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.

Anyway.

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.

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