Is it wrong to love a car?
Yes, I know. “Love” should be reserved for our favorite people and pets. Still, a few inanimate objects in my life rate rather highly on my affection scale:
- Our garden, which not only provides beautiful blooms and tasty treats for our family—it also creates a haven for wildlife and a respite for my overly anxious mind.
- My laptop, which allows me to work anywhere: waiting for my daughter at the barn while she rides her horse, escaping into nature for inspiration, or even lounging by the pool, the ultimate freelance luxury.
- My Toyota Prius, where I spend countless hours, shuttling our kids to and from activities.
It surprises me, the affection I feel for my Prius. After all, I’m not a car person. While my Swiss husband knows every make and model, lusting over high-end German vehicles with slick designs, I’m fairly indifferent about cars. Of course, there’s an exception: I swore I’d never become a Minivan Momma. In fact, with my first child, I drove my sporty little Ford Mustang with the Bradley University decal still adhered to the rear window. A few years later, I replaced the Mustang with a bright red Nissan 240SX, happily zipping along in my cute car with my young son, singing along with Alanis Morissette.
A Family Upgrade: Fighting the Stereotype
After 10 years and with a new baby on the way, my husband begged me to consider a minivan. I humored him, knowing there was NO WAY I’d drive the stereotypical mom-mobile.
Two days before our daughter arrived, my stomach no longer fit behind the steering wheel of my Nissan. We traded in my little red sports car for a Honda Odyssey.
When my water broke in the pet store the next day, though, I knew we’d made a good decision. The Odyssey served us well, as our family grew to five humans, plus many furry babies.
More than a decade passed. When we faced an expensive repair with the Odyssey, we decided it was time to look for a new vehicle.
I’d already decided on my next car. I needed a Toyota Prius in my life.
Toyota Prius: Creating A Family Tradition
While in the midst of my minivan days, our eldest son turned into a driver, inheriting the first car my husband, Peter, bought when he arrived in the U.S.: a Toyota Camry. With 300,000 miles, the Camry performed incredibly well, and it served as a perfect first car for our son to drive locally. When we looked for a new vehicle for Peter, he wandered toward the higher-end luxury models, test-driving a few German vehicles.
But then, I convinced him to test drive the 2006 Toyota Prius.
I’d read plenty of great PR about the Prius, and I wanted to check it out for myself. Was it really as fuel-efficient as the press reported? Could our little family help make a positive impact on the environment by forgoing an SUV in favor of a hybrid? In 2006, the Toyota Prius still offered an air of mystique. While we both loved the environmental appeal of the Prius, with its nearly 50 MPG, it also offered plenty of cool, techie features. Plus, Peter’s experience with the Camry proved Toyota’s reliability.
A Perfectly Pilfered Prius for Alone Time
During my minivan days, I often stole Peter’s Prius to run errands without the kids. I loved driving that car. I felt younger, hipper, more in tune with my Earth-loving, tree-hugging self. Sometimes, moms tend to forget themselves in the throes of diapers and play dates. At least, I did.
After our son graduated from college, we knew he needed a different vehicle. The Camry now sported more than 360,000 miles. For graduation, we bought a nice, used Volkswagen Jetta for our son. As Peter drove it home, he liked its comfort—and teased about keeping the car. So, we offered our son a choice: Jetta or Prius?
He chose the Prius. Smart boy.
And Now Just 6 of the Reasons I love my Toyota Prius
When we traded in my Honda Odyssey, I knew I needed a Prius in my life. The Odyssey served our family well, but I never felt like it represented me, even when I decorated it with political stickers or plastered “Coexist” on its bumper. It felt like wearing someone else’s coat—one that’s perfectly nice but just doesn’t fit quite right.
My new 2012 Toyota Prius, however, fit like a favorite pair of jeans.
Not only does it shout “environmentalist,” it’s friendly, small enough to fit in all the parallel parking spots my Odyssey could never attempt, fits our children, pets, and plants with ease, and I simply feel happier driving it.
Here’s a secret: I also love its limited passenger seating. The Prius fits our two younger kids, plus one friend each for them. (One more small person can squeeze in the rear middle seat, if necessary.) Since I work from home, people tend to think it’s perfectly fine to ask me to take their children to various activities or pick them up from school. I don’t mind helping, but when the requests become daily occurrences—or absurd, like waiting in a car pool line at a school my child doesn’t attend–it gets old. Plus, I’m working. Even if I’m dressed in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, I still need to meet client and editor deadlines.
