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Interviews with Happy Hybrid Owners December 04, 2004 1:19 PM

I like to purchase Hybrid car in the future. My car is about 6 years old so I should be able to buy a new car in the next few years. On the Road to the Future: Interviews with Happy Hybrid Owners What made you decide to buy a Prius? What color did you choose? LARRY DAVID: My wife -- she's a strong influence on me. But I liked the idea of getting the benefits of a hybrid vehicle without having to plug in a battery. And after I test-drove the car, I liked everything about it. So now I'm a big fan of the car. Mine's aqua. BOB EPSTEIN: I needed a new car and heard about the Prius from NRDC. I looked also at the Honda Insight to compare, but preferred the Prius. The panel in the center of the dashboard gives really useful feedback on the fuel efficiency. Also, it's sort of like a thank-you panel that continually reminds you of what you're doing. My car is silver. ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Laurie David [NRDC board member and Larry's wife] threatened to kill me if I didn't. But it was love at first drive between me and my dark blue Prius. GEORGE DICAPRIO: After meeting people at NRDC, my whole family became aware of the different emissions standards for SUVs and we wanted to feel as though we were contributing to a solution. Leonardo got rid of his SUV that week. He and I both now drive a Prius -- silver for both of us -- and I've convinced three of my friends to buy one as well. And the Honda Civic Hybrid? Why'd you choose it? KAY SCHRENK: We knew we wanted a hybrid, and we found the Prius mid-dash display quite distracting. The Honda's mileage indicator and battery-charging indicator are down where the speedometer is, behind the steering wheel. You do watch, because that's the fun of it. Our car is blue. GREG WETSTONE: I wanted to get a hybrid, provided it was big enough to cart my two girls around, and that it performed pretty well. I'd driven both the Insight and the Prius before, and liked the way they both drive. The Insight was too small for us. But I was excited about the Civic even before it came out. I like the way the 5-speed drives. It's very responsive, fun to drive. It's a bronze-gold color. Was finding and purchasing a hybrid easy or difficult? Did you have to wait long for delivery? EPSTEIN: It was easy -- a call to the local Toyota dealer in Berkeley. I ordered on the first day they accepted orders and received the car eight weeks later. DICAPRIO: We waited a little over two months from the time we ordered the cars until they were delivered. DAVID: I got the "Larry David treatment," so I only waited about two or three weeks. HUFFINGTON: It was quick and effortless. Santa Monica Toyota brought it right to my driveway. WETSTONE: Surprisingly hassle free. I bought it from the neighborhood dealer in Bethesda [a Washington suburb]. The car was stock. SCHRENK: We waited all of five days. The dealer was terrific. They didn't try to load us up with options. We had to go back and get floor mats! We had to take it someplace else to change the CD player.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
How much did your car cost/perform? December 04, 2004 1:22 PM

How much did your car cost? Did you have any fancy features installed? DAVID AND DICAPRIO: $20,000. No extras. EPSTEIN: I paid $28,000 delivered -- including California license and taxes and leather seats installed locally. The only options on the car are the CD player and floor mats -- yes, I splurged and got both. WETSTONE: I paid about $20,000. It was a pretty easy purchase. The car I bought was on the lot, and we negotiated the price down some, which is I gather not common for hybrids. In Maryland we get both federal and state tax deductions for the purchase, which means that even aside from the gasoline savings, the hybrid ends up being cheaper than the conventional Civic. It's like getting an extra electric engine for free, so I'm always a bit surprised when I see a brand new Civic that isn't a hybrid. *Editors Note: Visit to learn about federal tax incentives for clean-fuel vehicles. Many states offer tax deductions of their own. How does the car perform? What kind of mileage does it get on the highway? In the city? About how much do you spend on gas each week? DICAPRIO: Performance is great. It's a really fun car to drive -- it handles like a little sports car. It corners well, the steering is nice and tight and it accelerates really well, which is important for me because the acceleration ramp onto the Hollywood Freeway near my home is very short. I get about 55 mpg in the city. You could drive the car all day long and not use all the gas. DAVID: I was expecting better mileage. I get about 35 mpg in the city, a little more on the highway. HUFFINGTON: The car rides like a dream. I love how quiet it is, especially after I stopped thinking I had stalled out every time I stopped at a light. I think it gets about 52 on the highway, and 42 in the city. EPSTEIN: The performance of the car is better than any I have owned in the last 20 years. I get about 52 on the highway, 42 in the city and 35 going up and down the hill to my home. I am spending about $7 per week for gas. WETSTONE: I'm getting about 40 in the city and 50 on the highway. Not as high as advertised in town, but I gather that's almost universal and 40 is still incredibly good. The highway mileage is amazing. One of the things about this car is that it's so easy to track and get instantaneous feedback on mileage that it's possible to more or less obsess over it. *Editor's note: As with all cars, actual mileage performance is less than the rated fuel economy and will vary by driver depending on how the car is driven. For instance, all cars get lower mileage when the engine is not fully warmed up, or if the car is used primarily for short trips (e.g., under three miles). Running the air conditioning or heater, fast acceleration, rapid stops, hills, and cold weather will also reduce mileage. Federal law requires automobile manufacturers to determine the fuel economy of new vehicles offered for sale in the U.S. This information is provided on a fuel economy label affixed to each vehicle’s window to help consumers make informed decisions regarding fuel economy when purchasing a new vehicle. While these labels may vary somewhat in appearance, they must all provide the same information.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
how is it aging, how fast driving & service check? December 04, 2004 1:25 PM

