Since our jeeps been getting a new engine and catalytic converter, we’ve been living, working and traveling out of this 2017 Toyota Prius. Our friend Devin, transformed his prius into his own overlanding vehicle, so he gave us the courage to live, work and travel full-time in the prius while our Jeep got fixed. Since the seats go all the way down, it’s possible to sleep in without modification, albeit, not with the comfort of a mattress. We spent 25 days living out of this Prius. It made us really appreciate all the work and design that we put into the Jeep.
The prius is a hybrid vehicle, meaning it has both electric motors and a traditional engine. At low speeds, the prius can run 100% on electric and the engine only turns on to charge the batteries back up when they get low. This gives the prius a combined, very efficient, 55 MPG which is superb for long distance overlanding roadtrips!
Comparing this to the jeep, which gets about 16 MPG, going from Anchorage to Seattle is 2,260 miles, the prius can do the trip in 41 gallons of gas and at about $3.50 a gallon costs just $143.50. The jeep on the other hand would consume 141.25 gallons of gas and cost $494! $143.50 for the prius vs $494 for the jeep, thats huge difference for the prius… and gas costs really add up over tens of thousands of miles!
The prius’ 55 MPG assumes you are driving in eco mode, not idling the prius, and using the intelligent eco climate controls; these have a huge effect on the efficiency of the vehicle. In the two weeks we had the prius, and hundreds of miles we drove in it, we spent less than $150 on gas and that was a breath of fresh air!
If overland vehicles were judged only on efficiency, we’d see a lot more prius overlanders! Most of the time we spend in our vehicle isn’t spent on traveling from place to place, rather its; sleeping, working and living…
As we mentioned earlier, one thing thats nice and unique about the prius when compared to other vehicles in its class, the passenger seats fold down and lie flat allowing a large, mostly, flat trunk space. This creates a ok sleeping platform without any modifications, or work! Without this, the only options would be to recline the driver and passenger seats back, and although we have done it, but thats not that comfortable and not a good long-term solution.
The thing is, sleeping in the back just isn’t that comfortable… But, it’s more comfortable than spending $80, or more, a night on a hotel or AirBnB. We sleep with our heads towards the trunk and its just enough room for the both of us. We’ve both woken up with aching backs from sleeping in bad positions… but as long as we sleep on our backs and don’t move around too much, we sleep well!
With some minor handy work, adding a piece of plywood to level out the trunk and some foam padding, the prius could be turned into a really comfortable sleeping platform! To see a bit more on how to do this checkout how our friend Devan, did just that, or checkout how to build your own base platform.
Last night, it snowed for the first time this season here in Anchorage. Although it was 29f outside, when we woke up, we had no clue! This is our favorite part of the prius. Since it’s a hybrid, the engine is pretty quiet and the computer shuts the engine off whenever the battery is sufficiently charged. This means, we can actually leave the vehicle and heat on all night, and the engine will turn on for 5 min every 15 min or so. Because of this, we haven’t been too cold, or too hot when we sleep!
Now, it’s not the most environmentally friendly way of keeping warm, but it’s what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks to keep warm and costs down. This is actually an improvement from the jeep, as we normally only rely on our sleeping bags to keep us warm.
Well… Here’s where things become difficult. For us, theres just not enough room in the prius for us to work, live and travel in it comfortably. The prius might be a great size for just one person, but with the both of us were cramped in and theres not enough room to sit-up in the back. We haven’t spent a lot of time in the prius outside of sleeping. During the work week, we go into a coffee shop, or work at a park. The only comfortable leisure thing we do is sit in the driver and passenger seat and watch netflix, and thats not so bad.
The prius is cheap, has great fuel economy, a quiet incognito & inconspicuous engine, allow us to have heat/AC on 24×7 and we can sleep without modifications making it a great base for a short overlanding trip / rental car option. It’s major shortcomings in that its super small, the sleeping platform isn’t that comfortable, it has no ability to offroad or travel in poor weather and is very difficult to modify / make improvements on. Because of these downfalls, it’s a hard sell for a true long-term overlanding vehicle. We made the best of our situation, but we missed the jeep the entire time!