With the minivan, I felt like I couldn’t say no. Now, in the Prius, I don’t have space for a gaggle of other people’s children.
2. Fuel Efficiency.
With a horse-obsessed daughter who trains four or five days a week at a barn 45 minutes away, a car’s fuel efficiency matters.
Even if I desired an SUV, the amount of gas I’d use driving our daughter to the barn would bankrupt our family. OK, perhaps I exaggerate. Still, with the Prius, I average between 45 and 48 MPG. It’s a little lower than the advertised 50 MPG, but I’m also a speedy driver. When Peter first bought his 2006 Prius, we competed to see who could average the best miles per gallon when running errands. Yes, we’re geeks, but it was fun to coast into the driveway, trying to push my average up a tiny bit to beat him.
And, a few years ago when the price of gas soared to more than $4 per gallon, I felt confident in my choice of vehicles. My friends with trucks and SUVs worried about the impact to their wallets. Today, with our fuel prices hovering around $1.95, I fill my Prius’ tank for well under $20. Plus, even with the amount of miles I drive each week, I typically visit the gas station once every two weeks.
Believe the publicity about the Prius’ fuel efficiency. It’s real.
3. Storage Space
When we owned the Odyssey, Peter dreaded every time I went to my favorite nursery, knowing my weakness for plants. I am, after all, a garden writer, and I must test all the plants. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) He’d roll his eyes at the amount of greenery I loaded into the van, knowing my obsession would lead to much weekend work, as well as a dent in our bank account.
The first time we visited the nursery after buying my Prius, he laughingly told me that I could buy whatever fit into the car.
Ha! Foolish man. He soon regretted his words.
The storage space in the Toyota Prius amazes. For instance, when I sold homegrown, organic heirloom plants at our local farmers’ market, farmers would leave their trucks to watch me unpack my Prius. Crowds gathered as I pulled out a 10’ x 10’ tent, two six-foot tables, a chair, signage, a cooler, a box of supplies, and 14 flats of plants.
Who needs a truck to be an urban farmer?
When our family heads to the mountains for a hike, we easily and comfortably fit the family—human kids, as well as three furry babies.
And, when we head to the airport for our annual two-week trip to Europe to visit Peter’s parents, the Prius easily fits all four suitcases–including mine, which is affectionately known as “The Beast.”
I swear, it’s like Hermione’s purse in Harry Potter—a magical space where everything fits!
When you spend as many hours driving as I do—and it seems everyone is more car-bound these days—comfort is key. The Prius, while sporting a small profile, actually qualifies as a midsized car.
In fact, the backseat’s legroom accommodates tall adults without crowding. Considering the rate that our kids and puppies grow, adequate space is a priority.
Plus, when we take off on impromptu trips, there’s no whining about sitting in the backseat, because it’s equally as comfortable as the front. (Although, sometimes there is a drool zone hazard.)
Personally, I find the Prius adorable. Its compact exterior and well-designed body looks a tad futuristic, without compromising clean lines. It’s sleek, surprisingly sporty—acceleration is not a problem—and wears reindeer antlers at Christmas as if they were designed for it.
It’s a darling addition to our family.
6. Family Values
While I adore my Prius for many reasons, I especially love the story it tells our kids. Obviously, owning a Prius doesn’t ensure that children will grow up to be environmental stewards. Still, because our kids see that we care about the environment—not only by owning a Prius, but also through our family’s actions and attitudes—I think they’ll continue our sustainability efforts. At least, the Prius opened doors for discussion about fuel efficiency and caring for the environment.
It’s obvious that I’m not the only one who loves my Prius. The amount of horsehair, dog fur, and dirt shows that the Prius is one well-loved, much appreciated car.
The Toyota Prius Family Tradition Continues…
Peter’s first Prius resides in Seattle with our son, who’s married—and a dad! Our daughter-in-law now also owns a Prius very similar to mine.
I’m a tad possessive of my Prius. As our daughter learned to drive, my husband taught her in his Jetta. However, on the day she received her restricted permit, she really, really, wanted to drive by herself.
I handed over my key—and watched her drive away. (I only let her drive through the neighborhood—and waited in the driveway until she returned!)
I felt a little sad, both that our girl is no longer a pig-tailed toddler—and that my Prius left without me.
So, when our brilliant, animal-loving, feminist daughter turned 16 on Sunday, we decided to add another Toyota Prius to our family. Somehow, her 2010 used Prius sports more features than mine. Huh. Peter teased that I should take the car and give her mine.
Never. I love my Prius.
I hope I can drive it forever.