Casual Fridays: Are Mac owners like Prius owners?

A few days ago I noticed a comment on an online forum: "Prius owners are just like Mac owners." As a Mac owner and Prius owner, I felt that this comment needlessly stereotyped me. Were they implying that there was something wrong with me? That I was superficial? That I thought I was better than other people? On the other hand, as a Mac owner and a Prius owner, wasn't I confirming the stereotype?

Perhaps there is something to this stereotype, and Casual Friday may be just the time to find out. I've created a brief survey that asks you a few questions about your car, your computer, and your attitudes. If enough of you respond, perhaps we'll be able to (non-scientifically) settle the question once and for all!

Click Here to participate

As usual, the survey is brief, with about 20 questions, which should take less than five minutes to answer. You'll have until Thursday, September 25 to respond. There is no limit on the number of survey respondents. Don't forget to come back next Friday to see the results!

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Cars kill people slowly and sometimes quickly.

If you drive a car, you're murdering ecology - straightforward irrefutable fact.

(Typed on my Apple Wireless Keyboard and the words appear on my MacBook, here in London's Docklands).

the final question was inspired.

By Matt Hussein Platte (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

Together we can stop global warming.

I have done my part. I prayed for fewer sunspots and my prayers were answered. Enjoy the global cooling. No need to thank me.

By Uncle Kenny (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

Cute... though I may throw off your pattern a bit (if there is one). I would have added a question about age (I'm a college student, and cash money is way more important than a car!)

Rev Matt -- I think we've got your Prius wish covered with the "what would you buy on a $30K budget" question.

But the home/work question is a good one -- I didn't really want to go there on the survey because it would make things more complicated. I guess I was assuming most people would be talking about their home computer.

the last question could end up being a bit misleading... I don't *buy* any coffee. the office provides for my 3 cup or so a day habit for free.


There are those who scorn the free office coffee for a triple grande latte at Starbucks -- that's the group we're trying to isolate with this question.

...and Windows users are like Trabant owners?

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

Your last question was discriminatory against Coffee-addicted Americans. I buy a cup of coffee at the cantina every morning - about $1.20 - and I drink the office coffee. And a cup at a restaurant on Saturday mornings and maybe every other week, a blended coffee drink at Coffee Hound (local spot) when I'm feeling saucy.

Excuse me, I need to climb over the wall of my cubicle and go for coffee.

I've heard of that mythical creature... which I think partially contributed to why the company recently installed a coffee bar w/barista... though in most cases here the trip to Starbucks|Peets|slew of local shops is more an excuse to escape the office for a bit than for the $3-5 coffee.

Buying a PC or a Linux machine is not mutually exclusive. I'd buy the hardware that can support both. There are also some options for running windows on a mac and osx on a pc.

mileage breakdowns are really bad on this Dave. think of the qualitative meanings. you should have probably used unequal groupings to capture the quality. below 5mpg? some kinda supercar, no? that's a very different category from an old junker truck that makes 10mpg. ditto the difference between 11 (really, really naughty) and 20.

just sayin'

By DrugMonkey (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

The question about global warming should have been phrased so those that don't believe in it would have an obvious answer. I selected neutral because I don't believe humans have that much impact on the natural cycle of weather.

Drugmonkey: We were really interested in the high end of the spectrum -- the serious mileage freaks -- more than the low end. I think "40 and over" is a very different group from "20 and under" no matter how you slice it.

Dude: Again, we're kinda lumping people into "Mac" and "everything else." If this question troubles you, you're not really a Mac user.

Kevin T:

You really should have checked "disagree", I think, because the question asked you whether you agreed with the statement that humans can affect global warming. But we're getting hundreds of responses, so it will probably be statistical noise.

I would buy a plugin hybrid, but there was no option for it. I had to select 'electric car'.

I hope Uncle Kenny was either sarcastic (you need to mark that nowadays, see Poe's Law) or correctly selected 'Strongly Disagree' for 'I am well informed'.

Unfortunately I cannot view the questions any more after I am done with it...

