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Chevy Volt vs Toyota Prius Cost of Ownership

Chevy Volt vs Toyota Prius Cost of Ownership

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 by Paul White

Now that a few Chevy Volts are out on the road, bloggers have had the opportunity to get a first hand account on the what the real performance results are.  Lyle with GM-Volt.com has been a leader on the blog front to keep all of us updated on the truth behind the volt.  Finally we have some real world numbers to make our up our opinions on Chevy's new ride. So in this article we will care what the real costs of ownership are over a 5 year span.  We compare a 2011 Toyota Prius and a 2011 Chevy Volt.

The Setup of this comparison

In this comparison we are going to assume we are buying a brand new vehicle, financing it at 0% interest ( not realistic but simplifies the math ), and we will have paid off the car in 5 years ( 60 months ).  We will include the cost of the vehicle, the cost of auto insurance, and the cost of fuel.  There are other factors such as tags, but we are going to assume that the car is in texas where everyone pays a flat rate for their tags( regardless of vehicle ).  Those of you who live in a different state might want to run the numbers for yourself including the cost of tags each year.  We also are going to assume we drive 1000 miles / month ( 12K annually ).  Since the Volt will run off battery for the first 35 or so miles we are going to assume the car is only driven 50 miles / work day.  My goal is be as fair as possible in this comparison.

First the Facts on the Chevy Volt

The Battery in the volt has a 16 kwh capacity.
Only 65% of this capacity is accessible giving you 10.4 kwh of usable power.
Even though you have 10.4 kwh of capacity, the volt consumes 12.9 kwh to charge it.
This is due to heat losses through the inverter.

The EPA has decided to base electric consumption estimates on how much energy it takes to charge the battery and not what the battery can actually store, which is good and fair.  I am very happy they decided to go this route.

GM claimed 40 Miles range on the battery, The EPA rates it at 35 Miles, but the actual real world numbers are more like 32 -38 Miles per charge. 

So how does eletricity compare to Gasoline?

Well thanks to our Arab friends ( if we can call them that ), Gasoline is not cheap these days.  However the price of electricity has dropped dramatically especially in states like Texas.
Currently the price of a gallon of Regular Unleaded Gasoline runs about $3.50 in Houston.
Volt can take you 37 Miles for $3.50 on Gasoline or 9.45 cents / mile
Current the price of electricity ( on 12 month contract ) runs 9.1 cents / KWH
Volt can take you 35 Miles for ( .091 x 12.9 ) $1.17 on Electricity or 3.34 cents / mile
Prius can take you 50 Miles for $3.50 on Gasoline or 7.0 cents / mile

Obviously there is a huge benefit to running the volt on Electricity.

What about the upfront cost of the Volt?

The MSRP for the Volt is $41,000.  After the tax credit this drops to $33,500
but if you are financing you still have to make payments on a $41,000 car, until tax time when uncle sam gives you your tax credit.

2011 Prius gets about 50 MPG.

Prius vs Volt MSRP

2011 Volt MSRP = $33,500 after Tax Credit
Sales tax on initial purchase ( $41,000 x 8.25% )= $3,382.50
2011 Prius MSPR = $23,050
Sales tax on initial purchase ( $23,050 x 8.25% )= $1,901.63

What about Car Insurance for the Volt?

I went over to Esurance and ran a quote.
for the record I am a 31 year old Male, with no claims and a clean driving record.
I live in zip 77584, and I am married.
I ran quotes for both a volt and a prius

Insurance / month for Volt 2011

Insurance / month for Prius 2011

Cost to Drive a Volt vs Prius for 5 years

We are going to assume a person drives 1000 miles / month or 12000 miles / year
Also keep in mind you don't get to use the tax credit until tax time the following year.  So on the volt you are still making payments on a $41,000 car.  We will assume payments will be spread over 5 years with no interest ( we are being generous )

2011 Toyota Prius

Cost to drive Prius for 5 years

$4,794.00 = 60 x $79.90 ( Car Insurance )
$4,200.00 = 60000 miles  x 7.0 cents / mile
$23,050.00 MSRP
$1,901.63 Sales Tax
$33945.63 Total cost to drive Prius for 5 years

2011 Chevy Volt

Cost to drive Volt for 5 years

On the Calculations for the Volt we are going to assume the following situation
Car is driven only to work 5 days a week, so 250 miles / week, 50 miles / day
This means that the first 35 miles are electric and the final 15 miles are on gasoline
So 70% of our miles will be on electricity, and 30% will be on gasoline.

