The Toyota Prius is the best known and most successful hybrid car in America. When Honda released the Insight in 2010, their similarities led car shoppers and pundits to compare the two. However, with the Prius achieving 50 MPG overall compared to the Insight’s 42 MPG, the Prius seems to have the lock on fuel efficiency. But does that advantage on the EPA sticker really play out in the real world?
Websites like Fuelly allow drivers to track their actual gas mileage. By entering the amount of fuel you spend on a fuel up and the number of miles driven since the last fuel-up, Fuelly will calculate your car’s real world MPG. By tracking the data by thousands of drivers over many years, Fuelly can give a more accurate representation of how much fuel your car actually sips. And in most cases, while the overall MPG of each model can often end up fairly close to the EPA estimate, individual results can have a surprisingly large effect on the results.
The Toyota Prius is far and away the best selling and most recognized hybrid car. The EPA estimates that the 2012 Prius will achieve 50 MPG overall. As of this writing, 98 drivers of the 2011 Prius have recorded their gas consumption over 606,000 miles on Fuelly, reaching 48.9 MPG. According to EPA estimates, the Insight should achieve 42 MPG overall, but Fuelly’s Insight drivers have actually achieved 43.8 MPG. So, although the EPA difference between the two cars is 8 MPG, in the real world it’s only 5.1 MPG.
But what about those people who try to maximize their mileage? The top ten percent of Prius drivers are sipping fuel at 55 MPG or better, while the top ten percent of Insight drivers are getting at least 50 MPG. Again, there’s a 5 MPG difference between these two popular hybrids.
When you look at the leadfoots, the comparison is the same. The bottom ten percent of Prius drivers are getting 44 MPG or less, while the lowest ten percent of Insight drivers are below 40 MPG. In this group, there’s only a 4 MPG difference between the two cars.
Things get even more interesting when you look at different drivers of the same car. The most conservative Prius drivers are getting 11 MPG more than their heavy-footed brethren. Frugal Insight drivers are getting 10 more MPG out of their cars versus the more aggressive drivers.
So, whether you’re a fast driver or a slow one, or somewhere in between, the Prius averages out to be 4-5 MPG better than the Insight. While this can be a significant difference over time, it’s only about half of what the EPA claims. And, perhaps more importantly, the conservative drivers in both cars are getting 10 MPG more than the aggressive ones. So, choosing a hybrid car can save you money, but how you drive can make a bigger difference in your fuel economy.
“Fuel Economy Top Ten”, US Department of Energy
“2011 Toyota Prius Mileage”, Fuelly
“2011 Honda Insight Mileage”, Fuelly