The entire poll was inspired. I was highly amused by how strongly I felt about most of the "share your views" section.
I did wonder why there wasn't there a question on arugula consumption though ;-)

Also, my instinctive response to "how much do you spend on coffee per week?" was "way too much", yet I fit into one of the middle categories- are there actually people that spend >$20/week?!!eleventy?

DM, I see you have bought into the Suburban American commercials in which car manufacturers, seemingly in earnest, advertise that their "fuel-efficient" vehicles get all of 24mi/gallon.
I've got a poor-college student Corolla-lite (= Chevy Prizm, which is gettting ~36 mpg as I use it) and would have bought a Prius if I could have afforded it.
I laugh at the distinction between 11 (really really naughty) and 20 (read: "OH but I have a family(or a puppy) so I NEED an SUV plus at least it's a Honda" rationalized-naughty).

I already screwed this up. I stop in at Starbucks regularly...but I only drink tea.

You should have included a question about miles driven in the car. I've got a Honda CRV, we bought it used for cash, it's not great mileage, but I normally drive less than 100 miles a month. It's just not worth spending a lot of money to save $10 a month. And yeah, I have a Mac. And I drink the office coffee at the office, and make good french-press coffee at home. Never Charbucks. Never. Ever.

Great quiz! Unfortunately I neither drive a Prius nor own a Mac. Can't afford a Prius, and all of my data analysis systems only do Windows. Do I still qualify for the quiz?

And Becca, I had a Chevy Prizm for years! Unfortunately it died on me three months ago. Get your oil pump checked regularly and if it breaks, make sure it is replaced by someone competant. It was a leak inside the engine and $5k repair that did me in. But it was a good little car, and made it 7 years without major problems. I miss my Prizm. *single tear*

And some of us disdain the office coffee and set up our OWN lab coffee pot with the good stuff. Much cheaper, the coffee is much stronger, and you get a fair-trade organic fix.

Thanks for the entertaining little quiz, can't wait to see the result... liked the coffee question, as it didn't give away my tea addiction.

The gas range should have been a bit different, a car that gets 30mpg shouldn't be in the same class with a car that gets 21mpg.

First time reading the blog. Very nice, BTW.

I always thought Mac owners were VW people. Until the Prius came along. What about all the other Hybrids out there. Does anyone buy a Malibu hybrid?

I've got more than a dozen Macs (if you count my lab, my office, my students, and the three that I own). I'd never have a Prius, though: Too small. Though if more people get Hybrids, maybe there will be more gas left for me and my Honda Pilot.

But if you want to really throw off the survey/sterotype, consider that Rush Linbaugh is a long time Mac lover....

By John Paul MInda (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

My Prius gets just about exactly 50 mpg so I wasn't sure which to check.

And I spend $6-10 per week at Starbucks (or similar) but not on coffee - on chai lattes or hot cocoa. There's no such thing as the office chai machine. Wasn't sure what to pick their either.

In any case, I can't wait to see the results.

You're forgetting those of us who were unix hands, but who got tired of messing with getting the laptop to connect to the projector in a reliable fashion. And who live ten minutes by bike from our laboratory. And don't drink coffee.

Though perhaps the fact that I wish the Lisp machines hadn't died makes me a statistically insignificant minority to begin with.

I'm pretty sure I'm an outlier here...
I'm a *nix geek (I use Macs for the things I use every day and want to Just Work and *BSD for serious computrons that I plan to spend a lot of time with anyways), so even though I got to check "Mac" because it's what I'm more often sitting in front of, I'm not really a "Mac user".
Oh, and I walk everywhere; if I were to buy a motorized vehicle, it would very probably be a motorcycle. This is more because I hate cars than because I like fuel-efficiency.
(And coffee? I drink plain boring coffee from any of the nearby coffee-and-donut shops (local, regional chains, and national chains are all represented without any detours from my normal daily wanderings); I could spend over $20 in a week on it without any trouble, even if an average week is closer to $10.)

Since I live in a city and don't need a car, can I just take the $30,000?

It would be interesting to see the zealousness (if that's a word) of Mac owners and Prius owners to their product of choice. Ie. like the comcast commercial, would we take X dollars to give up our Prius and drive an gas-sucking terrorist-sponsoring SUV, or to give up our Mac and use a M$ Windoze machine? (Assuming you couldn't trade it next week and come out ahead). I bet those dollar amounts would be pretty high for most Mac and Prius owners, much higher than the product is worth.