$3,103.80 = 42000 miles x 3.34 cents per mile ) + (18000 x 9.45 cents per mile )
$5,569.20 = 60 x $92.82 ( Car Insurance )
$41,000.00 MSRP
$3,382.50 Sales Tax
-$7,500 Tax Credit
$45,555.50 Total cost to drive Volt for 5 years

2011 Toyota Prius vs 2011 Chevy Volt

Conclusion Volt vs Prius

So after 5 years you would have spent $45,555.50 to drive a Chevy Volt. This includes the fact that you got $7500 back from the government in the form of a Tax Credit.  While with the Prius you would have spent $33,945.63.  This doesn't take into account the cost of tires, oil changes, or brake pads, and general maintenance. We assume they will be about equal between the two cars.  Also with the Prius I was using the base model. If you added some of the fancy accessories this could add another $5,000 to $6,000 to the price. 

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Categories associated with Chevy Volt vs Toyota Prius Cost of Ownership


Steve | Jun 10, 2011 9:44 PM
Finally, someone that broke it down the numbers. While I would rather by a Volt for the idea of telling the gas companies ot shove it up their "***", I make more sense to buy the prius.  
Bob | Feb 8, 2012 9:10 AM
OK, just saw this.
But what about the $ 7,500 that this car costs taxpayers in lost revenue?
That will have to be made up in higher taxes somewhere else.
Paul | Feb 8, 2012 10:13 AM
Thats a really good point!
My personal feelings are the government should not be issuing tax credits for anything.
Sir Gareth | Mar 3, 2012 3:08 PM
The Prius is an American  car;  that is,  it is built upon American values.    The Volt is a communist car built on totalitarian principles of Stalin or Hitler; take your pick.

To me it is rather simple:  anyone who buys anything (new or used) from GM is a traitor to the USA.     There is really no other way to put it.      I used to buy GM products but never again.  I can not support any enterprise built upon goon squad thuggery and its total subversion of the rule of law.

GM must die,  the sooner the better.   It is the undead living among us in a masquerade of life.  Its executives talk about "market demand" as if there were a market for GM products - there is not and that is why GM died.     Its imitation of life is supported only by thug unions and their whore in the White House.

Shame on anyone for ever considering buying one of these POS GM golf carts, and that's all they are.       
Paul | Mar 4, 2012 1:14 PM
My views are similar to your own.  I am not for the government bailing out companies.  If a company is poorly managed, and fails to respond to the market, then they should not be in business.  Plenty of other companies will take the opportunity to fill the void left by a non existent GM. 

Even though I would never buy a Volt, what is even worse is GM is screwing their dealers to get VOLTS.  I know this because my Father-in-Law owns a Chevy Dealership.  He told me that GM makes their dealers pay an $80K fee just for the right to sell the VOLT.  Then they are also required to send their mechanics off for additional service training that is specific to the VOLT, and stock parts and tools that are specific to the VOLT.  He said the upfront costs are about $250K, just to sell the VOLT.  What makes it worse is he said the profits for dealers are so low, that they would have to sell hundreds of VOLTS just to make back the initial investment.  Considering all that I fully understand why he doesn't want to sell the VOLT.

GM nickle and dime's their dealers, rather than support them.
My feelings on anything GM makes that is electric or hybrid, are I want to see how its running at 200,000 and 300,000 miles.  I have an uncle who has a 2002 Prius with over 200,000 miles on it.  Still runs strong, and still on the same Battery. 

GM still has a chance, but they are going to have to prove themselves over the next 10 years. 
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