Everything you need to know about Prius gas mileage

Photo of 2016 Toyota Prius

2016 Toyota Prius by Karlis Dambrans CC-BY-2.0

The word “Prius” has become synonymous with a hybrid vehicle. Since Toyota launched the first mass-market hybrid car in 1997, the Toyota Prius continues to be the best-selling passenger car in the hybrid category year after year. And while A-list actors like Tom Hanks’ and Ryan Gosling’s love for the Prius has helped build the car’s marketing buzz, almost two million American car buyers have chosen this hybrid for valid reasons beyond the Hollywood cool factor. 

Why Buy A Prius Hybrid?

It all comes down to Prius gas mileage—its ability to deliver better fuel economy than most other vehicles on the road. This efficiency translates into three primary reasons why car buyers choose a Prius or any hybrid vehicle:

  • Saves Money: It’s simple—the less fuel you use, the less money you spend on fuel.  
  • Saves The Environment:  The Prius produces fewer emissions than more fuel-hungry vehicles. 
  • Saves Time: The less time you spend at a gas station, means you have more time to do something else.


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How Does A Hybrid Vehicle Work?

As we learn about Prius gas mileage, let’s first explore how a hybrid system works in the Prius and similar vehicles. Hybrid cars rely on a combination of an internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor that pulls energy from onboard batteries.  

These batteries are charged by the ICE power plant and regenerative braking. Regenerative braking collects the energy that’s otherwise lost during deceleration and converts it back into stored energy. The additional power generated by the electric motor usually allows a hybrid car to use a smaller gas engine than traditional vehicles of the same size.  

A hybrid can also rely on the battery to power things like the radio or heater while the regular engine is temporarily turned off such as at a traffic light stop. All these hybrid features work together to provide better fuel economy than a similar ICE-powered car.

Toyota also offers the Prius Prime, which is a plug-in hybrid whose battery can be charged by connecting to an electrical outlet or public charging station. This plug-in ability will charge the Prius Prime for up to 25 miles of battery-only use. Beyond this range, the regular hybrid system kicks in. In theory, someone who drives less than 25 miles a day with a Prius Prime could rely solely on plug-in power to charge the car and never need to stop at a gas station.

While these fall below the Prius gas mileage rating, there are some other hybrid options to review.



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What Affects Prius Gas Mileage?

The fuel economy ratings that the government reports—and car manufacturers use in their marketing—are based on carefully-controlled conditions in a laboratory-like setting. No one actually drives like this, but an awareness of what affects fuel economy and conscientious driving habits can produce very close, if not spot-on results. Let’s explore what factors affect the fuel economy of a Prius and other hybrids.

Driving Style: 

Smooth, measured acceleration combined with gentle braking will yield the best mpg results. Conversely, stomping the gas pedal and rapid braking will negatively affect your car’s efficiency. Also, driving above 50 mph reduces your fuel economy and costs you more. The EPA has an interesting online calculator that lets you figure out how much excess speed costs you. For example, if you operate a 2021 Prius at 60 mph with a $2.50 per gallon cost for fuel, you pay the equivalent of an extra 44 cents per gallon due to lost fuel efficiency.

Trip Length and Idling: 

While the Prius is designed for maximum efficiency in urban traffic settings, very short trips and excessive idling still use energy that saps the car’s fuel economy.


Look at a Prius, and you’ll see a very streamlined exterior that’s engineered to allow the smooth flow of wind and air. Things like cargo stored on the roof, and even lowered windows, disrupt the air passage and use more energy.

Passengers and Cargo: 

The more you weigh the car down with people and things, the more energy is required. For example, storing unnecessary items in the back of a Prius will affect the car’s mpg for the worse.


All vehicles, but especially hybrids like the Prius, are designed to operate at peak efficiency within normal temperatures. What’s normal? If it’s comfortable for you, it’s best for the car. Of course, you have to use a heater or air conditioner, but keep in mind that any climate control in a Prius draws electricity, which reduces fuel economy. Keeping the car a few degrees colder in winter will save energy.


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The Best Way To Find A Fuel-Efficient Toyota Prius In Your Area

Exploring for a Toyota Prius is quick and easy with the free CoPilot car shopping app. Let us know about your hybrid car preferences, and we’ll create an exclusive list with all the search results from your local dealerships.

CoPilot is built using the same technology that car dealerships use to buy and sell their inventory, making it the smartest and easiest way to buy a Toyota Prius.

Discover the value of shopping for newer, off-lease vehicles with CoPilot Compare. Our search engine for nearly-new cars only shows you models that are 5 years or newer with low mileage so you can find the best Toyota Prius listing in your area, broken down by how much you can save buying used vs. new.

Co-Pilot is unbiased; we work without dealership influence. You won’t see a “promoted” or “sponsored” listing – just perfect, local cars that match your needs. Learn more about how CoPilot works on our About Us page.