Asking for a friend, new-car edition: new vs. used hybrids? Prius vs. ??
February 27, 2014 10:36 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is in the market for a new(er) car; she specifically wants to get a hybrid, but that's the only thing she's sure of. She's currently looking at a 2008 Prius, but is it a bad idea to even consider a used hybrid, considering their battery replacement costs? Would she be better off with a new Prius, or is there something better, like Honda's or Ford's hybrids? She doesn't want a giant SUV; she's barely 5 feet tall, and says she has problems seeing over the engines of most large vehicles, and she doesn't want something she'd need a ladder to climb up into! She'd prefer a hatchback, or at least a sedan with a decent-sized trunk --- she needs to haul two teenagers and all their sports gear around town. Oh, and she's never driven a manual shift, only automatics. Like everyone else in the market for a car, she wants the trifecta: low purchase price + economical upkeep costs + reliable and long-lasting. Help!
posted by easily confused to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ford's C-Max is nice. The Prius is still the gold standard for hybrids. She might want to consider the Prius V, it's got as much cargo space as a small SUV, and the back seat is more comfortable than the regular Prius. I wouldn't get anything older than a 2012. A big downside to hybrids, the Prius, especially, is that it's hard to find a deal.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 10:44 AM on February 27, 2014

We bought our 2007 Prius used in 2009, and are now are considering buying a Prius V and trading in our 2007 Prius, as we decided it was better to sink the money into a new Prius, than pay the $3,000+ cost of getting a new battery while the rest of the car declines.

I vote get a new Prius. I second the Prius V. It gets slightly less MPG than the standard Prius (because of the additional space in the hatchback design) but is still going to out perform any other hybrid on the market.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2014

If she needs that kind of space, she should look at a Prius V, the ultimate in utilitarian transportation. Every hybrid sedan has seriously compromised trunk space because of the battery.
posted by Dasein at 11:04 AM on February 27, 2014

Just a note since she's short, I have a 2008 Prius and it's annoying that the seat height can't be adjusted. I believe this is changed in more recent models. On the whole, I get along very well with my car.
posted by carolr at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2014

Consumer Reports tested a 10 year old, 200,000 mile Prius and found the fuel economy and acceleration virtually unchanged.
posted by ftm at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have the Prius and a big fans. Surprising amount of room inside, versatile, and the great gas mileage.

Just a note on the battery: Toyota has said that they expect the hybrid batter to last "for the life of the car." Moreover, they warranty the battery for at least 8 years/100,000 miles (10 years/150,000 miles for some states). The vast majority of people have driven much further than that on the original battery with no issues.

Even if you do have to replace the battery, the cost will likely be less than what is often quoted. Finally, think about all the money you've saved on brake pad replacements (hybrid braking means you don't use the pads much), starter motor replacements (Prius doesn't have one), and other things that the hybrid system takes care of.

We looked at both the Prius C and Prius V (in addition to the regular Prius) when we were looking at options. We decided that, for our needs, the C was too small and the V was too big (i.e. not worth the extra cash for us). However, if our needs were different, I wouldn't hesitate to get the C (less space, better gas mileage, and cheaper) or the V (more space, slightly worse gas mileage, and more expensive).
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2014

I found an article that indicates that Prius batteries are warrantied for 10 years or 150,000 miles in some states, so she'd have another four years of warranty on the battery if she's in one of those state. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Also, according to Consumer Reports, the replacement rate on 12 year old Prius batteries is 5 percent.
posted by cnc at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2014

We have a 2001 Prius and the battery started crapping out last year. The car is still drivable on the gas engine but of course the mileage has taken a nose-dive.

We bought another car last week (not a Prius) and are trying to decide what to do about the Prius and the semi-failed battery. My husband is thinking of converting it to a plug-in hybrid.

So I while I would highly recommend a Prius, I wouldn't look at ones that re more than 3-4 years old.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2014

We bought a used 2001 (first gen) Prius years ago, and just replaced the battery last fall, at 180K+ miles. Even with that expense, I'd recommend the Prius. Still reliable and a great car and the battery replacement is certainly less than a new car.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2014

How much does it cost to replace the Prius battery?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2014

I have a Prius V, new in May 2013. I love it. Gets slightly lower mileage than the regular Prius but still a lot.

MisantropicPainforest, here. Although I have heard of it being considerably less.
posted by Danf at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2014

We went shopping for a Prius and left with a Ford Fusion Hybrid. For the model Prius we needed with two little ones (the V I think?) the Fusion had better advertised miles per gallon. Plus the Prius seemed very basic and plasticy. The Fusion drives and feels like a much nicer car. Leather interior with really nice seats help. The Sync thing is really amazing too - nothing like having the car read text messages to you as they come in.

Also there was absolutely no dealing to be had at the Toyota dealer. They have a perceived highly sought after vehicle and treated us that way. I got the Fusion for below invoice.

Also if I remember correctly all the Prius' at that time still hadn't switched to LiIon batteries which are lighter and have a higher energy density. The battery pack has a 100k mile warranty on it also.
posted by Big_B at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2014

I can't speak specifically about hybrids but I used to sell new cars for a living. Do not buy a new car. You're throwing away a ton of money in depreciation. If you can, find a two or three year old lease return.
posted by VTX at 7:20 PM on February 27, 2014

Our first gen Prius battery was approximately $3K. At our excellent, hybrid-only independent garage.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:12 PM on February 27, 2014

Okay, so it looks like an overwhelming vote for a Prius, especially (because of her kids & their stuff) a Prius V; and used is fine, although she might want to rethink that 2008 she's been looking at --- thanks all!
posted by easily confused at 2:22 AM on February 28, 2014

Another data point: our 2005 prius battery is doing fine.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2014

The main battery in a Prius has a pretty long life. However, the starter battery has a max of about 3 years. Just had mine replaced at the end of 2013 in my 2010 (bought new in 2010). I think it was about $200 including labor. I was already having trouble starting the car, and it never would have lasted the winter. Overall I love the Prius, but like all vehicles, it has its issues.
posted by RRgal at 8:10 AM on February 28, 2014

VTX: "I can't speak specifically about hybrids but I used to sell new cars for a living. Do not buy a new car. You're throwing away a ton of money in depreciation. If you can, find a two or three year old lease return."

While yes you are losing money in depreciation, the much better financing or incentives you can sometimes get on a new car (like 0% financing) can make it a better deal in the long run. I ran the numbers when we bought ours and it was far cheaper to get it with 0% AND cash back over the best rate we could get on a used car loan. Not true for all cases, but also not a given that used is a better deal.
posted by Big_B at 9:28 AM on February 28, 2014

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