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Budget Buy: Prius vs Insight for Under $10,000

For getting the most miles for the fewest dollars there are few better choices than the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. But which is better at $10,000?

Hybrids Head 2 Head

pressroom.toyota.com | hondanews.com
pressroom.toyota.com | hondanews.com

For those of us looking to stretch our car buying and car operating dollars to the max, a used hybrid with reasonable mileage offers a unique and compelling option. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are avatars for the frugal and practically minded. They aren’t the sexiest or fastest, but they deliver consistently good gas mileage and excellent daily drivability. Getting from point A to point B never made you feel as smarter than from behind the wheel of a Prius.

For the purposes of our comparison, we chose a price ceiling of $10,000. At that price range we’re looking at either a second-generation Honda Insight or a third-generation Toyota Prius. The 2013 models of each fall in the middle of those respective generations and provide a good median target in terms of price and mileage. When new, the Prius was the more expensive of the two cars and as a result these seem to carry more miles at this price than a comparable Insight. For example, a 2013 Prius at $10,000 will often fall between 120,000 and 150,000 miles while the Insight will carry closer to 90,000 to 120,000.

The question becomes, is the used Toyota Prius worth the extra miles or is the used Honda Insight the better value? Let’s find out.

Specs

2013 Toyota Prius 1.8L I4 - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota Prius 1.8L I4 - pressroom.toyota.com

The used Toyota Prius runs a 1.8L four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to deliver 134 total horsepower sent to the front wheels via a CVT. Fuel economy is predicably impressive with the Prius getting 51 city and 48 highway mpg, tops among all cars in 2013. There’s also a plug-in hybrid version of the 2013 Prius that provides the same 134 horsepower but with a 15-mile electric only range and 95 MPGe.

2013 Honda Insight 1.3L I4 - carsforsale.com
2013 Honda Insight 1.3L I4 - carsforsale.com

The used Honda Insight is powered by a 1.3L four-cylinder and an electric motor together making 98 horsepower. Like the Prius, the Insight features a CVT and front-wheel drive. Fuel economy comes in at a good but comparatively not great 41 city and 44 highway mpg.

Driving & Performance

2013 Toyota Prius - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota Prius - pressroom.toyota.com

While neither the Prius nor the Insight are particularly fast, with both taking slightly more than 10 second to get to 60 mph, they each possess different road characteristics worth discussing. The used Toyota Prius, for its part, delivers a smooth and comfortable ride. Handling is decent enough with light and accurate steering. The weight of the Prius clocks in at 3,042lbs. and that extra weight compared to the lighter Insight makes the Prius feel more substantial and planted from behind the wheel. This makes the Prius more deliberate around town but more confident on the highway. Overall, the Prius is the premier, set-it-and-forget-it commuter champion with a comfortable and composed ride that totally dispenses with the notion that cars can be “fun” to drive.

2013 Honda Insight - hondanews.com
2013 Honda Insight - hondanews.com

The used Honda Insight trades ride quality for a stiffer suspension that, combined with its lighter weight at 2,747lbs., makes this hybrid feel downright spritely. However, the mere 98 horsepower holds the Insight back from being an exciting car to drive. In fact, the Insight can be annoying/scary in highway passing situations as it can struggle to deliver power with any real speed. And speaking of highway driving, the Insight’s lighter weight doesn’t do it any favors at higher speeds. Many interstates in the US are marked at 75 mph or above, speeds at which the Insight begins to feel a little sketchy.

Interior & Comfort

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The interior of the used Toyota Prius makes the most of its available space for a roomier cabin than you’d assume from the car’s exterior dimensions. The seats in the Prius are comfortable fore and aft, perfectly suitable for extended highway driving. There’s also plenty of storage between the center console, side pockets, and other cubbies. In back, the Prius offers 21.6 cu. ft. of cargo space and a voluminous 39.6 cu. ft. with the rear seats folded down. The interior features dramatic flowing lines and a unified design that, at least back in 2013, would have looked rather progressive. Unfortunately, most of this design is executed in hard plastic which leaves the Prius looking good but feeling a bit less so.

The used Honda Insight’s interior is less spacious and less thoughtfully design in comparison to the Prius. The lower original MSRP is perhaps most evident here with a hodgepodge of bits from Honda’s part bin filling out the cabin. The seats, however, are quite comfortable, but room is lacking the rear at just 33 inches compared to the more generous 36 inches found in the Prius. Also like the Prius, the Insight has 60/40 splitting rear seats, but the Honda doesn’t deliver equivalent cargo room with just 15.9 cu. ft. in the rear hatch and 31.5 cu. ft. with the seats folded down.

Trims & Features

2013 Toyota Prius Four - carsforsale.com
2013 Toyota Prius Four - carsforsale.com

Prius came in four trim levels, the Prius Two, Three, Four, and Five. The “base” Prius Two features a 6.1-inch infotainment screen, CD player, cruise control, and keyless entry. The Prius Three adds navigation, a back-up camera, and satellite radio. The Prius Four gets leather upholstery and a JBL stereo. The Prius Five gets LED headlights and active safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

2013 Honda Insight EX - carsforsale.com
2013 Honda Insight EX - carsforsale.com

The Honda Insight is the more spartan vehicle with three trim levels, the base, LX, and EX. The base features a two-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary jack and automatic climate control. The Insight LX gets cruise control, a four-speaker stereo, and a USB port. The EX offers heated mirrors, a rearview camera, leather steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth compatibility, and an optional touchscreen with navigation and voice controls.

Conclusions

2013 Toyota Prius - pressroom.toyota.com
2013 Toyota Prius - pressroom.toyota.com

The used Honda Insight has a hard case to make for itself at $10,000 over the used Toyota Prius. While you can find a used Insight at lower mileages or at comparable mileages for a lower price, the used Prius beats the Insight in most of the tangible categories. The Prius offers better fuel efficiency, a nicer interior, a more spacious cabin, and more standard and available features. Like many things, you get what you pay for and if you’re trying to get the most out of your money, the 2013 Toyota Prius is the clear winner.

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Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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