For that reason it may look like a lot of posts. My personal impression is that Insight is a relatively trouble free car compared to certain other makes and models.
 

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I have both and both are good cars. I have 144K miles on my 2000 Insight with no problems. I have 30K miles on a 2004 Prius. The Insight has been discontinued so you will have to find a leftover or buy used. The tax credit on the Prius is in decline but I believe it is still over 1K until early next year.
If you plan on buying a automatic or drive in a lot of traffic I would recommend the Prius. It offers close to the Insight Auto mpg, has more room and can drive in a all electric mode (Electric AC) when stuck in traffic. It also has many options available such as bluetooth phone, GPS, rear camera, leather, smart start etc..
If you want the best mpg car then the manual Insight is the better choice especially for highway driving. Not much in options but it is easy to upgrade the stereo. I also like the seating and road feel better than the Prius although it is smaller and more noisy.
Go drive the vehicles if you have not already done so. Have fun, Rick
 

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Re: potential Insight buyer

babeswithblades said:
- I need to be able to just get in and drive.
IMO then a hybrid of any make or model will NOT be your best choice.

AFAIK both the Honda and Toyota hybrid versions are well below average in frequency of repair (read need fewer repairs). But its when they do have a problem it can be a real headache. Mainly due to the lack of familiarity of hybrids and your limited choices for having them repaired.

In general newer is better in regard to potential breakdowns so don't
exclude the 06 Civic Hybrid over the Prius either.

But in general the BIGGEST thing you'll have to "give-up" in regard to your quote above is the run with a white knuckled grip on the wheel in the fast lanes with the big dogs. Else the MPG potential of whatever hybrid you choose will not be realized. Within reason even when driving as in the above extreme ( :?: I see it every day ) example you'll still get somewhat better MPG in a hybrid vs. most any other car on the road.

HTH! :)
 

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I have to say first that this is my opinion.....
I would be really suprised if you actually got 72mpg average in the potential insight. sure it has been done but i think that there are many variables working against you.
1. cold SF weather
2. traffic. stop and go is not good to insight mpg
3. SF hills. i saw some posts from a SF owner that was really having MPG problems.
4. carpool/HOV lanes, in my experience, usually have speeders in them. Getting good gas mileage in an insight is very difficult at 70+ mph. (or at least it is in mine.)

all these things that i have mentioned will hurt all cars mpg. perhaps the prius would be hurt least in the stop and go traffic due to electric but i am not sure how long that lasts.....
 

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potential new owner -questions

Rick,

Thank you for your reply - it was very helpful!

You wrote:
Rick Reece said:
If you plan on buying a automatic or drive in a lot of traffic I would recommend the Prius. It offers close to the Insight Auto mpg, has more room and can drive in a all electric mode (Electric AC) when stuck in traffic.

Ah, so here is something I may be able to hook a decision on - I live in Chicago, and pretty much all my driving is city driving - short distances, no highway miles (except the occasional spin on LSD). I noticed when I test drove the Insight, it didn't "turn off" like the Prius did. If I stick to only city driving, is the Prius engine a better bet for me?

And a general question - is there anyone out there that knows of a knowledgeable Insight mechanic in the Chicago area? I know there are Insights here (I saw one at the carwash yesterday, and nearly ran over and knocked on the owner's window!) so I'm wondering if someone can assure me there is a mechanic in the area that knows the Insight and can fix it properly.

Thanks again for all the input!
Sam
 

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the insight will "turn off" when the conditions are right for it to do so. biggest thing you have control over is to NOT run the ac/heater in auto mode. that prevents "auto stop" from happening. other factors include outside air temp, engine temp, and a host of other things. a bunch of us have installed a "forced auto stop (FAS)" circuit that kills the engine with the push of a button. the engine will restart instantly when the system senses it should be running.
 

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Just my opinion...

The CVT Insight and Prius get close enough gas mileage that you should base your decision on which car you like the best (for reasons other than MPG.)

Fortunately you're choosing between two excellent cars. I think you'll be happy with either one.

:)
 

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As someone who currently owns both cars (2007 Prius and 2001 Insight CVT which we will soon be selling) here are the differences that I would note:

1. The Insight is much smaller and sits much lower. Getting in and out is more difficult, while the Prius is a very normal height for ingress/egress.

2. The Insight seats are far more comfortable than the Prius (IMO, of course). The Insight seats cradle you and are softer, while the Prius seats sit you up too high, are harder, and don't support the upper back at all. I wish I could install the Insight's seats into the Prius.