I wouldn't want to offend Prius owners by comparing them to those emo-apple fanboys... LINUX OR BUST

Ever since Steve Jobs came back to Apple, I have completely sworn off Apple. Until then, I swore by the Mac--mainly because I had a Mac clone. Steve came back, killed the Mac clones and I have never forgiven him for that, nor do I intend to EVER buy another Mac. It is too bad we stereotype users. I am a Liberal-Democrat, Obama supporter and I have a concern for the environment. I also use a Dell (when I am not using my Linux for development).

By Lou Rosas (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

I don't own a car, but my live-in partner does and I do drive it sometimes. (He and I both take the bus to work/lab, so we only drive it for weekend errands or trips out of town.) It's a Toyota Scion xB (old version) and it gets 30-36 mpg, based on our calculations. If we had more money to throw around we might consider a Prius, but we'd be sad to give up manual transmission.

I don't drink coffee anymore, so I put $0. I suppose I should have answered $3-5 since I do buy tea from the coffee stand a few times a week -- I really ought to get a travel mug and bring my own teabags, 'cause they're totally ripping me off.

Ditto on an earlier comment about the mutual exclusivity about PCs and Linux. Plus, what about VMWare of some sort? On my laptop I can run Windows from Linux. There is also some ambiguity on what one uses for work and what one uses for home. Home is Linux, Mac and Windows whereas work is mostly Windows with some Linux and AIX sprinkled. :) Plus, if I had a choice, I'd simply bike in to work. :) Now we need to find a correlation between Linux distros and auto choice.

Here's another datapoint for ambiguity and confusion. Can I be your outlier? I am a fulltime telecommuter, and I have a Windows laptop that belongs to my employer, connected to my own monitor. Much of my work involves connecting to Linux and other unices, and I have several home computers, both Windows and linux (but no Macs). I have a Prius, but I also have an electric-assist bike, which would be my preferred mode of transportation (if it weren't non-functional at the moment), and if I had my choice of car, I would pick a plug-in hybrid so I could charge it from my photovoltaic solar panels that I am in the process of installing. I drink 3-4 cups of caffeinated beverage daily, but they are all tea, and all made in my own kitchen.

Engaging survey as usual, Dave! Looking forward to the results.

I'd love to have a Prius or Civic hybrid (would be even happier if there were a Mini Cooper hybrid in the works), but after consulting with some friends, I decided that it would be more eco-friendly to continue to drive my reliable and fairly fuel-efficient Honda Accord for another 3 to 5 years (It's a 2000, with ~120K miles). Many people neglect to consider the energy footprint of car manufacture, when attempting to be "green".

I make my own coffee and tea at home, and take them to work in a good old-fashioned thermos, just as I did when I was a grad student. Take a sandwich, some fruit, and a yogurt for lunch; old thrifty habits die hard for me. I also drink tap water, even at work.

The only problem I have with Macs is that they are way over-priced for what they are. Oh, and they run Windows a lot slower than my $1000 gaming computer. Oh yeah, and there aren't a whole lot of games for OSX like there are for Windows. And I really don't like that Apple guy in the commercials.

I would love to have an electric car, or even a Prius.

A fully electric sports car with diesel generator trailer option for longer drives would be great. And it would need to cost no more than a comparable gasoline/diesel car.

As an 'enthusiast' car guy, I can't see ever buying a car like the Prius; not because it is unattractive (which it is) but because of the really uninspiring driving experience. Spongy pedal feel, numb handling, etc. keep a car like this from real success.

I'm happy to take the 6 MPG penalty to have the daily pleasure of driving my Honda s2000.

By Col. Mortimer (not verified) on 19 Sep 2008 #permalink

With my diesel I have got about 47.5MPG (4.95l/100km) during its four years. By European standards, the car is a small family car, enough room for one (or maybe two) kids, two adults, and gear.

Prius is ok in cities, but unfortunately it is not competitive with diesel on longer journeys, in terms of MPG. It would also be too small for our needs, and still we would need to pay an EUR 5000-7000 extra.

