Chevy Volt versus Toyota Prius: Which is the best car for you?

Looking for a new car that is efficient, affordable and has low emissions but does not rely exclusively on battery power? In the US market, there are only two that meet all those criteria. Chevy Volt versus Toyota Prius – which is the best car for you? The answer is, it depends.

There is an old expression in sales that goes like this: People buy on emotion and justify their decision later with facts. Whether we realize it or not, there is a large psychological component that goes into our decision to buy a car. What we drive has a lot to do with our image of ourselves.

So let’s begin with this. Both the Prius and the Volt are good cars – make that very good cars. Both have low emissions, both have excellent fuel economy and both cost essentially the same. In fact, according to the Edmunds’ True Cost To Own calculator, after 5 years, figuring sticker price, depreciation, repairs, insurance, maintenance, cost of fuel and resale value, the Volt costs $14.00 less to own than the Prius. That’s a statistical dead heat.

Which one has the lowest emissions depends on how you drive. The average American drives less than 40 miles on a typical day; that means the Volt can handle the bulk of daily driving chores without ever burning a drop of gasoline. In fact, the car may turn its gasoline engine on from time to time if the computer thinks the gas in the tank is getting too old. The Prius uses its gas engine constantly, so its emissions will be higher for most people.

But when the Volt does call on its gas engine, it averages “only” 42 mpg. The Prius gets about 55 mpg. (The official EPA rating for the 2016 Prius has not yet been released.) So if you are driving long distances on a regular basis, the Toyota may be your best bet.

The Prius has higher resale value, as of this moment, but those numbers are skewed somewhat because the Volt is not as well known as the Prius. Lots of people don’t understand what the car is – or isn’t. Uncertainty always drives prices down. The Prius is more of a known quantity.

What about intangibles? Which car has better styling? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Some think the new 2016 Prius is too bold; others think the new 2016 Volt is too bland. When it comes to handling, the Prius has a reputation for being boring to drive.

The Volt has more pep and a more sporting feel. It is made in America, whereas the Prius is manufactured in Japan. The Volt also enjoyed the highest Consumer Reports overall customer satisfaction rating two years in a row until it was surpassed last year by the Tesla Model S. That’s impressive.

Crunch all the numbers you want. In the final analysis, the best car for you is the one that, when you wake up in the morning and see it waiting for you in the driveway, will put the biggest smile on your face.