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4-Time Tesla Owner Opts For New Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid-Electric Vehicle

A brand-loyal Tesla family moves to a new Toyota Prius. The reasons why are interesting for green vehicle owners and fans.

There are a few common phrases Tesla owners like to use when discussing how much they love their cars. One is, "Once you buy a Tesla, you never go back to ICE." Another is, "Tesla is ten years ahead of the competition." While there is certainly an element of truth to both of these common phrases, social media clubs are now full of Tesla owners posting up images of other green vehicles they have just purchases instead of another Tesla.

The most recent that caught our attention was at A member and owner of four past Teslas boldly created a post explaining why a new Prius Prime PHEV was the replacement for a well-worn Tesla Model S. We won't divulge the member's name and background - you can join the club if you wish - but we did check that the member was not new, and had been active for many years.

The reasons that this long-time Tesla owner opted for the Toyota Prius were of interest to us, and maybe you will find them interesting as well. They include:
- The Prius having a greener carbon footprint overall
- Poor Tesla customer service
- Prius Prime's Apple and Android CarPlay connectivity
- "Out of control" Tesla insurance costs

There are more reasons listed, but again, it's a club you can join if you so wish.

If you follow Torque News you know that we view Tesla as the industry benchmark for electric vehicle excellence. That is why the current trend of Tesla owners departing the Tesla brand when they need an additional vehicle or replacement vehicle is newsworthy. At least in our view. Feel free to post yours in the comments below. Here are some related stories to give this one some added perspective.

- Here's Why a Tesla Owner Opted For a New Ford Mustang Mach-E Instead of a Model Y
- Tesla Owners Are Buying Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrids – Here’s Why

Author Note: We try hard to comply with the rules of various clubs and forums. We value our membership in such clubs, and as the organizers and admin of dozens ourselves, we like to play fair. Prior to posting this story, we re-read the rules to ensure that we were not violating anyone's trust. The image of the Prius parked at Superchargers is our own and is not the vehicle highlighted in the story text.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


Genny Chirdon (not verified)    March 30, 2021 - 7:58AM

Our family has a Tesla Model 3 and a Prius Prime. I prefer the Prius Prime hands down. More economical, and the Central PA/Northeast OH area, where we do most of our driving, makes supercharging a headache when away from home.

Ty Fawkes (not verified)    March 30, 2021 - 10:14AM

We've been driving a non-Tesla, 100% BEV for many years. We love our EV but to be 100% honest road trips can at times be a real pain. We have a few friends and know several others with Teslas and they are as annoyingly happy as people with a Apple Mac addiction. So, we consider getting a Tesla almost weekly based on range alone.

While it would also be wonderful to have access to all the charging infrastructure options driving a Tesla would afford, the insurance rates are prohibitive to the point of seeming punitive. When we got our EV WAAY back in 2011 our insurance actually went down from the ICE vehicle we were driving. Over the years insurance rates have climbed, but are still in line with what our family members pay for their ICE vehicles. Our friends who drive Teslas tell us their insurance costs are outrageous.

Maintenance for our EV has always been very cheap and almost unnecessary as everything 'just works'. While none of the Tesla drivers we know has had any major maintenance expense, many have had minor annoyances of one kind or another. Most were in warranty issues, but the time and effort inconvenience for service itself has a cost. A nickle here and a dime there add up.

Do I still want a Tesla and would I buy one knowing all that I do? Damn skippy! In a heartbeat. But I'm still hesitant for one reason: Volkswagen. The only vehicle we've ever loved almost as much as our EV is the Jetta that served us so well for years. The fact that Tesla owners are choosing a Prius over another Tesla speaks volumes to consumers like me. Hopefully Tesla will take notice.

Britton Robbins (not verified)    March 31, 2021 - 7:57AM

You can also add a "comma two" running Openpilot to a Prius Prime to get really decent L2 autonomous driving capabilities.

Al D (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 6:49AM

I never had an interest in a Tesla or any EV with the current battery. However, when I read the specs on the RAV4 Prime, it shot right to the top of my wish list.

