Balancing Act

Prius vs. RSX total monthly cost of ownership analysis

After owning the Prius for a good 10 months, I figured I sit back and do a monthly cost of ownership analysis comparing the operating costs between the Prius and the RSX based on my own personal experience. The result is pretty clear that a brand new 2012 Toyota Prius not only costs less in fuel expenditure but total monthly cost of ownership is significantly less than the then 7 year old 2005 Acura RSX.

Gas Expenditure Comparison

In one year, I spent approximately $2,800 in gassing up the Acura RSX. By a 10-month comparison, the Prius only used up $1,030 – and that’s factoring over 4,500 miles worth of road trips. The RSX was mainly driven as a daily commuter and road trips were a 2-times-a-year luxury.

Doing the math, that’s a 63% drop in fuel expenditure, and we’re only tracking 10-months worth of data. Since my commute has shortened considerably since the beginning of the year, the monthly fuel expenditure will further decrease. For example, I went through all of January 2013 without gassing up. It’s now mid February and I still have about 80% gas left (for Prius owners, that’s 7 fuel bars left, counting the 2 gallons of “reserve”).

I like to point out that despite the amount of road trips I’ve taken with the Prius in addition to commute before relocation (road trips averaging 250+ miles one way, about once a week at times), the highest monthly gas expenditure of the Prius never exceeded the lowest monthly gas expenditure of the RSX that was driven solely for commuting.

Insurance Premium Expenditure

Not only does the Prius clearly beat the RSX in fuel expenditure, it also saves me over 66% in insurance premium. The RSX was insured under a much less covered policy in comparison to the Prius and still cost $150 a month to insure. When I first acquired the RSX, the monthly cost to insure it was close to $250, then it gradually decreased to $190. After some penny pinching coverage reduction and shopping for lower cost insurers, I got the premium down to $150 (without settling for minimum liability-only coverage). The Prius by comparison, under a much, much better coverage policy, costs $53 a month. In fact, to put this into perspective, insuring both my 2012 Prius Four and the lady’s 2012 Prius C Four under the same policy costs $47.00 less per month than the ill-covered 7-year old RSX!

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Total Cost of Ownership

Since both cars are paid off in the date range of the tracking period, I’m counting only insurance premium and gas expenditures. Average total cost of owning the RSX was about $400 and average total cost of owning the Prius is $132. The Prius was purchased as a brand new car with upgraded safety, technology, entertainment and comfort features that the 7-year old RSX lacked and still costs 67% less than the RSX to own. In just a year, the Prius’ cost-savings already more than made up the OTD price difference between the two cars. The only tradeoff is the lack of performance which the RSX has.

2 thoughts on “Prius vs. RSX total monthly cost of ownership analysis

  1. Mark Benjamin David

    wow, this is just NOT a comparison. How could you go from a driver's car (the RSX) to an economy sedan? I have driven Prius's (all of them), I drive for a local toyota dealer, just a driver, dealer trades and such. I love my base RSX, but can't get into the whole sedan thing. Don't get me wrong, I want my next vehicle to actually be a battery electric (not hybrid, all-electrric), but it won't likely be a sedan. The Prius drives ok, considering it's a lightweight (as lightweight as it can be with that battery) vehicle meant to get high MPG with low-rolling resistance tires and such, but it is nothing like the RSX, so, to make such a comparison is just moot, like apples and oranges, they're both round…they both transport you, but two entirely different vehicles, of course it will cost you less. I hope the Prius c is for around-town, that thing is not good on the highway (all over the place), plus it gets less MPG than the regular Prius on the highway, but, better MPG in the city. I could never get a car based on operating cost alone. But, my '02 RSX (base) does better than many cars on the road today, I get 28-33 MPG, and lot of people have SUVs that don't get close to that.

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      The whole point of this article is to illustrate how much cost in terms of gas and insurance I’ve personally saved jumping from the RSX to the Prius – not to praise one car and degenerate another. Totally agree that they are two entirely different cars built for different purposes; the main point of this article is strictly comparing my personal experience with the cost of owning both cars. Brand new 2012 Prius vs. 7+ year old RSX, with newer tech and safety features still trumps the RSX in operating costs. Bottom line, as much as I enjoyed owning the RSX Type-S, it was a money pit in all areas (especially during the early years of ownership). Some of the reasons I switched to a Prius are: Fuel economy since I do a lot of commuting, carry more passengers these days, comfort, go on a lot of road trips (try going on plenty of 200+ mile road trips in the RSX’s bucket seats) and prefer a car that’s equipped with a good infotainment system straight from factory; the RSX just didn’t cut it. Performance, while nice to have, is a distant preference in the back of my head (if performance and handling is what I was after, the Prius isn’t the first choice). Getting harassed by high school boy racers and constantly worrying about being jacked/stripped is something I won’t miss with the RSX. As for the Prius C, I’ve been able to attain 70 mpg highway on the wife’s Prius C, pulsing and gliding at an average of 65 mph. It does better in the city without thinking, but on the highway, it can pull some decent mpg numbers with a little extra effort. Collectively, both my wife and I are saving over $10,000 a year switching from the 2005 RSX Type-S and 2004 350Z to 2012 Prius Four and 2012 Prius C Four. What can we do with $10,000? For beginners, it’s a good chunk towards the deposit for a new home.

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