Honda Fit vs. Toyota Prius: Fight!

I wrote up a post yesterday about the deliberating I’m doing as I buy a new car, but when I posted it to Facebook, it was with a simple question: should I go with a Honda Fit or a Toyota Prius. I mainly did that because I wanted that feedback, but I wanted it after people had gone through my post to see the question in context. Some people did do that, but I have a feeling many chimed in with their preference and left it at that.

Not that I’m complaining. The more data points the better. But at the same time, I thought it might be useful to post a follow up (partly due to a request from my brother in law) about the pros and cons of a Honda Fit and a Toyota Prius. Because “better” is a relative term. What will be better for one person won’t be better for another. We all have individual needs and values, so that influences these sort of decisions.


First off, a big disclaimer. One of the biggest limiting factors for me is the need to have a reliable car. I want a car I can have as good a chance on depending on as possible. This means I’d really prefer to be able to have my own mechanic look at it. He’s a person I’ve been using for 10 years, and I know and trust him. Other mechanics are great, but better to have the one who’s got some skin in the game keeping me happy. But I live in rural Maine. There simply aren’t that many used cars here to pick from. So where in a more populated area, I might be able to have more flexibility with what I picked, I’m constrained by what’s available here, to an extent. If I found a really good deal in Portland or Bangor, I’d drive and try to make it happen, but it would have to be very persuasive.

There’s also a bit of a time constraint. The Buick’s registration expires at the end of September, so I’d like to have a new car by then, so that I avoid having to renew it and make any repairs I need to for it to pass the safety inspection. So I have about two months. Not a tight schedule, but the clock is ticking.

With that said, here’s where I am right now, mentally:

Areas Where the Cars are Evenly Matched

  • Dependability: both are rated highly by Consumer Reports and other review services. Both have many people who speak out in favor of the car. Perhaps the Prius might get a bit of an edge here, as I’ve heard multiple people tell me of theirs lasting past 400,000 miles, which I have yet to hear from a Fit advocate, but really, they’re neck and neck.
  • Cost: Honestly, the Fit is cheaper in the short term, but as you factor in the gas savings for the car over the length of time I’m planning on using it (at least 10 years), then that ends up getting canceled out, even if gas stays as cheap as it is now. When I budget, I budget long term, so that savings is a real factor for me.
  • Interior space is similar in both. For a subcompact car, it’s impressive what Honda’s been able to do with its design of the Fit. For it to be even compared to a mid-size car is a feat.
  • Winter handling is meh for both. The Prius has a bit worse clearance. The Fit is lighter. Neither are going to get me through a raging snowstorm in Maine, but that’s okay. It’s not why I’m buying them. I’ll likely get snow tires for either.

Honda Fit Advantages

  • Maintenance for the car should be more straightforward. There’s no hybrid battery to worry about, so that’s one less thing to break.
  • Style: I think the Fit looks like a car that’s more fun to drive. The Prius has some strange things going on with its rear windshield. It looks funky.
  • Trunk space: the Fit has a big trunk, but that comes with a qualifier. It’s a subcompact car. So it’s a “Big trunk for a subcompact car.” The Prius has a good size trunk for a mid-size car, which is what it is. I’ve looked up cubic feet capacity of both, and they’re a wash that way. But the Fit has seats that are very adaptable, and I tend to think for moving stuff, the Fit would be the better car. (Which is not an insignificant plus. Denisa and I agree that would be very useful to have.)

Toyota Prius Advantages

  • Safety is a bit better for the Prius in my book. Crash ratings are about the same, but I tend to favor heavier cars over lighter cars. A Prius has the Fit beat by 500 lbs, and it’s just a bigger car.
  • Fuel efficiency: the Prius gets 50mpg on average. The comparable Fit gets 30mpg. It’s not even close. That’s great for my pocketbook, and I get to have that smug sense of superiority whenever I talk to people who get worse gas mileage. Saving money, the planet, and my ego in one fell swoop!
  • Bells and whistles: A used Prius has a lot of sweet perks, even at the base model. Bluetooth connectivity. LCD screen for selecting music. Keyless entry and start. For a guy who likes gadgets, the Prius has an edge there.

In the end, they come out about even, which is why is such a hard decision for me. It’s likely going to be made up by what I can get a good deal on locally. I’m leaning Prius now, but that could change depending on how negotiations go.

I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, thanks to all of you for your helpful input and suggestions.

The Joys of Shopping for a New Car

Denisa’s Buick is beginning to show its age. It’s a 2001, and we’ve happily used it for many years now, but it’s at the point that it’s beginning to need repairs. Nothing too outrageous. Some leaks here and there, and the promise of more repairs to come in the future. The car’s only worth around $1,500, and it’s not like putting money into it will make it more valuable. Sure, we could repair it now (and who knows, we still might), but every bit of money we put into it is a bit of money that we could have put into a new (used) car.

