Info about used hybrid cars and their hybrid-battery life
January 22, 2010 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Used hybrid cars and their batteries. I want to buy a used hybrid in the US, looking at '04-'07 Toyota Priuses and Honda Civic Hybrids. Looking for your experiences with these cars, things to look out for, driving in winter conditions, and especially any solid info about the service life (yrs/mileage) of the hybrid battery.

I've heard the batteries are very expensive to replace when they fail - $3000 is a typical quote. The key question is, if I get a hybrid with something like 70,000 miles on it, how likely is the battery to need replacement within the next couple of years?
posted by LobsterMitten to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I can't answer your battery question, but I have an 07 Civic Hybrid and I love it. However, my friend's Prius gets WAY better mileage. I just couldn't stand the humped-up way the Priuses look...
posted by GaelFC at 12:52 PM on January 22, 2010

It seems like hybrid batteries last for the length of the life of the car (approximately 200,000 miles). This info comes from here , here, here, and here. If I was in your shoes I would not worry about replacing the battery.
posted by bove at 1:11 PM on January 22, 2010

I have a 2003 Civic Hybrid with 90,000 miles. I bought it at 45,000. No suggestion of trouble with the battery yet and in general it's a great car.

When looking at 2003-05 Civic Hybrids, ask about any prior transmission work. There are some known issues there (and I've had to get mine maintained by the dealer a couple of times already). On the '03 models, and maybe other years too, they extended the warranty on the transmissions to 100,000 miles because of the problem.
posted by AgentRocket at 1:17 PM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

We own an '07 Toyota Prius. Not exactly sure, but I think it has about 50K miles on it. Battery is still going fine, so I can't give you any estimates on that. PriusChat and some of the other Prius specific forums might be able to give you a better idea of service life and battery costs.

As far as general experiences with the Prius, I'll admit that I didn't want to buy one. I thought they were ugly (still do), and I wasn't sold on the whole hybrid thing either, with a lot of the same questions you have. After owning this one for 3ish years, I have to say that I am solidly impressed. They are well built, well designed, reliable cars that get fantastic gas mileage. We've never had to take it in for repairs other than the regular maintenance work (oil changes, inspections and the like) and I'm constantly impressed with the little design details. Even after all this time we're averaging at least 45MPG. It handles as well as any non-AWD car does in snowy/icy driving conditions (use the B-mode like downshifting with standard transmission to take advantage of engine breaking on downhill stretches) and has no trouble starting up on cold mornings.

Oh and if you're wondering about hills & mountains, it handles those just fine too. Better than my 4-cylinder 2001 luxury car even.
posted by geeky at 1:19 PM on January 22, 2010

I've read about Prius taxis that have 300,000 miles on them, no problem, never needed to replace the batteries. I think they can get such high mileage on the engine since it's only running like 60% of the time (it turns off when you're coasting or on battery power only). I'm sure Toyota took this into consideration when they designed the battery.
posted by bengarland at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the great info so far!
Another question: suppose the hybrid battery fails. Can the car be driven just using the gas engine? From what I'm reading, the Prius can't but the Civic might be able to?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:48 PM on January 22, 2010

I have a 2007 Prius.

I love it. Seriously. It is the best goddamned car I have ever owned. Never had to have repairs, averages about 43mpg where I live, but that's a significantly short commute and it doesn't have adequate time to warm up.

It does like mild climates best. Too hot or too cold, and the efficiency drops some. But never below 42mpg for a given year, so far.
posted by kaseijin at 1:49 PM on January 22, 2010

second the suggestion to head to priuschat. I've been driving one since Jan 2007. Drive 45 miles each way to work. About 92k miles on it now. has had standard oil changes, and little else. Only real problem I've had is the CD changer died and Toyota replaced it. good, smooth ride.

As far as HV battery life, I've read of several that have over 300k miles on them and have had no issues.
posted by Karmic_Enigma at 1:52 PM on January 22, 2010

Another data point. I'm an original owner of an '04 Civic Hybrid, going on 100k miles. The battery is still going strong.
posted by mattybonez at 1:53 PM on January 22, 2010

Owner of a used 01 Prius (first gen). Replaced the small battery but the big hybrid battery's still doing fine. Over 120K miles so far. We love our car.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2010

Sorry to be a wet blanket here, BUT...

Although I love my Prius, the hybrid battery is indeed very expensive to replace. See my question here.

What I learned: the newer Priuses have a better warranty than the older ones.
California emissions law gives a 15 yr 150K warranty for the 2004-2008 batteries... Mine was 8 yrs or 100,000, I think.

