Motoring Advice: Are the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids worth it environmentally?
Aidan Timmons and Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham team up to help readers make the right choice with their next car. Aidan visits dealers all over the country to produce a monthly guidebook on the values of used cars. He is co-editor of Motor Trade Publishers, who supply a car-valuing service to the motor trade, insurance companies and finance houses. Eddie is author of former best-seller 'Clever Car Buying'
I only learned to drive five years ago, in my mid-30s, when I bought a 1998 Ford Fiesta for €300. I live in Dublin and cycled (still do) everywhere. I no longer have the car and am looking to get a new one. I am drawn to a hybrid and plug-in hybrids for environmental reasons. The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid is jumping out at me, but they are €30k-plus. Am I mad going from €300 to €30,000? I have a budget of €12k to €15k, which means I am looking at second-hand hybrids. I am wondering, if I am serious about my environmentalism, should I beg, steal and borrow to go all the way?
Aidan: Your question highlights a key issue between price and value. If you pay the price for a new plug-in hybrid, will you see the value from it? I don't think so. Buy a used hybrid or even an electric vehicle if you wish. The Prius and Auris hybrids should be squarely within your budget.
I admire your intentions and appreciate your question, but you can be serious about environmentalism without buying a new car. You can recycle cleverly, make energy-efficient changes to your home and interrogate the origins of the products that you currently use to determine if they are environmentally resourced, and many more things besides. Ideally, we should all be doing those things anyway.
Eddie: Borrowing to buy a cleaner new car on what I take to be small mileage is paying a big price. How much are you going to save in emissions? A minimal amount, I'd say. Yet there is the argument you should on the basis of what you stand for. But I don't think you should stretch economically. Buy a good used Prius.