Dave C (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 11:53AM

I traded in my model 3 for a Hyundai ioniq plug in. My driving needs are much diminished, I've had horrific tesla customer service and my car stranded me overnight on a trip from Buffalo to Pitt on a cold day because I could not get battery warm enough to supercharge.. 2 hours in and supercharger set as destination.
The myth that Tesla is so far ahead is gone, customer service is going to be their downfall. As the competition catches up and closes the gap these things will matter more and more. Full self driving is a 10k sham that will also turn a lot of owners into former owners. Writing is on the wall for Tesla to slide.

Ray (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 6:12AM

In reply to by Dave C (not verified)

I also have a an Ioniq PHEV and it’s a phenomenal car. No question it’s cheaper than a Tesla EV. I also drive a 2011 Nissan Leaf, 78,000 miles and it’s crazy cheap as well. For local needs both run on sonar power. The Ioniq yields 62 mpg on the highway in hybrid mode!!! Thanks

Joseph E Dante (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 12:07PM

I have a Prius prime and it's great around town since I'm using only battery, but anywhere else and you just watch the fuel gauge sink.
Also I'm still stuck with changing the oil and wondering what is that sound coming from the engine? Or is it the transmission?
I think the carbon footprint is wrong just based on where your energy comes from and does the Prius prime really have a smaller footprint if you're burning gas all the time.
I'm looking forward to getting a Tesla at some point in the future and not having to go to a stinky gas station ever again.

Steven Morehouse (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 11:22AM

In reply to by Casey (not verified)

That is a tired argument. There is zero room for doubt anymore. The research has been done over, and over, and over... YES, BEV has a smaller footprint. No doubt. Yes. The answer is yes.

And really, that argument is only even plausible vs. ICE. For a PHEV, you have the footprint of the gas AND the battery production.

stan kinaz (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 1:10PM

Good for him. I have my 2013 Prius and a 2018 Tesla. He got ripped off with that new Prius. It sucks and cost way too much. And f Toyota service. They cost way too much. Watching YouTube videos to repair the Prius is way too easy to cost hundreds. And a $1000 to change spark plugs on a prius? F you Toyota stealerships.

Steven Morehouse (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 4:36PM

I had a 2015 Tesla Model S P85D and absolutely loved it and the customer service that came with it! I lost that car in a house fire. I couldn't afford to replace it with another S, so I ordered a 2019 Model 3. We also replaced our burned Honda Fit with a Chevy Bolt. Tesla's customer service has taken a dramatic shift downward compared to the amazing service I enjoyed with the S. I don't know if that's due to changes or you get special service with the $100k+ model. But I would choose almost any other brand to not have to deal with Tesla as a company. On the other hand, no other company makes a compelling alternative, in my opinion. Plug-in hybrids SOUND ideal, but in the end you get all the negatives of driving an ICE combined with the few negatives of driving a BEV. They burn fuel for no real reason. You can't drive EV only as you'd expect. I wouldn't consider and hybrid at this point. No other BEV comes close to Tesla... yet. It is coming though. But for now, Tesla is still special despite the flaws.

John Goreham    April 2, 2021 - 8:31AM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

Great perspective on the changes to Tesla's ownership experience. I have tested most of the modern PHEVs like the Clarity, RAV4 Prime, Prius Prime, and the Outlander PHEV. All of them operated on EV only. I drove the RAV4 Prime its full 42 miles in EV mode twice without any use of the gas engine. Owners report the same. And do modern PHEVs have all the same downsides of legacy ICE vehicles? They enjoy the same brake wear benefits of BEVs. No timing belts accessory belts, starters, alternators, transfer cases (Crossovers). Join some PHEV clubs and learn from owners how these vehicles operate in the real world and you will see a lot of posts from owners who use them primarily as EVs, but can also enjoy long trips without the need to charge if they so choose. Congrats on both cars, but the Bolt is an amazing deal here in Mass. $125 per month lease is the fixed cost of ownership. They are almost free.

Steven Morehouse (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 11:19AM

In reply to by John Goreham

Hey John. I think you need to look a little deeper. Plug-in EVs having "EV only" mode is a farse, or at the very least a dishonest portrayal that leads potential owners to future disappointment. You say "primarily as EVs" and owners may believe that to be true, but only because they aren't really keeping track. Beyond joining forums, I have done a lot of research into the subject, because I really wanted to believe PHEV to be a genuine option for someone looking to nearly eliminate fossil fuel usage. On the surface/marketing, a PHEV is the best option to many because they perceive BEV as being too limiting and they BELIEVE a PHEV can be EV-only when not being used for an extended trip. It just isn't so.