Also mechanism of failure: Going strong on the freeway at 60mph, then not going. Failure was sudden. There was no warning light to say 'your battery is going bad, better get it checked out'

My bottom line: Know your warranty. I would have bought the car anyway, it was a great deal, and I am into reducing emissions, but anything I might have saved on gas cost is long gone.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2010

The hybrid battery in my 2001 Prius with 80,000 miles is still going strong.
posted by MsMolly at 12:05 AM on January 23, 2010

I bought my used '04 with 96000 miles on it in December '07 and it is still as good as new, as far as I can tell, at 115,000. I also had to switch out the small battery, but no repairs needed since. Definitely read Priuschat for advice about tires if winter driving is in store.
posted by birdsquared at 3:58 AM on January 23, 2010

In '08 I bought an 04 Civic hybrid used, and it now has over 100,000 miles on it. In 2009, during the extended warm and dry periods we had in the DC area, I had several tanks that averaged 50 mpg if all I was doing was driving my commute of approximately 17 miles (each way). The best tank was 52.x mpg. In the winter time, similar driving yields about 43-45 mpg. Adding short hops and bad weather (rain, snow, headwinds) to the mix lessens the mpg from those averages. Overall, in the 1.5 years of driving it I'm averaging 43 mpg. I've driven in snow with no problems or scares, including driving my wife to the hospital to deliver our baby when the weather was well into a 6 inch snowfall. So, yeah!
posted by NortonDC at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have an '05 Prius with a little more than 80k on it. I love it. I've kept up with scheduled maintenance and haven't had trouble with it of any kind. Except that a new key-nugget is a couple hundred dollars, but that's not the Prius' fault.

I live in Texas and the mileage is significantly worse in the winter. If I lived somewhere colder I'd definitely get a block warmer for it.
posted by cmoj at 9:29 AM on January 23, 2010

my '04 Prius with 179,000 miles on it is still going strong. Gas mileage is not quite as high (high 40s) as it was with 10,000 miles on it (low 50s), but still good.
posted by jrishel at 8:24 AM on January 25, 2010

Response by poster: Update: we've bought a used Civic hybrid. The Honda dealer told us that Honda has recently increased the warranty on its newer hybrid batteries to 100,000 miles (up from 80,000 on older models). But he also said, "nobody including Honda will sell you an extended warranty that covers the hybrid battery" -- and this is even true of a "Honda certified used" car. (The extended "bumper to bumper" coverage that you get from its being "certified" does not include any extra coverage for the hybrid battery.)

This was during the part of the negotiation where he was otherwise pushing their various extended warranty coverages, so it's a weird claim to make unless it's true - since we were hinting we would buy extended warranty coverage if it covered the hybrid battery.

Assuming this guy was correct on his facts, two possible conclusions:
1. there is significant enough uncertainty about the life of the battery that Honda and third-party companies feel like they can't estimate the risk, to set rates for a warranty, or
2. they are confident about what the life is, and the risk of having to replace them is too great, i.e. the rates for an extended waranty that would be profitable for them would have to be so high that they don't think people would buy it.

At any rate, thanks for all your input, it was very helpful! Fingers crossed for the life of these batteries.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:22 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And as to my second question above - the salesman believed that the Civic hybrid can indeed be driven on gas only, if the hybrid battery fails, but (he thought) that you'd get a "check engine" light and it would fail state inspection. He was overall not the most knowledgable guy, so I'm not sure how much stock to put in that, but there it is anyway.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:24 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Reporting back on the Civic Hybrid several years down the line. The original battery lasted around 8 yrs/140,000 miles.

It's a 2006 Civic Hybrid, and we bought it at about 70,000 miles. It's been a good car for us. Has gotten about 42 mpg (worse when the battery was dying, better since we replaced it), has a surprising amount of interior space, and has done well on long drives. We started having problems in January of this year and eventually had to replace both the hybrid battery and the PCM (powertrain control module, the computer that I gather controls the activation of the battery/electric motor) this spring.

Here's the problem we were having, that signaled we needed to replace battery and PCM:

Trying to start up after a very long idling period* plus being shut off, the car turned on but would not go into gear - it was stuck in park. We managed to override the shift lock by opening the little tiny panel/hole that's on the flat part of the gearshift housing, and sticking a paperclip into the hole to depress a lever in there, and it would go into drive. Then we got to test the "can you drive it on just gas, if the hybrid system cuts out?" question! The answer is yes, but you wouldn't want to do it for long. With the gas engine working fine but the electric motor not working, the car accelerates VERY slowly. Once you're up to speed it's ok, but starting from a stop is agonizingly slow, and it might not make it up a big hill. So oddly, driving (in light traffic) on a highway is manageable, but driving on surface roads with stoplights is dicey. In addition to the driving symptoms, the IMA light was on, along with other problem lights on the dash. Some of the other instruments on the dash were acting erratically too, either not displaying anything, or giving a reading that had to be wrong. The speedometer was blank, for example.

We limped it to a dealer, who could not reproduce the problem the next day. They installed a "software upgrade" which apparently is a way of making the system draw on the battery less -- so it degrades performance to improve the lifespan of the battery. We went about a month on that, then the problem reoccured, and that time the dealer said that according to the diagnostic codes, it was time to replace the battery. They apparently will not replace the battery unless they've done the "software upgrade" and even after that, the relevant ODB code comes up. (Through the dealer where we've been regular customers, Honda helped us with the cost of the replacement even though we were out of the extended warranty period for the battery - online reading yields murky information about how much discretion dealers have to award help with the battery cost, so I don't know if we got a good deal or if we should have gotten more help than we did.)

Performance in mpg and the level of charge held by the battery improved immediately. But a few weeks after replacing the battery, the problem happened again, and then again -- it took two separate incidents and two dealers to figure out the PCM needed replacing. It was expensive, but replacing the PCM seems to have solved it. We've now gone about over a month since the replacement without the problem recurring.

*This first happened after idling in a traffic jam for 20 minutes or more. I'm now told that prolonged idle is something you should never do in a hybrid! Don't let it idle for a long time, just shut it off.

posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:06 PM on June 9, 2014

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