So we’re looking for new wheels.

Of course, since I’m an obsessive researcher, this is quite the process. Basically, it’s the simplest of research questions: “Which car is best for Bryce’s family in 2017?” But like many simple research questions, answering it proves to be fairly complicated.

The first part is easy. We know what kind of cars we don’t want. So sports cars, trucks, and minivans are out of the picture. (We’re not getting a minivan. We have three children. They all fit in the back seat of a normal car. End of story.) It’s been nice to have the Buick because it has a bigger trunk, so when we need more space to haul stuff to the dump or something like that, we can. (The Civic is lovely, but it’s a tight fit.)

Cost is an issue, of course. We want to buy a used car, because they’re cheaper, and we want a reliable car, because we’d like to have it for quite some time to come. In my experience, “reliable” automatically rules out American and European cars. I’ve had a Pontiac and a Buick. Both have a definite shelf life that’s quite a bit shorter than I’d like. For me, that means we’re down to a Honda or a Toyota. No, they’re not the most “fun” rides in the world. They’re reasonable, practical cars. And Denisa and I are reasonable, practical people. It’s a match made in heaven.

But which model? We thought about mid-size cars, but they were usually too pricey. But smaller cars have worse trunk space. So for a while, we thought we had it figured out: we’d get a Honda Fit, which is a subcompact car, but has a huge trunk, since it’s a hatchback. It’s got great reliability and reviews, and we know friends who have them and are very happy with theirs.

But there are no Fits in the immediate area, and so I kept researching while we evaluated our options. And my research into hatchbacks brought me to the Toyota Prius, and the wonders of a hybrid. (Which meant a whole new slate of research. Reliability of hybrid batteries. Buying used hybrids. That sort of thing.) And 50mpg really trumps 30mpg, you know?

Sigh. Even between those two models, there’s the question of how many miles is too many. What style would we prefer? Which year? I find myself falling down a rabbit hole of research, and there’s always something new to investigate. Some new question to answer.

Even once that’s over, you have to buy the actual thing, and that’s where I really don’t like things. Negotiating at a board game is great fun. Doing it over a car, with real money involved? No thank you. There’s this nagging feeling that you’re doing it wrong.

Perhaps the solution to all of this is to just fix the Buick for the short term, freeing up time to do a more leisurely search for a used car. Except that it all takes time. Time I don’t have a ton of. And I think I’d keep researching and thinking and reading and wasting a whole lot more time. And so just buying the car seems like the way to go.

In any case. Honda Fit or Toyota Prius. If you were to buy one of those and hope that it would last you around 75,000 miles or more of driving, what year would you get, and how many miles would be too many to have on it when you purchased it? If you know anything about used cars, I’d love to get your input.

Commenting on Others’ Appearances: The Beard Factor

As a linguistics major in college, I got to learn all sorts of facts about the way we communicate with others. Stuff I still think about, decades later. For example, the effects of pausing preference (the amount of time we wait before we assume the person we’re talking to is done speaking, and we can speak). Men’s pausing preference is shorter than women’s, which leads to men speaking more often in a conversation. Not just that, but women walk away from the conversation feeling like they were constantly interrupted, but men walk away thinking everything went smoothly. All because of pausing preference. (The same is true for northerners vs. southerners. Southerners have a longer pausing preference than northerners. Generally speaking.)

For more information about this, check out conversation analysis. But today’s post isn’t about that. It’s about a segment of sociolinguistics, the study of how language is used in society. Today, we’re talking about “things you can talk to strangers and acquaintances about.”

It’s been a while since I had my class, but this is what I remember: in English, there are certain topics that are considered “safe” conversation starters. The weather is the old go-to. You can talk about the weather with just about anyone you’d like. Go up to a person in the park and say, “Lovely sunshine, isn’t it?” and you might have a brief chat about today’s weather, tomorrow’s weather, and the like. Similarly, you can talk to strangers if they have a dog or pet with them, or a baby. As long as you’re saying nice things, of course. There’s a big difference between telling a person, “What a lovely baby!” and telling a person, “Your baby looks seriously messed up. Did you do something to it?”

Compliments are safe. Critiques are not.

With acquaintances, there’s another category of safe conversation starters: change in appearance. If you see someone is wearing a new dress, or has a new haircut, it’s totally fine to go up to them and compliment the new dress or haircut. Or even just observe that they look different, with the implication that it looks nice.

