Welcome JoAnn and feel free
Welcome JoAnn and feel free to ask questions. It is important to do your homework prior to visiting a dealership. We don't know where you live, whether you need cargo carrying capacity or other but you are going to obtain much better mileage with a hybrid vehicle than you do with your present Ford Explorer. GaryG is the current hypermiling king with the Ford Escape Hybrid at a lifetime average of nearly 47mpg! That is better than what many Prius owners obtain. Then again, most of the Escape Hybrid owners do not obtain mileage quite this high. It is true you sit higher in the Escape than the Prius. One drawback is greater wind resistance at highway speeds.
I suggest you read GaryG's article in cleanmpg.com on how to hypermile the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Many of us are very happy with our vehicles. They handle well and provide sufficient cargo carrying capacity. Many of these vehicles are free of major issues but some are known to need a water pump replacement around 50,000 miles. There is no need to worry about hybrid battery replacement as taxis in New York City have approached and exceeded 200,000 miles without issues. The Ford Escape Hybrid does not share hardware or software with the Toyota Prius. The Escape has a larger engine, hybrid battery and hybrid components when compared to the Prius.
With a higher ground clearance, the Ford Escape Hybrid is a better Winter Vehicle than the Prius. If you need AWD, the system is seemless, automatic and extremely effective.
The 2008 version is sold out and it is believed you can start ordering the 2009 version on April 17, 2008.
Only you can decide what fits you best and this means a trip to a dealership(s). Please learn what you can about potential purchase vehicles prior to going to the dealership.
We took delivery of our 2008
We took delivery of our 2008 Escape Hybrid last September and couldn't be happier. This is our fourth Escape but the first hybrid.
You'll find that the 08's are quieter than previous Escapes, a bit better appointed and offer a few new features. Handling doesn't seem quite as sharp as our earlier Escapes, but only slightly so, no complaints. You will notice a slightly different feel in the steering as it is electric and a little different feel in the braking since the first part of the pedal travel is the regenerative braking. Neither of these really take any getting used to.
We bought the 4WD version since we live in Wisconsin, and it came in very handy as we had our snowiest winter on record. The automatic 4WD system does, indeed, engage seamlessly and the Escape drove through snow as deep as 12+ inches as if it wasn't even there.
Fuel economy varies quite a bit depending on driving conditions, weather and driving habits. In the warmer months I have no trouble keeping the mileage above 30mpg, which is better than the EPA estimate. My personal best, using just a few hypermiling techniques, was 36mpg on a route that including city, country and freeway.
Our car has been absolutely trouble free and we couldn't be happier with our decision.
There are growing number of
There are growing number of Prius owners buying the FEH/MMH as a second car and FEH/MMH owners buying a Prius. They're both great cars for the money and the money they save. Very few people go back to standard gas vehicles after owning a hybrid.
I also have a '02 EB Explorer and plan to keep it for towing my boat and hauling big things around. My plan is to replace my '05 FEH with a new '09 as soon as I can get one ordered and get my wife a new '09 Prius when they become available. My wife drives like most people and I don't expect her to get over 35mpg out of a Prius, but we will see.
Hypermiling is a hobby of mine and others, so don't expect you'll enjoy the mileage some of us get. The problem is once you start getting supper mileage, it's hard to give it up. You'll get good mileage in either of these vehicles and help save the planet. Some people just stick to the basic common sense driving and can maintain EPA estimates. If your averaging 17mpg in an Explorer, your getting 2mpg better than my Wife. You should do quite well in a hybrid.
My wife has an 05 Explorer,
My wife has an 05 Explorer, and gets terrible mileage compared to when I drive it. (coming from my hybrid). It's the WIVES I tell ya, the WIVES!!! BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!
I have a 2006 Prius and a
I have a 2006 Prius and a 2008 Escape Hybrid 4WD. The Escape is slightly roomier for passengers and a tad more cargo room (especially
vertically), but the Prius is amazingly roomy inside. My wife uses it the Prius to haul all kinds of garden stuff. In fact, the Prius is the same length as the Escape but narrower and not as tall.
The Escape Hybrid is a little peppier and more responsive dynamically than the Prius. I really don't like the Prius' steering response, as I am used to driving sports cars. The Prius is a great around-town car, super easy to maneuver and park. The Escape hybrid is too, owing to its small size, and both cars shut down when idling in traffic which is really nice.
I really dislike the Prius' overdone techno-dash and annoying flat-panel display, and the ergonomics are actually pretty poor (must go thru multiple touch screen menus way too often). On the other hand, the 2008 Escape lacks Bluetooth phone*, rear-view camera, keyless ignition, stability control and other truly useful electronic features. 2009 Escapes will add Sync/Bluetooth and stability control. [*California will join other states in banning hand-held phone use this year]
The 4WD Escape Hybrid works well in snow. I've hauled skiers up and down the Sierras in big storms and it is very stable and has no trouble in snow. I get about 29-30 MPG in dry weather over the mountains. The Prius easily gets 48 MPG on the highway and 46 around town, but it is a bit nervous on the highway (see comment about steering vagueness).
So, if your mission is mainly around town and commuting without a lot of stuff, the Prius is the way to go. If you haul stuff, Escape works better but you'll pay a significant fuel penalty.
If you don't mind a 5 hour
If you don't mind a 5 hour drive, there are hundreds available in So. Cal. You can search inventory by zipcode at forddirect.com