Those of you who've had your car for a while now, how is it aging? EPSTEIN: Great. There's no evidence of any aging. It's just a very well built car. HUFFINGTON: It's aging very gracefully -- even after a large tree branch broke and fell on top it while I was driving down the street! What do you like best and least about your car: Prius owners first. DAVID: Except for the fact I'm not getting the mileage I expected, I really love everything about it. It's the perfect car for city driving -- great pickup, great ride and maneuverability, a view that's very open. There's lots of room in the front seat -- I love that there's no console -- and I like the dashboard and gearshift. It's definitely the most fun I've ever had driving a car. HUFFINGTON: Best: I love watching my kids watch the panel that shows electricity being converted to gas. Least: The jealous looks I get from passersby. EPSTEIN: My favorite thing is the quiet. It's so peaceful to be in a car that makes no noise when you're stopped, and very little noise the rest of the time. I love the silence. Of course, I'm taking the super-low emissions and the gas mileage for granted. DICAPRIO: Least: using the air conditioning or heater really cuts into the car's efficiency. I'm sure that's the case with all cars, but with the Prius, the display panel lets you see exactly how much efficiency you're losing when you turn on the air or the heat. Best: it's such an excellent car in so many ways -- just a much less intrusive way to drive. It's a truly affordable way to help contribute to reducing global warming emissions while having a car that's fun to drive and gets high mileage -- it's really the best of all worlds. SCHRENK: Our Civic Hybrid is terrific. It's fun trying to get the best mileage. It gives feedback, so it sort of becomes a game. When my husband drives it, the miles per gallon go down a little bit, probably because he's more heavy-footed! I complain that the mileage is 46.9! It's also very nimble to drive. It bothers me, though, that it only says "hybrid" in very small letters on the back. They should make that more visible. How fast have you driven it? DAVID: 85 DICAPRIO: 90 EPSTEIN: 20 miles per hour faster than I should have. HUFFINGTON: I'll take the Fifth on that, officer. Have you had your hybrid serviced yet? Where do you have it done? Any differences in servicing by comparison to "regular" cars? EPSTEIN: I've had it in but haven't spent anything on it. They even replaced all four tires for free. They noticed the original tires didn't wear evenly, so they replaced them. I take it back to the dealer rather than a third party. They give you several years of various free service coupons. HUFFINGTON: Yes, definitely after the tree branch encounter. It came back good as new. SCHRENK: I've taken it in to have the oil changed and that's it. They say I have to bring it to the dealer because they put in a special oil in for the hybrid. But they gave me coupons for service, and they also washed it. I plan to keep taking it to the dealer because our local mechanic has never seen one before!  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 December 04, 2004 1:29 PM

The late 1999 launch of the Honda Insight finally put hybrid vehicles within the ready reach of American consumers. In the years since, the cars, which combine a gasoline-powered engine and a separate battery-driven motor to yield barrier-busting gas mileage, have grown steadily in popularity. The Insight was followed soon after by the Toyota Prius, and then by the Honda Civic Hybrid. More, including some from Detroit, are on the way. But what it's like to drive a hybrid? Does it feel like a real car, or is it more like driving a heavily fortified golf cart? Does it require changes in how one drives? Is the driver even aware of the differences? Helping us answer these questions are six hybrid owners, many from within the NRDC family: Larry David, star, creator and Prius-owning producer of HBO's award-winning "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; George DiCaprio, philanthropist, and, like his son Leonardo, a Prius owner; Bob Epstein, NRDC board member, co-founder of three technology companies and a Toyota Prius owner; Arianna Huffington, environmentalist, columnist and a Prius owner; Kay Schrenk, longtime NRDC supporter, and a Civic Hybrid owner; and Greg Wetstone, NRDC's director of programs, and a Civic Hybrid owner. We first talked with David, DiCaprio and Epstein in 2002. Now we've expanded the conversation to include some feedback on the Civic Hybrid, and to hear a little about how the Prius is wearing.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
take your hybrid on a family vacation? December 04, 2004 1:31 PM

