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Are Toyota Prius Owners Environmentally Friendly or Just Complete Tools?

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After 12 years without a car, I caved. I didn't have to buy a car, but it made sense.

Since 1999 I never had a problem getting around by foot, bike and public transit in San Francisco, Irvine, Los Angeles and now, Santa Monica. In all four locations, local travel -- say within a 5-10 mile radius -- was easy. Outside of 10 miles I biked practically everything, even in the pouring rain.

If I ever needed four wheels, I rented them. But, as airport travel and CNBC appearances become more frequent, the car-dominated landscape of Southern California necessitates car ownership.

So, like some people buy a pack of gum, I went to Toyota (TM) of Santa Monica (go see Luis Caldas. He's a no-hassle salesman!) and, in less than two hours, took ownership -- via Toyota Finance -- of a 2013 Toyota Prius.

I knew I wanted a Prius. Why? Like I said in the video that accompanies this article, I got a Prius because it's a quiet car. I could have gone electric (like Dylan did at Newport), but that would have cost more and my plug-in situation isn't ideal.

While I like the good gas mileage (I logged 58 MPG on a recent 15-mile highway/city commute), I am under no illusions that I am somehow saving the world by driving a hybrid. I just like the car. It's comfortable. It's the right price. If it ran on the sweat of young Chinese factory workers instead of a mix of gas and electricity, it wouldn't make a difference to me. A car is a car. You drive one and, from a social-environmental standpoint, quit fooling yourself, you're probably not making matters better.

When Caldas told me the Prius was the best-selling car in California in 2012, I hesitated to believe him. But it checked out: Californians registered 60,688 of them last year. That helped Toyota's overall lineup account for one of every five cars sold in the state in 2012.

I shouldn't be surprised. The Prius is ubiquitous, particularly in Santa Monica.

Stock quotes in this article: TM, AAPL, P 

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