• Mar 19th 2007 at 11:54AM
  • 8
Sonja Lyubomirsky drives a Prius from her beach community to a teaching job some 70 miles away. She was elated when her name came to the top of a waiting list for a Prius, but for a moment the 40-year-old experimental psychologist wondered if her enthusiasm for buying a vehicle that's easier on the environment will be mistaken for materialism. And worse, could her driving experience subside into "hedonic adaptation," that feeling that after getting something you want you end up no happier than you were before your good fortune?

I found this story about Lyubomisrky and her research on happiness very intriguing. The fact she drives a Prius gives me some leeway on posting it on AutoblogGreen. Since writing for ABG, I've wondered about how drivers of Prius hybrids and other small cars really feel about their vehicles. I remember seeing some JD Power studies a few years ago that show a very high rate of consumers who leave the small-car segment after only a short time. Granted, small vehicles represent a budget or entry-level investment, and as consumers move up the economic ladder they can afford bigger cars. But the Prius represented much more. And it wasn't just the fact that it was a hybrid. Other hybrid models such as the Escape and Civic never really enjoyed the same enthusiasm and sales response as the Prius. The Prius was a political statement as well as a "being the first on your block" prize.

But are people really happy with small cars, hybrids or not? I was miserable in the Prius not because of the performance but because of the center dash display. I wasn't comfortable with the additional eye movement. Despite all the tech advancements and excellent fuel economy, the car just didn't fit my butt, as they say. When friends ask about which vehicle they should buy, they often cite resale value questions. I always say don't worry about resale values if you're going to drive this vehicle for 3 years or more. Buy one that's comfortable. You've got to drive that car every day, why be miserable just so you can make an extra $500 or even $1,000 in three or four years? I wonder the same about Prius and small-car owners. Are they just suffering through the experience to make a statement? Or are they really happy? Or do they not care?

Recently I did move from a full-size pickup to a compact car, one that gives me plenty of cargo room and I get a solid 25 mpg average with 30 on the highway. It's not a Prius in terms of my carbon footprint, but it's three times lighter than my truck and I'm comfortable. I enjoy driving, and while it's not prudent for my particular situation to have a fullsize truck right now, I miss going off off-road and other benefits of driving a truck. Am I happy? Not completely because I miss my XM radio but hopefully that will be fixed soon.

Read this interesting piece from Scientific American and, please, be happy when driving!

[Source: Marina Krakovsky/Scientific American]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      i drove my 1996 mazda protege everywhere. it's been from PA to IL, and everywhere in between. i drove straight from IL to PA only stopping for gas. the car didn't have cruise, it was a 5spd. and i couldn't have had a better ride. your daily commute, or your long travels are what you make it. i'd still be driving that car today if i hadn't wrecked it into a f'n neon.

      i've vowed never to drive a large car, or even a mid size. my tiny protege held 5 people, and had a trunk for storing things. hatch backs are even better. i once had a 1990 mazda 323, it held 3 people, 3 bikes, and all our bags and equipment when we'd go out for rides. (can someone explain to me why the other riders were using trucks for this?!?)

      a small car is good enough for 90% of all mid-size/full size car owners out there. we are stuck on a 'bigger is better mentality, and it makes me sick
      • 8 Years Ago
      I was wary of the Prius as well, the digital-everything about it made me fairly cautious. But after giving it a good try, I've been liking my Prius. Toyota built a solid car and I think it would suit a lot of people.

      Obviously people have different opinions like the author, but having a hybrid is not about saving money as it is making less of a dent to our environment.

      We are a part of the biosphere and we should think outside ourselves and care for the world around us.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I've been very pleased with my '03 Prius, it is comfortable, quiet, smooth, reliable and efficient. I've heard that the later models are even better...

      In their 2006 survey of auto owner, Consumers Union asked if they would buy that car again, and Prius was on top, 95% said they'd buy it again.
      • 8 Years Ago
      She drives 70 miles to her job in a Prius which probably has as much environmental impact as somebody driving a large SUV 20 miles so she shouldn't be too proud of herself. I use about 1.25 gallons of gas per day, she uses closer to 2.5 and I don't have a hybrid.

      I like the direction that the Prius has taken with its styling because I like hatchbacks, have had a 1997 Saab 900 S for 10 years and like Karkus, I can fit just as much stuff but I average about 27 mpg, (32 on the highway). It is a ten year old vehicle though.

      Look at the two cars side by side and it amazes me that people don't mind a hatchback if it's a hybrid. Otherwise they turn their noses up at them and stationwagons. I wrote about this on my blog a while ago...


      If we all drove vehicles that got at least 30 mpg on the highway and added stop-start technology to all vehicles, we'd be doing very well in terms of national oil consumption relative to where we used to be.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Those are some interesting questions. Of course I'm biased since I bought one, but we frequently comment on what a great move we made getting this great car 3 years ago. It does seem to make us happier, in part because we feel we're having less impact on the environmental while saving money at the same time. (yes, I know those things are debatable depending on how you calculate things, but to us if feels like we did the right thing).
      Another factor is the peace and quiet you get driving this car around town. The lack of engine vibration when you're slowing down or stopped just makes the drive that much more relaxing.

      Also, I don't understand why the Prius is referred to as a small car. It is officially categorized as a midsize car (bigger than the Civic and Corolla, almost as big as the Camry). It's definitely bigger than the Integra I had before, so I actually went up in size. For example, I can fit 2 people and 3 adult mountain bikes inside this car. Also, in most parts of the world, the Prius is actually a larger than average car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "make an extra $500 or even $1,000 in three or four years?"

      When you sell a car that was a new purchase, you don't "make" anything. You can only hope to limit somewhat the amount you "lose".
      • 8 Years Ago
      Still, she uses less oil in the Prius than she would with any other car, since she would still be driving the same distance.

      But I totally agree, I don't understand why the start/stop technology is not becoming standard on every car!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yeah! Don't be mean to the poor old Prius! LOL
      I like the Prius, a little funky, but still very good.
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