There are a few reasons for this:

1) severely restricted range. The Prius plus and its 25 miles simply isn't enough (particularly when combined with reason #2 below) to functionally operate on EV only for most people. The few that do, still need to refer to the reasons 2, 3 and 4 below.

2) winter. That 25 miles becomes 10 to 15. There's no way around this, and some PHEV (see Chrysler Pacifica) have programming to simply not allow EV usage below a certain temperature. OK, some people are blessed to live in perma-spring. They can see #3 and #4 below.

3) conditions. Almost all PHEVs are designed to operate such that the two powertrains complement each other for performance. Hills, extra weight, a heavy accelerator pedal... these all engage the gas engine "unnecessarily" and depending on the model you may not have any control over it at all. Yes, the car still relatively "sips" the gas and yes that's "better" than an ICE, but it isn't EV only. Alright, you never haul anything, you live in a flat area and you drive like a granny... you still have to consider #4.

4) "maintenance mode". Whether it is a genuine need or a marketing deal with the oil companies, I couldn't say... but all PHEVs, whether admitted to in their manual or not, burn fuel periodically to "maintain" the gas components and/or prevent the fuel from gelling. For some (again Pacifica, I'm looking at you) this is quite considerable. Those that have tried to use it as a genuine EV-only have seen some astonishingly high fuel consumption figures. Others, like the Prius plus, you aren't going to engage it because you have such low range that you're going to use the gas engine regularly anyway.

PHEV had its place for about a minute 5 years ago. Prior to that they weren't good enough. Now that they're good enough, what's the point? BEV is just better. This whole concept of "range anxiety" is in most people's heads and nothing more. As a fully electric household (no "backup" ICE vehicle for roadtrips, etc), I can confidently say that "range anxiety" stops within 2 months of owning one. True, there are some theoretical places that I can't feasibly get to, and for those my "backup" would theoretically be a rental car. But I'm going on year 6 and I've yet to rent a car even once, and we've done plenty of trips in the Teslas. The Bolt, not so much. Tesla's charging network is just so vastly more convenient and the car is more comfortable, so it is the obvious choice... but if the Bolt was all we had, it would be fine too.

Gas should be firmly in society's rearview already. That day is coming at an accelerating rate. Buying a PHEV now, in my opinion, is just holding onto a safety blanket for most people. For those that really need it, just be aware that you'll be burning fuel more than you think if you've done the calculation and determined that your commute is within you model's "EV-only" range.

John Goreham    April 2, 2021 - 12:12PM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

Steven, posted today by a RAV4 Prime owner. Pretty typical: "MOST OF MY DRIVING IS UNDER 40 MILES PER DAY. SO.....1300 miles on car and still have 1/4 left on original tank from dealership." Why can't PHEVs have longer range like the 42 the RAV4 Prime offers as battery tech progresses and still be high-efficiency hybrids the rest of the time?

DAVID HARDING (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 11:18AM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

Way to much research and not enough actual ownership will have you making all sorts of false assumptions about PHEV's.

I leased a 2015 Ford Cmax PHEV with advertised range of 20 miles on a charge it got that in the winter in Portland, Oregon. In the summer it would get more like 25.

I don't drive very much but I would put gas in the tank every 4 months or so if I was primarily driving around town. I very rarely would have a day where the gas motor would engage. The primary reason it would engage was due to sudden acceleration.

Since purchasing that car I have purchased a Tesla Model X, and an Audi Q5 PHEV. We use the Audi on long trips. It is an excellent car.

The Tesla model X, while awesome, isn't great for longer trips as we bought the 75 kw model with the shorter range. After some range deterioration it gets about 212 miles or so on a charge. This makes longer trips more difficult.

PHEV's are great cars that provide for a quiet and excellent driving experience.

DAVID HARDING (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 11:21AM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

Way to much research and not enough actual ownership will have you making all sorts of false assumptions about PHEV's.

I leased a 2015 Ford Cmax PHEV with advertised range of 20 miles on a charge it got that in the winter in Portland, Oregon. In the summer it would get more like 25.

I don't drive very much but I would put gas in the tank every 4 months or so if I was primarily driving around town. I very rarely would have a day where the gas motor would engage. The primary reason it would engage was due to sudden acceleration.