3. The ergonomics of the Insight are pretty good, with everything within reach and the controls are easier to read and reasonably easy to understand and use. The gear shift is in the normal place, you have a radio in the normal place (though, note that you won't be able to install on e of the new touchscreen radios in the Insight...the dash sticks out too far just above the radio). The exception to this is the FCD button, which is very useful but you have to read the manual or hang out on this website to figure out what it does. The one glaring omission in the Insight for me was the lack of an armrest. This car so badly needs an armrest that you wonder if the designers even drove it before finalizing the design. Many people say that it also lacks a dead pedal, but the lack of one never bothered me. The Prius steering wheel is too far forward and, inexplicably (for a car in this price range) has no telescopic capability (it does tilt, though). This means that you must adjust your body to driving the car, rather than the car being able to adjust to your comfort. On the other hand, the Prius controls are easy to use, with some of them (radio, heater/AC, map, and others) being on the steering wheel. The Multi-Function Display (MFD) on the Prius is very handy, but some of the controls, like heater/AC and radio, are very inconvenient to operate via the touchscreen display.

4. The Insight is very light and aerodynamic. It's easy to drive, and visibility is mostly good. The one exception is that there is a very noticeable and nerve inducing blind spot in the back on either side of the hatch. The small window in the back of the hatch door is a great addition, because it allows you to see almost everything that's directly behind you (for parallel parking, for example). The Prius is a bit heavy, but drives very much like a normal car (a Camry, for example). It, too, is aerodynamic, but feels much more substantial than the Insight (as in, it feels as much bigger than the Insight as it really is). Visibility is great all around, including the "D" pillars by the hatch. The small window in the Prius hatch is just as useful as the one in the Insight hatch..wonder if Toyota borrowed that idea from Honda? The Prius is very strange to figure out how to drive without a lesson (which Toyota dealers give you before driving off the lot). The gear shift lever is actually a small joystick that's mounted on the dashboard, and whenever you put the car in gear and let go of the lever, it pops back into it's original spot...not something most drivers are accustomed to. The "Drive" and "Reverse" positions are opposite of what you might expect, which further elevates the learning curve. Oddly, Toyota saw fit to put a rather clunky mechanical foot-operated parking brake on this otherwise high-tech electronic vehicle, and it's been extremely difficult for me to get used to having to remember to push this parking brake with my foot to either park or go (you push to engage it, then push to release it). Despite being a "drive-by-wire" car, the Prius driving experience is pretty average, which I suppose is a good thing.

4. The Insight holds a surprising amount of gear for a small two-seater commuter car. Plus, a pleasant surprise for us was to find the large cubby hole below the back deck. It's holds a lot of stuff and somewhat makes up for the relative lack of storage space. The Prius holds as much as a normal hatchback car would (like a Subaru Impreza, for example), which is notably more than the Insight. Another big advantage that the Prius has over the Insight is that it can carry up to three more people in the back seats. And those three passengers will have a surprising amount of legroom. It feels like a mid-size car back there! The Insight is only 155" long and 1850lbs, while the Prius is 175" long and a scale-bending 2900lbs. As a result, you may not be able to carry as much in a Insight as the Prius, but the Insight is easier to park, and you can dart in and out of traffic much easier.

5. The lifetime mpg for my Insight CVT is only 44mpg, but I live in an area where there are quite a few hills, and hills really clobber your gas mileage figures. With careful driving in flat terrain, I'd say you could regularly get 55mpg. On the highway, I regularly get 58mpg, so if you do a lot of highway driving you'll be very happy with the Insight results. So far I'd say that my Prius is averaging about the same as the Insight overall (44mpg) but that the Insight is a much easier car to get good mileage on, while you really have to nurse the Prius to get good mileage. The highway results with the Prius have been in the range of 52-58mpg, though we've only owned the car for a month, so time will tell whether those numbers improve to be similar to the Insight.

6. You can buy a used Insight for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-15k, depending on the mileage, condition, and year. A 2004-current Prius will cost anywhere from $18k-$25k (up to now they've been holding their value extremely well), while a 2000-2003 Prius goes for anywhere from $11-18k (though the first generation was a sedan, not hatchback, which should figure into your equations).

7. The Insight is about the best car you can get for straight commuting. It's small, light, easy to drive, and gives you lots of miles (and smiles) per gallon. You just won't be able to carry much in it (including people), so it would best serve as a second car for commuting, or for a single person who doesn't plan on carrying friends around. The Prius is a good, solid, all around car that can carry four adults in comfort, or two adults and a bunch of cargo, while still returning extremely good miles per gallon.