I would love to have a Prius or another hybrid, though. I do have a 15" Mac. :) I was drawn to Macs by their Unix core (I have a strong Linux history), my photography, and the peaceful, elegant feeling of the UI.

What's common with a Mac and a Prius? To me, technological elegance, maybe. In Apple products the elegance is in design, UI, and sometimes in the quality of the hardware, while in Prius, I'd imagine it is in fuel economy and probably also in quality (partly Lexus technology, and otherwise the trustworthiness of Toyota). The social aspect is a bit unclear around here, for Prii (sp?) are so few. But undoubtedly there is something in there, being against the crowd in a smart way, or something.

I suppose I should add that I have a Smart car. (lovely car by the way...) but the mileage varies a lot. there are some old honda civics that get roughly the same mileage, (35-52 mpg) depending on the driving style.

though Lou Rosas, I've never understood that attitude towards macs and mac clones. one of the only reasons that macs have the rep that they have is due to the limited amount of hardware that they run on. being in the software industry has given me a great appreciation for not having to support infinite combinations of hardware. macs may have idiosyncratic issues, but at least they are consistent. definitely not the case with windows or linux. apple's (and jobs') intentions towards having trouble free (well, limited) computer experiences sort of dictates a very focussed approach towards the hardware the system runs on.

I think the real relationship between mac owners and certain cars is likely the desire for a vehicle that you don't have to think to hard about caring for. at the risk of being cliché, something that 'just works'

oh well...

From my anecdotal evidence, I have observed that first-generation Mac-users tend to be either yuppies or hippies who discovered how to make money (often the same thing). Both of these demographics can be swayed by the green-chic of purchasing the Prius. As you aren't asking for age or college values, us poor Mac-using college students who thrive on the durability of the Mac will begrudgingly throw off your data.

I'm interested in how the coffee variable will correlate; you could've also thrown in questions about how one feels about Al Gore for another bit of tasty correlation.

I saw your website and "koffee kwiz" etc on my techie son's blog. Needless to say, I am a low tech grandma who uses a pc, can't afford a prius , and I don't reload my koffee Kard too frequently -- although I do HAVE one ! My koffee comes from home -- and its the strong high Kuality stuff. Does Kuality count? My company bans koffee machines in our kitchens due to a " fire hazard". Is this a Kommie Koffee plot to get us to buy our koffee from the shop downstairs or down the street? I can't even begin to address the prius topic ! I'm a lowly social worker, and will never be able to afford one. I go to my techie son's house to watch him use his Linux. His blog is solar powered -- and he has a prius. Does family association count ?

DM, I see you have bought into the Suburban American commercials in which car manufacturers, seemingly in earnest, advertise that their "fuel-efficient" vehicles get all of 24mi/gallon.

Anyone else old enough to remember Renault commercials from the 1960's that said; "25mpg is lousy mileage!"?

I said I would never vote for Obama, but that's not because I disagree with his politics, it's because I don't believe I'll ever be a US citizen.

Not sure I agree with his politics either, but dunno if that's here or there.

The Q asked '*support* Obama?' not 'vote for' - which as a UK citizen would indeed be tricky.

It *really* annoys me that random rental cars in the UK get ~70 mph yet even my Golf has trouble getting close to 40 here in the US. Why can't I buy a BlueMotion over here? Still, I agree with the poster above about doing total eco calcs: at 9 years old and 200K miles, I expect to be driving this thing for another ten years yet, so trading in for a hybrid (whose real-world gas mileage is uncertain anyway, and which I would not enjoy driving nearly as much!) is probably unwise.

All of that said... as a french-press using, VW-driving, XKCD T-shirt wearing, academic Mac user I am sadly easy to stereotype :).

The quiz really does overlook us folks who combine our green tendencies with the most bang for our buck.

Go ahead. Laugh. I drive a 1998 Cadillac (23 city, 30 hwy) that I bought used in 2003, when somebody t-boned my 1993 Cadillac (20 city 25 hwy). I traded my 1993 SHO (25 city 33 hwy) for the 1993 Cadillac when it's AC went kaput. Even trade, so I've not purchased a new car since 1993. That's over 210,000 miles and only one car being made "specially" for me.