Sure, you’ll get people from time to time who don’t fully understand this. They might comment how much they dislike your haircut. Or how ugly that dress is. But these people are generally socially awkward. They’re trying to follow the norms, and failing. They’re the exception.

Interestingly, I’ve observed this all fall apart in one specific area of appearance: beards. If you have a beard (particularly if you’ve just started growing a beard), people seem to feel entitled to say exactly what they think about that beard, regardless of how well they know you. “You look like a mountain man.” “Hey there, Grizzly Adams.” “Your beard looks so shaggy.” “When are you going to shave?” “I prefer beards that are neatly trimmed.” “Your beard is too gray.” “That’s ugly.”

When I was growing a beard, and for several years after I first had one, I had all of these things said to me. Exact quotes. (Well the one about being gray is something that’s a new addition to the mixture.) But I’ve seen the same thing happen to friends who have beards. Somehow, it seems that society or certain people in society believe that not only are beards safe to comment about, but they’re safe to critique.

Imagine for a moment if I went up to a woman and made some of these same observations about her dress, or her hair, or her general appearance. “You look ugly.” “Didn’t have too much time to get ready this morning, did you?” “I like you much better with more/less makeup.” “That haircut is hideous.”

As I write those, it just now occurs to me that perhaps those are all things women have to put up with all the time. Not being a woman myself (and generally being a polite person who doesn’t comment on my personal opinion of others’ appearances), I might just not get exposed to that. But I’d like to think that if women get those remarks, it’s a sign that the person making the remark is a sexist jerk, or fairly petty. Correct me in the comments, and my apologies in advance if I’m just not better informed about that.

The people commenting on my beard (and my friends’ beards) are generally people who I don’t think would go up to a person and insult their appearance. Somehow, however, they feel like their personal preference for or against facial hair is something they should share with as many people as possible. Certainly with people who have facial hair.

To those people, might I just say that this innate feeling to critique a man’s facial hair is . . . misplaced? Misguided? Unwanted? I’d like to see more people lump beards in with hair cuts and new clothes. You can comment if you think it looks nice, but otherwise . . .

Just don’t mention it.

How Busy is Yellowstone the Week of the Fourth of July?

Every time I told someone I was going to head up to Yellowstone, they were initially excited. “Awesome!” they’d say. “When are you going?”

“July 1st.”

And almost to a person, that’s when the excitement would fade. Instead, their eyebrows would raise, and their tone would change to one of polite concern. The sort of tone you use when someone tells you they just opened a LuLaRoe store and wouldn’t you like to come to an in-home boutique session next week. “Oh,” they’d say. “You and everybody else in the nation, right?”

It was as if there were some unwritten law somewhere that stated that the week of July 4th, everyone would descend on Yellowstone en masse and make it as hellacious for each other as possible.

After this conversation played out with enough different people, I began to doubt my life choices. Perhaps going to Yellowstone that day was a bad decision. Maybe I should do something more reasonable, like skydiving without a parachute, or swimming with Great Whites. But after consulting my schedule, it was clear that if I was going to go to Yellowstone, it was then or not at all. Surely it couldn’t be that bad.

I’m on the flip side now. I have been to Yellowstone the week of the Fourth of July, and I am here to tell you all that all those people who were concerned for my sanity . . . didn’t need to be.

Don’t get me wrong: There were plenty of people in the park. Parking was bad for Old Faithful, the Paint Pots, and Artist’s Point. But “bad” in this case means “I had to wait for 5 minutes at the Paint Pots, walk for 5 extra minutes for Old Faithful, and wait for 20 minutes for Artist’s Point.”

If these were ride wait times at Disney World, everyone would be amazed at how short they were. The weather was gorgeous, too, so it’s not like we can chalk it up to “people just didn’t want to go.”

Basically, anywhere that was easy to get to and didn’t involve hiking at all was mobbed. Anywhere that was even remotely strenuous? Not that bad. If I’d gone on any real hikes, I’m confident I wouldn’t have seen many people at all.

So if you’re ever in a similar situation, and you’re wondering if you should give it a go, don’t let the naysayers dissuade you. We had a blast in the park. The only bit of advice I would give would be to leave your hotel early. We left Jackson Hole at 7:30am, and all was well. Also, download the cool Geyser App they have for the park. It’ll let you know when the geysers are scheduled to go off again. Just update it before you go into the park, or do it at Old Faithful. Cell coverage everywhere else in Yellowstone is pretty crummy.

And because I kept quoting him time and time again, and my kids have never seen him, here’s a Yogi Bear clip to show them what I was talking about.