Would you take your hybrid on a family vacation (considering factors such as distance, safety, comfort, family members' standards, etc.)? DICAPRIO: Oh, sure. I've had five people fit comfortably in the car. HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. Why not? EPSTEIN: Sure -- as long as you don't have a lot of luggage. DAVID: Well, I'd never be in a car for longer than one hour anyway, but if we were to take a car vacation, I'd take this car. But if my wife were coming along, she'd probably rather take the kids in our station wagon.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
What reactions from friends and neighbors? December 04, 2004 1:32 PM

Arianna, what do your friends and neighbors think about your car -- is it cool, or a curiosity, or what? And what do your kids have to say? HUFFINGTON: Definitely cool... they ask a lot of questions, and more and more of them are joining the Prius parade. My kids were resistant at first to "trading down" from our old Lincoln Navigator. "Golf cart" jokes abounded. But now they are ready to make it their first car when the time comes. Larry, what do your Porsche-and-Jaguar-driving Hollywood friends and neighbors think about your Prius? DAVID: At first they were kind of surprised, but I've gotten really great reactions from everyone. In fact, I've already sold a few to friends. Bob, what about your Silicon Valley neighbors? Is it sliding from hip to cliché? EPSTEIN: Jealousy is the principal emotion they express. More cache. In Berkley in the '70s, the VW was the car to have, and these days it's the Prius. I've referred about 10 of my friends who have bought one, and my neighbor is waiting to buy my used one, when I replace this with the new model coming out soon. Greg, what's the coolness factor on your Honda hybrid? WETSTONE: Well, I travel in different circles than Larry and Bob. My kids think it's intensely cool, and so do their friends. They're really the arbiters of cool in my life, so I'm happy for their approval. Any differences in the way you drive your hybrid? WETSTONE: Particularly because I got the 5-speed, it took quite a while to get educated to how it works best. You shift at a lower RPM than normal, so you have to adjust. Also you really want to keep it in gear longer when it's coasting or braking, to recharge the battery. You don't put it in neutral until you're about to stop.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Our answers to these questions! December 05, 2004 12:39 PM

What made you decide to buy a Prius? What color did you choose? I've had nothing but the best experience with past Toyotas, plus compared to the Civic Hybrid it is more unique and different from what is already out there. It's a silver one as we took what we could get! Was finding and purchasing a hybrid easy or difficult? Did you have to wait long for delivery? We completely got ours through pure luck and had one within five days of beginning our search. At the beginning of the week my husband called probably about 10 Toyota dealers in the Bay Area and we were put on their waiting lists. That Friday afternoon he started calling dealers beyond the Bay Area, and a dealer in Stockton had one additionally car they had received and not expected due to a reopening celebration. He said that if we would pick it up that night we could have it or else Saturday they go to their waiting list, so away we went. This was in March. My husband only removed our name from one waiting list of the dealers he had previously contacted, and none of the other dealers have contacted us yet about a car. How much did your car cost? Did you have any fancy features installed? I think the sticker price was a bit over $24,000, no negotiations, of course. It has the GPS/touch screen package. How fast have you driven it? Me, 70-75. I'm scared to think what my husband may have driven it at . Have you had your hybrid serviced yet? Where do you have it done? Any differences in servicing by comparison to "regular" cars? Taken it to Toyota dealers with no problems. It gets synthetic oil vs. standard. But what it's like to drive a hybrid? Does it feel like a real car, or is it more like driving a heavily fortified golf cart? Does it require changes in how one drives? Is the driver even aware of the differences? It doesn't feel any different than a standard car and gets a surprising amount of power for the size of car that it is. It has problems on some really steep hills in the Bay Area that almost any vehicle would have. Would you take your hybrid on a family vacation (considering factors such as distance, safety, comfort, family members' standards, etc.)? We've taken it on trips 3-4 hours from home with 2 adults and two medium sized dogs comfortably. The storage area may not be enough for larger families. What do your friends and neighbors think about your car -- is it cool, or a curiosity, or what? And what do your kids have to say? My family (that lives 2000 miles away) is extremely curious. My dad says on his next visit out here the first thing he's going to do is get out some tools and take apart the engine to see how it works. People stop and ask us about it all the time. Little boys in particular have lots of questions. Any differences in the way you drive your hybrid? We have the onscreen monitor that tells us the MPG at any time so we've altered our driving to maximize milage.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Answers to Questions December 05, 2004 1:09 PM

