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December 9th, 2005

Car shopping

So we test-drove a Prius yesterday. It was nifty. We're definitely going to try for one of these. One unexpected advantage above and beyond the environmental benefits is how quiet it is. I've been having more and more difficulty hearing in the car, especially if I'm driving. In one of these, I might actually still be able to carry on a conversation!

Get this, though: because demand for these fuckers is so high, a 1 or 2 year old used Prius is up to $5k MORE expensive than a brand new one, which can take 3-6 months to get your hands on.

What's more, the economic decision by Toyota to keep underproducing the Prius makes a twisted sort of sense. They believe demand for hybrids is only going to increase. By making new ones scarce, they can 'recycle' the used ones faster and at a higher price point, while keeping up the image of the Prius as this luxury, hard-to-get status symbol.

Compare this to your 'normal' car, whose only advantage over the masses of similar vehicles out there is that it's new and shiny and right there in the lot this minute (if you take us up on our today-only, special just-for-you financing package...) - it doesn't make sense there to try to pump up demand for used ones, because people will just turn around and buy a slightly cheaper car from a different dealership.

With the Prius, there's no competition. Sure, there are a couple other hybrids out there, but the Honda Civic is the only one that targets a similar market, and its mileage and CO2 production are significantly worse, for about the same price.


In the meantime, though, our free car rental from the insurance runs out in a week. Our plan is to find a used 2005 Prius, with enough options to include the fog lamps (a near-necessity in this little river valley of Snohomish, we're discovering). For all that the salesman at the Kirkland dealer tried to convince us that we'd never find another one if we waited till next week, autotrader.com shows half a dozen within 25 miles, so I'm not expecting to have any trouble.

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Heather Keith Freeman
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