That's pretty "green" if you ask me. It doesn't give me any prestige points anywhere; probably puts me in the negative numbers.

Coffee? I answered $11-$20 because that's what I spend on beans to brew myself at home. I seldom buy at a coffee shop. I'm way too picky.

And I'm way too much of a cheapskate to buy a Mac. If I were a professional photographer or designer, it might be well worth it, but I'm not so I'm not going to pay out that kind of moolah for prestige.

In case you haven't figured it out, I could care less about prestige.

I think I've got most of you beat: I drive a Honda Insight that has averaged better the 70 mpg over the 5 years/80K miles I've owned it (and that's mostly driving in the Sierra Nevada :-)), and I've gotten the Linux notebook that's my primary machine to run on about 14 watts in my normal code-editing mode.

But a question for those who say they don't need a car because they live in a city: I can see getting around in the city without a car, how do you get out?

Another thought: At this years meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, I would estimate that 90% of the laptops I saw were Apples. About the same for for students, professors, and sensior researchers. I never saw so many Macs at one single conference. Of course, I do not know what kind of car anyone was driving.

At another conference with mostly physicians, I saw about 15% macs. Doctors use windows PC's because that is what they use in most hospitals.

I think it is safe to say that a lot of academics like macs.

A lot of academics like to drive green or cylcle

Also drink coffee.

I suppose that might be the best predictor of all of these relationships.

By John Paul MInda (not verified) on 21 Sep 2008 #permalink

Apple products are fashion electronics. If you view a computer as a device that becomes a many different specific machines depending on what software you run, the vastly greater array of software for the PC makes it clear that a Mac is not purchased for its utility value.

Similarly, a Prius is largely a fashion statement. If one were truly wishing to reduce their carbon footprint, they would choose public transportation. But that's just so, I dunno, unfashionable. Instead, the fashion conscious will drop $30K on a vehicle that gets their usually single-occupant vehicle about 7 miles farther on every gallon of gas, and gives them a prissy feeling of having 'done their part'. Kind of like ordering a diet coke with your super-sized mega-burger meal.

Mac users are like Prius drivers in that they have a feeling of moral superiority, when their actual superiority is real but only slight.

If you want to be truly superior, use Linux and don't drive at all.

This might be a bit troll-y, sorry.

@1:If you drive a car, you're murdering ecology - straightforward irrefutable fact.
No. If you drive a car, you're changing ecology. That isn't anti-matter coming out of an exhaust.

@All Prius owners for environmental reasons:
Have you guys ever looked into enviromental studies that look at the impact of auto over their entire lifecycle particularly once they are no longer on the road? You might be disgusted with yourselves when you see the outcomes. I've seen studies where the long term environmental impacts that a hybrid battery has on the environment is very similar to the fumes spewing from the back of a Hummer. Those batteries don't contain water you know. They're filled with nasty toxins.

Sure. Here's a company that has studied this for a while: Check out anything that looks appealing.

Environmentalist types will no doubt scream that this report is big oil and/or automakers cooking the books on us, so luckily (for my position in this discussion) this company DOES disclose where they get their funding. You can find that right here:…

There are plenty of other negative reports out there regarding the source of these (toxic) metals. Here's one for example… . I can't vouch for this article's accuracy, but there is a LOT of this stuff out there if you just take the time to look.

I don't pretend to have detailed knowledge of the world's mineral deposits, but I'd wager that the cheapest source of natural mineral deposts are in the third world contries where safety restrictions are the most lax, and safety corners can be cut most easily with little fear of litigation or any other inconvenient penalties. Watch or (better) read "The Constant Gardner" for some, albeit dramatized, idea of what I'm talking about here.

I'm just trying to point out to you guys that this is not an open/shut case. These new technologies might be good and they might be bad, only time will really tell. Either way there is a cost involved, both environmental and very likely to humanity as well.

So Holier-than-though Prius drivers should tone down the smug - you're no better than anyone else just because you drive a Prius.

