The 2011 Toyota Prius has moved off dealer lots at a rapid clip this year. Sales have shot up 51.5 percent in the first three months of 2011 and soaring gas prices will almost certainly drive demand for Toyota's hybrid up even more. As consumers head out in droves to Toyota dealerships to snatch up a Prius, the bad news is that the inventory is shrinking due to the tragic earthquake in Japan.

The Wall Street Journal puts this all in perspective and says that Priuses headed to the U.S. "are spoken for and those that aren't are often snapped up as soon as they arrive at dealerships." Dealerships that would usually have 30-plus Priuses on hand now have only a couple.

The result, says the WSJ, is that buyers are snatching up used Priuses. The booming demand for pre-owned Priuses has bumped the average transaction price from $16,883 in January to $19,376 at the end of April, according to TrueCar. While that's expensive, the Prius lacks much competition in the 50-plus miles-per-gallon category and, as such, looks quite enticing as gas prices push towards $5 a gallon.

Photos copyright ©2011 Alex Nunez / AOL

[Source: Wall Street Journal]


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