Hope this helps someone with their decision to buy one of these cars. If you have any questions then please ask.

Vince
 

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Hi. I also live in San Francisco. I commute down to Palo Alto and got an Insight for this purpose. I was also thinking of a Prius, but decided that if I was going to spend that much time commuting, I needed a car that was fun to drive, which for me requires manual transmission. I've had the car for a little over a month, and am very happy with it for several reasons:

First, it definitely is fun to drive. Even though the engine is not very powerful, you can even drive at highway speeds in second gear without the car feeling like it is going to explode. So when I want acceleration, I just downshift (usually to 4th, but sometimes 3rd or 2nd gear), and I can zip up hills, even accelerating as I climb.

I also really like that the car is very small (155"), which makes it really easy to park around San Francisco. I love when I go to a neighborhood with very little parking, and then find a tiny spot that no other car would fit into.

I got my Insight from a dealer, and for $900 got a warranty to 7 years, 100,000 miles, which gives me some peace of mind. Unfortunately, about 24 hours after I got the car, a piece of the trim fell off, and worse yet it wasn't covered by the warranty. But I took it to a different Honda dealer (in SF), and they ordered the part and fixed it, and the whole thing only cost $60 with labor. So the fact that they can get parts and did a repair that wasn't too expensive somehow reassures me.

Another great bonus is the storage under the cargo area, where you can leave your bag without it looking like there's anything valuable in the car.

The car is not perfect, however, and just so you know here are a few drawbacks:

The mileage I get is only around 50 MPG, not the 55 or 60 MPG I was hoping for. Part of this may be attributable to the tires I got with the car, which aren't the OEM ones. Part of this is that I go with the flow of the traffic (75 MPH), rather than the speed limit (65 MPH).

The car's behavior is somewhat inconsistent. Sometimes the car "feels" really heavy, requires downshifting to accelerate up hills, and gets crappy mileage (in the 40s). Other times it doesn't and I can get 53 or even more MPG. Usually if I haven't driven to work in a week or so, the car will go through a "recal" the next time I take it on the hills of route 280, which means bad mileage and less fun to drive (less zippy). At first I tried to fight this by aggressively downshifting and trying to accelerate slowly so as not to drain the battery, but this only prolongs the bad behavior and yields worse MPG. So now I try not to worry too much about the battery--when the car wants to drain it, I just accept.

There are some blind spots that are a bit unnerving when switching lanes. Basically there is a small space between what you see in the mirror and what you see when turn to do a head check where you won't see cars. You have to learn to keep track of when cars might be there.

Parking the car and maneuvering it into tight driveways requires a little practice. The back wheels are slightly narrower than the front wheels, so when it looks like you are parallel to a wall, you are actually backing into it. Just requires some practice.

Similarly, the front of the car isn't high enough to go over a curb, so you have to learn not to pull all the way forward in a parking lot space, or you can damage your car. No big deal, since the Insight is a couple of feet shorter than even a Prius.

The car is loud enough to interfere with music. Also, at least on my stereo there is a "pan" feature, but no back speakers, which is a bit weird. The noise problem may be cureable at the expense of some mileage if you get different tires. My car (which again was used) has a kind of rattling sound in back, which I think is caused by the skirts over the rear wheels.

Regenerative braking cuts out below 20 MPH. This requires some getting used to, because you will be slowing down, and suddenly the brakes will feel like they are giving out slightly.

Anyway, despite this list of issues, I'm really happy with the car. I'm just listing everything you might object to in the car so you don't feel there are bad surprises in store. I still whole-heartedly recommend the MT Insight.
 

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The Prius may be the better car for Chicago particularily in stop and go traffic. Let me offer a few points.

- The Prius has electric AC. As a result the AC will run with the engine off in stop and go traffic. The Insight will not run the AC without the Engine.

- In stop and go traffic the Prius engine will not start & stop but stays off as you inch your way alone. The Insight will restart if you push the gas or as the barke pressure drops if you are coasting to keep the engine off.

- In winter the Prius heats up quicker. It has a thermos that it stores the radiator fluid in. As a result it has heat quickly and the car engine warms up quicker for those shorter trips to get better mpg. Note the Prius usually gets half its average mileage for the first few minutes but does get to its normal range fairly quickly due to the heat saved in the thermos.
 
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