Since purchasing that car I have purchased a Tesla Model X, and an Audi Q5 PHEV. We use the Audi on long trips. It is an excellent car.

The Tesla model X, while awesome, isn't great for longer trips as we bought the 75 kw model with the shorter range. After some range deterioration it gets about 212 miles or so on a charge. This makes longer trips more difficult.

PHEV's are great cars that provide for a quiet and excellent driving experience.

Jay Maynard (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 12:10PM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

You must live in the city. There are plenty of places I go from my home in rural southern Minnesota where there aren't fast chargers for a hundred miles.

I'll buy a BEV when I can get one that will haul as much as my new Mercedes GLC300 for at least 300 miles at 70 MPH or better, anywhere in the country away from Interstates, with the same comfort and quiet, and be ready to do it all over again in 15 minutes, repeated indefinitely, and pay less than $50k with comparable maintenance and insurance costs. Until then, a BEV simply won't do the job.

Thor (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 7:42AM

In reply to by John Goreham

One thing though Tesla uses emmc chips but recently changed how that works. It's a storage device to log data but it was at one point needed for most thing I like turning on ac or other stuff in the car.

Those emmc are only 16gb and soldier on the board which cost thousands to replace since board has to be replaced.

They could have used a ssd instead for data logging and could be accessible to replace for cheap

Emmc cost around $10 just for part while ssd solid state drive are around $100.00
But they work better for wear and tear and last way longer.

We are ditching belts and such but what quality are the parts being inside.

Western Digital Green M.2 2280 120GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive for $50.00 which can be replaced by anyone since it's not soldier to the board
If they use that then the 16gb emmc for $10.00

Not only cheaper in long run but cheaper to repair as well since there last the cars lifetime

Nettoyeur (not verified)    April 1, 2021 - 6:18PM

I am a physicist, and am very intrigued by EVs and hybrids. But I put 7K miles/year and few hundred $ in maintenance/yr driving to work in the 1998 Acura TL I bought on eBay for $8500 some 16 years ago, so spending $30-50K on a new EV or hybrid car is not attractive. And therein lies the challenge for lowering carbon usage. Maybe buying a used Prius "for cheap" and changing out the battery is the way to go.......

Nettoyeur (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 11:48AM

In reply to by John Goreham

Another problem for EV expansion is that for now at least, apartment dwellers generally cannot charge at home, charging stations are infrequent in many (most???) parts of the country, and if EVs catch on, crowdng may become a problem. This could change with a lot of investment. We'll see.

Steven Morehouse (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 11:37AM

In reply to by Nettoyeur (not verified)

As a scientist, perhaps you just need to consider changing your target variable. Making the calculation entirely about $ is shortsighted and, frankly, a bit selfish. Necessary, perhaps, but selfish nonetheless. It ignores the "cost" to your family, your neighbours, your community... your planet... to continue burning fossil fuels.

Of course, consumption isn't the only part of the equation. And if you are truly comparing a new BEV/PHEV to a 16 year old relatively fuel-efficient ICE, then you may very well be ahead of the game environmentally-speaking by continuing to drive that old gal. I'm sure over-production and over-consumption are bigger environmental detriments than fuel-burning. But that is a wholistic calculation of carbon, not dollars.

I'm not saying people can't consider their budget. If that's a constraint, then that's a constraint. But for those that can afford to switch and are considering their next ICE then they shouldn't be looking only at the dollar figures.

Now, for those that ARE intent on looking at $ only, I emplore them to at least look at the WHOLE picture! The one factor that is so rarely considered and almost never written about, is longevity. An ICE is likely to start increasing in maintenance costs (or die completely) by around 120,000/200,000 miles/kms. Getting them to last over 200,000/320,000 miles/kms is a rarity that would have required some pretty meticulous maintenance. But a BEV should last half a million to a million or more with nearly no maintenance. Is there data to back that up? Well, increasingly so, yes but the reality is they haven't been around long enough to know for sure. I'm confident I'm getting at least 2 cars' lives out of my EVs. That makes a $50,000 BEV equivalent to a $25,000 ICE and that's before fuel and maintenance savings that everyone wants to look at exclusively.