What made you decide to buy a Honda Civic Hybrid? I have had Hondas before and have been very satisfied with them. I also like the Civic Hybrid because it looks like a normal car (I also own a 2000 Civic VP which my daughter drives) Was finding and purchasing a hybrid easy or difficult? Easy. I went to the same dealership where I bought my other Civic, told them I wanted a hybrid. There were two on the lot - one manual, one automatic. I bought the manual - drove home that night. It's a light sapphire. That was December 2003 How much did your car cost? Did you have any fancy features installed? $18,000. No fancy features, but it pretty much has everything anyway. Then, there was the $2,000 tax write-off which was pretty nice. How fast have you driven it? 80 mph. Have you had your hybrid serviced yet? Where do you have it done? Any differences in servicing by comparison to "regular" cars? I bring both my Civics to the dealership. But what it's like to drive a hybid? Does it feel like a car, or is it more like driving a heavily fortified golf cart? Does it require changes in how one drives? Is the driver even aware of hte differences? It is identical to a "normal" car - the only difference being when you come to a stop the car turns off, but then turns back on again as soon as you put it in gear. Took a little getting used to, but that's it. The steep mountains of the Adirondaks gave a little bit of a problem, but I think it was mostly due to me adjusting to driving a manual again after not driving one for 20+ years. Would you take your hybrid on a family vacation? Done that 3x already. First time my daughter and I went camping/rock climbing/hiking in Kentucky - so we had all our gear in the car. When we got to the campground it was after 10:00 p.m., so we just curled up comfortably in the car and slept. It's about a 10 hour drive from NJ to where we stayed in Kentucky, not counting any stops along the way. What do your friends and neighbors think about your car? One of my friends had anticipated a spaceship type vehicle, but when she saw it she said she was surprised it looked like a normal car. While some friends/family have referred to it as mom's spaceship - they all think it's really cool. Any differences in the way you drive your hybrid? It is fun watching the monitor to see your mpg and how high you can push it. On our way home from Kentucky we were able to hit 78.8 mpg for a stretch. That was cool.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Hybrids December 06, 2004 8:33 PM

They sound like pretty good cars. If I buy a car, it'll definitely be a hybrid. I wonder if H2 owners are that satisfied with their vehicles, considering they paid twice as much for 1/5 the fuel efficiency. What a joke!  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
2004 Prius December 18, 2004 3:04 AM

I am very happy with my 2004 silver Prius. After waiting several months, I obtained it in March of 2004. I like the navigation system and not having to use a key. The hatchback design is good for carrying larger items. I like the design.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
exceeding rated fuel mileage easily December 20, 2004 4:06 PM

I have to rent a vehicle fairly often and I always rent a Prius except when I need a van. Once I got used to its quirks, I really started to like driving it to the point that I prefer it to anything else. I have to emphasize one point. The claims that one cannot get the rated fuel mileage are completely wrong in my case. I find that I consistently and easily EXCEED the rated fuel mileage when driving a Prius in a highway or city street environment. I've checked the math repeatedly. It is a case of how one drives. If one drives calmly and in a fashion to maximize mileage, i.e. driving the speed limit most of the time, accelerating smoothly whenever possible, coasting to stop lights when possible instead of stopping sharply, etc. then the Prius gives extra returns.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 December 27, 2004 10:55 AM

I love my Honda Civic Hybrid. Although my first choice was the new Prius, I didn't have the luxury of being on that long waiting list. The minute I arrived at the Honda dealership, there were about half a dozen civic hybrids right there for the picking! I'm on a three-year lease, so when that's over, I can start looking for a Prius...stick with another civic...or maybe even try the new Accord Hybrid that's coming out. I'm trying to convince people I know who have kids that they too can now have a hybrid thanks to the Accord (cuz they often claimed the prius and civic weren't big enough with their kids). Now that the accord has a hybrid, they can't use that excuse anymore!  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
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