BYU Scavenger Hunt

While trying to come up with family reunion activities, one event many of us wanted to do was take our kids to BYU. Show them around. Let them see the campus. But I was worried that would sound boring to kids, so I thought it would be more fun to make a scavenger hunt out of it. Turn the tour into a game, and see if that didn’t catch their eye.

The concept caught on as soon as they heard about it. There was just one problem: I hadn’t made the scavenger hunt.

Somehow I always assumed I’d have time to make it up in the future, or that there would be some freely available online. I kept kicking that “To Do” item down the road, until finally it was the night before, and my awesome nieces were talking about how excited they were for the scavenger hunt the next day.

“Yeah.” I said. “Me too. Here’s the thing, though. I haven’t made it.”

Sometimes it stinks to admit your own incompetence. My nieces could have told me just what they thought of that, but instead, they offered to make it for me. (Note how I said they were “awesome nieces” and not “loser nieces.”) In the end, the one heading to BYU came up with the whole thing in an hour. The next day, we put it to the test, and it was a complete blast. Everyone had a great time, and I’d recommend it to anyone. I asked my niece if she would be okay if I posted it online, to share the love with others, and she happily agreed.

So without further ado, here’s the scavenger hunt. In case one of you out there is looking to do such a thing and just doesn’t have the time to come up with it.


BYU Photo Scavenger Hunt

Take a picture of each of the following. You have 45 minutes.

  • Find a byu student and pose with them in a way that evokes the club, major, campus organization, or sport they’re involved in. This photo only counts if a member of a different team can correctly guess the organization/major within 5 tries. (No text or pictures within the photo) (50 points)
  • Awkward photo with a couple. (25 points)
  • High five a professor, administrator, or janitor (50 points)
  • Go to any shop and ask a staff member what product they recommend, then take a picture with it (25 points)
  • CTR ring (that someone already owns, not for sale) (20 points)
  • Recreate a picture from a poster or advertisement for a byu event (20 points)
  • The most expensive thing for sale on campus (object with the highest price counts) (50 points)
  • Pose with any animal (15 points)
  • An even-numbered classroom (10 points)
  • Selfie with Karl Maeser (15 points)
  • Someone wearing a different college’s merch (30 points, or 75 for University of Utah)
  • Reading the wackiest book you can find in the library (wackiest book gets the points) (50 points)
  • Make an illusion where one of your team members looks unnaturally large or small (50 points)
  • A pendulum (15 points)
  • A funny or interesting quote (15 points)
  • Something from the 19th century (30 points)
  • Find a sculpture or art installation and use it in a creative photo. (Most creative gets points) (10 points for the photo, +40 for most creative)
  •  As many people as possible from your group (those who have phones) in the dark shining a phone flashlight up onto their faces (15 points)
  • A video of a teammate singing to a student/staff member (40 points)
  • A video of a student/staff member singing to the team (50 points)
  • Whole group with any person who’s not on the scavenger hunt (20 points) (+10 points for each photo they are in if you can get them to join your team)
  • Someone who’s engaged, not married (50 points)
  • A flag from a different continent (up to 1 from each continent) (10 points per flag)
  • Reading a book written by a family member (30 points)
  • Your group with finger mustaches outside heritage building 8 (15 points)
  • A water fountain (5 points)
  • An exit sign (5 points)
  • A fan (5 points)
  • A piece of art from more than 30 years ago (30 points)
  • A modern piece of art (20 points)
  • The librarian shushing your group (50 points)
  • Smelling flowers (10 points)
  • Teammate leaving the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe (30 points)
  • Whole team in a small place (most creative gets bonus points) (20 points for photo, +30 for most creative)
  • Video of group singing a song by an object that is in its lyrics (ie singing “wheels on the bus” next to a bus) (30 points)
  • Pose like a statue next to it (20 points)
  • Cheapest thing for sale (not free, lowest price counts. For a tie, split the points) (50 points)
  • Something that refers to Brigham Young (15 points)
  • A picture of Jesus (15 points)
  • Someone sitting at a computer in a computer lab (15 points)
  • A campus police officer (40 points)
  • Something having to do with engineering, music, art, law, education, or family science (10 points per major)
  • The daily universe (20 points)
  • Something that was not there when the adult of the group went to byu (30 points)
  • A piece of fudge or any by creamery object for sale (10 points)
  • The inside of a dorm building (10 points)
  • The sports complex (10 points)
  • A teammate dancing in front of the Smith field house (10 points)
  • On the edge of campus (25 points)
  • PDA (50 points)
  • A student studying (30 points)
  • An info sheet about any major (1 only, 10 points)
  • An on-campus ATM (15 points)
  • Nike branded byu merchandise (15 points)
  • A byu bumper sticker (15 points)
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