Used is universally better than new for cars, right? That's always been the prudent thinking. And eventually that will be true again (maybe even already). I would really hesitate buying a used PHEV right now. You're getting older tech and a used and probably poorly maintained ICE engine. A used BEV is probably a better bet. Or stick with your '98 Acura because it sounds like she's served you well.

Good luck.

Seth (not verified)    April 5, 2021 - 9:13AM

In reply to by Steven Morehouse (not verified)

Unless you explain how you acquire your money to buy vehicles to begin with, you have no business telling people what's a selfish purchase.

Not to mention that buying an older used vehicle is like recycling on steroids. People who are willing to reuse what someone else discarded for something newly made are generally far from being selfish. You need to look in the mirror to see how wasteful your lifestyle really is before criticizing others for theirs! I'll be willing to bet you haven't taken into account the totality of it all.

By the way, battery power is the oldest technology of all if you want to get technical. Batteries will be nearly useless in another 30-50 years or so because it's about the worst form of electrical energy storage there is. It's a chemical energy storage system that needs to go through electrochemical conversions within the battery, which is itself a wear item and requires an excessive superstructure for containment given a cell's small form factor. It's an incredibly wasteful way to store such energy, when you could just store chemical energy externally or even use something like a flow battery.

The problem with ICE isn't the carbon-based fuel, it's the inefficient way that combustion is converted into mechanical energy and the byproducts thereof, which cannot be recycled. There are far better ways to store and release chemical energy in a closed loop process that is efficient enough to run things that don't require wheels and paved roads. It's mind boggling how closed minded people have become these days as if battery electric vehicles are really the long term future of transportation when that's about as old a technology as it gets. It's nothing but a stop gap until a truly revolutionary technology takes hold. Unfortunately, we haven't seen major investment into revolutionary technologies for about 50 years now, which leaves us with nothing but tiny evolutionary improvements that don't add up to much.

What happened to thinking big? How long has it taken to get almost nowhere in quantum computing, artificial general intelligence, robotic locomotion, distributed trust, etc? We have inefficient quad rotor drones starting to do actual work only because there was no real investment in robot locomotion. I don't even know how old that tech is tbh but I remember drawing up plans for such devices over 20 years ago because I didn't like the RC helicopters of the time. And we have the useless wasteful Bitcoin because nobody bothered to invest in distributed trust and intelligence, which would've made blockchain and proof of work obsolete from the start. I had already personally rejected the idea of a globally synchronized ledger when I was working on plans for a distributed cryptocurrency some 15 years ago because that obviously won't scale or allow for the micropayments needed for an intelligent IoT economy. There are so many better ways to accomplish that but again most people seem to lack any vision...

edward smith (not verified)    April 2, 2021 - 7:45PM

I LOVE Prius, but not the Prime. :(
When you do the math, it takes $1.75 or so to charge the e- battery. At BEST you get 25 e- miles, but usually it's at best 24 or less-voltage drop I guess. Twice a day that $3.40- not much better than a gallon of gas.
Then there's the non-spare--a foam filling won't work if you slash the tire! Stupid!
It also has WAY less square footage, like 7 sq. feet less AND you have to modify a block odd dive sort yo be able to sleep comfortably in them!
Stick with the regular Prius! Prime is a scam!!

Orlando G Gonzalez (not verified)    April 4, 2021 - 9:18AM

I own a 2020 Toyota Prius Eco, it gives me 60 mpg, I drive 600 miles a week, it has perform flawlessly. The last winter storm that lasted for a week here in DFW Texas, the fuel in my Prius lasted for more than a week, providing heat and charging my phones and tablets since we run out of electricity. I hardly ever noticed that the car was turned on, It performed better than a generator, because I was able to bring the heat into one of my rooms trough a couple of Diy insulated 6 inch wide, by 10 feet long hoses, that I attached to one of the window openings of my Prius. My Prius outlasted my neighbor's Tesla since he had no way of charging it.

Kevin Burchmore (not verified)    April 5, 2021 - 11:52AM

Having owned a prius prime for 2 years I can tell you filling with fuel every 6 months is fantastic, most driving is within my Town on electric. Prime always revertes to ev mode on start, with covid no need to travel farther.but when we traveled to visit friends in oregon hybrid mode kicked in automatically easily travelling at 70-80 mph no need to look for charging. Summer time I easley get 50-55 km of ev driving a little less in winter. no maintenance needed oil change once a year. Totally reliable as all Toyotas are.