Angus, I looked around on the site and found a lot of hand-waving but not a lot of hard data. Most of the evidence cited was about dollar cost, not about true carbon footprints. Prius owners acknowledge that their cars are expensive, but they believe it's worth it if they are causing less damage to the environment than other cars. If you could point me to one specific article which shows that Priuses cause more pollution than other cars, I'd love to see it.

The situation discussed in the Oxfam article is heart-wrenching, but of course drilling and transporting oil has many of the same issues as nickel mining. Again, the key question here is whether the Prius causes MORE environmental damage than other cars, not whether it causes ANY damage.

Here's an article comparing the Prius against a Corolla and finding in the Prius's favor.

Dave, I cannot insist that I am right and you are wrong in this matter. My personal feeling is that the case is not closed yet and only time will tell if hybrid (or even 100% electric) technology is an improvement over traditional gasoline or diesel.

What I am trying to address specifically is the dogmatic position frequently held that hybrids have lower exhaust emissions therefore always a better choice (morally or otherwise). Additionally, that hybrid drivers are somehow "better" in some way than non hybrid drivers because they are doing the right thing / care more for the environment / stand against the oil companies etc. My point is that there is more going on here than what is presented at the surface. The first response to this article claims that "if you drive a car, you're murdering ecology." That is specifically the attitude that I'd like to address.

The dollars cited on the are unrelated to the MSRP / sticker price on the car. Those are the dollar costs assigned to the energy consumption required to build, drive and destroy the vehicle. As you point out, the article does not claim that a Prius will "cause more pollution." However, leaving all the light in your house on all day doesn't directly "cause more pollution" and having inefficient dishwashers doesn't "cause more pollution" but both contribute to a larger carbon footprint. More energy is required in the building and disposal of a Prius and thus they have a larger carbon footprint IN THAT REGARD than a traditional auto, right? There is, of course, no question that while on the road a hybrid has a smaller footprint than the vast majority of vehicles.

The problems associated with Nickel mining are easily overlooked because the same problems exist with oil? So environmentally irresponsible behavior is fine for "us" because "they" do it too? Are you comfortable with that position? I certainly wouldn't be. I don't have a study showing that the environmental impact of nickel mining is less than or more than oil drilling so I don't know how they compare in terms of environmental impact.

However, unless people know how these two things compare, how can they claim that a Prius causes less damage to the environment?

PS > Love the site. I read every article. Assigning moral value to hyrid vehicles happen to be a pet peeve of mine.


In the article I linked, you'll find a link to another article with a more thorough debunking of the CNW report. The thrust of the rebuttal is that the CNW report vastly overstates the impact of building the car relative to the environmental impact of running the car. It also addresses the nickel-mining issue, pointing out that mining has been cleaned up in recent decades.

Again, I'm not claiming the Prius is perfect, but it's pretty clear to me that the it's better than the alternative.

As for the stereotypes about Prius owners -- I guess we'll find out about that on Friday.


I did read that link when you posted earlier this morning. I beleive the CNW report does have an explanation about the way they did things. I have not read it.

Secondly the linked website does address the mining concerns. At a VERY specific mine... In Canada... That is no longer relevant to this discussion. I deliberately ignored this red herring in my original reply because it is pretty much just baseless propoganda that taints the case of "non-believers" like myself.

I am interested to see the poll results too.

The people I know who bought hybrids (Prius or Honda) aren't pretentious about their purchases, but their choice does require a certain level of income, and constitutes one of the most obvious ways to signal "greenness" in US society. If instead you stick with your fuel-efficient, older, non-hybrid vehicle, and keep it well-maintained, it may just signal a lower income, rather than concern for the environment (even though your choice may be as green or greener than buying a Prius). Also, one can still drive a hybrid vehicle irresponsibly, without concern for conserving fuel-perhaps by making unnecessary trips, or by failing to carpool or combine errands that require a car.

I'd be interested to know how/whether owning a hybrid vehicle correlates with other "green" behaviors and choices. Are Prius owners more likely to be diligent about recycling and composting? What are their housecleaning and yard maintenance practices? Are they greener in their vacation, housing, and eating choices? Do they limit air travel? Bottled water?