On the Road Again
June 5, 2014 9:47 AM   Subscribe

So I bought a new-to-me car last night, and I pick it up on Friday. Now I'm asking myself all the questions I should have asked myself at the dealership. Help?

I have two questions - first about warranties, and second about Prius's in general.

The car is a Toyota Certified Used Hybrid - 2011 Prius Three, with about 38,500 miles on it. It's a Carfax 1-owner vehicle, previously leased. Regular oil changes, no accidents/damage reported. The Carfax report looked good. There was one open recall which the dealer is fixing at their cost. The original basic warranty has expired. Regular maintenance/oil changes were performed, inspections passed, etc.

Certification includes a 12-month/12,000 mile Comprehensive Warranty
174 Point Quality Assurance Program
8-year/100,000-mile Factory Hybrid Vehicle
Battery Warranty

I've only bought one car before in my life, and it was new. I did a lot of reading (here and other places) before deciding I could stand the stress of buying something used. I knew that they would try to sell me a bunch of stuff in the Finance office, because that's where they make a lot of their money, and I knew that under normal circumstances I should refuse everything.

Which I did! But now I'm second-guessing myself.

The finance guy tried really hard to sell me on something called a Toyota Certified Platinum Vehicle Service Agreement, since the original warranty on the car had expired. I know it's his job to seem stunned when someone doesn't want this, but he seemed stunned in particular that someone buying a used Prius wouldn't want it.

First question: Was I wrong to decline this? It would have added about $35 a month to my payments, which doesn't seem like a lot, but I had a number in mind for monthly payments and I'd already exceeded it by $28. Are Prii in general more likely to need something like this? If it helps to know, I'm likely to put around 18,000 miles on it within the next year, and about 15,000 the year after.

Second question: What could go wrong? I've never driven or owned a Prius before. Experienced Prius-owners - is there anything I should be especially aware of or careful about? Are there any bad things more likely to happen with a Prius than with another car?
posted by kythuen to Shopping (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This sounds like a great car! I think you did great.

I think you were right to decline the extended service agreement. For one thing, on an almost brand new car that is in perfect condition, how much service are you going to need anytime soon? For another thing, dealership service is a rip-off, anyway, and at this point Priuses have been on the road long enough that other shops are able to repair them. You may want to do the legwork now and start finding a good mechanic who works with import hybrids, though.

Re your second question... nothing? I drove a (similarly used at the time) Prius through work for a summer, have driven a few others here and there, and managed a fleet of cars for work that included newish-but-not-brand-new Priuses. They were all fine. Certainly there was no pressing service issue that I noticed being a pattern on those cars as opposed to any penny-ante maintenance thing that could happen on any car. If anything we had more annoying routine shit go wrong on the Honda Civic that we had as part of the fleet. (Broken front seat, I believe?)

My Prius specific advice: watch the weird blind spots that happen because of the strangely-shaped back hatch. Also, remember that you're virtually silent at slow speeds. I once had to idle behind an elderly lady who was walking in the street and didn't hear me behind her.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Was I wrong to decline this?

Your dealership is making a bet that over the course of a year, you will need less than $420 in repairs that are actually covered by the agreement. This is not a bad bet for them. First of all, new-ish reliable-ish cars (of which I'd definitely put your Prius in that category) don't really break until at least 4-5 years (if that!). The likelihood is that you will need $0 in repairs for at least the first year. As a single piece of anecdata, I just paid for the first repair of my 2009-vintage car that wasn't related to consumable items in the car - and it still cost less than $420. It definitely cost less than the $1,680 I would have paid since the purchase of the car. Second of all, the dealer unfortunately has the ability to make it as difficult as possible for you to use that "platinum" agreement. They simply have to find a reason to not do the repair and then it costs them $0 (although you are still paying for the agreement). Even if at that point you decide to cancel the agreement (if you can cancel it), they still have the money up till that point. Finally, you do have a warranty for the car - the 12 month one from certification. Don't ignore that.

Extended service agreements are, in general, a profit-maker for the dealership. If they were worth the money they cost, the dealership wouldn't sell them because the dealership would lose money on every one.

There was one open recall which the dealer is fixing at their cost.

Although I know this wasn't a question, recalls should always be fixed at the dealer's expense.
posted by saeculorum at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Toyota extended warranties are generally regarded as pretty good. That being said, dealerships are pretty much allowed to price them however they like, and it is very easy to spend way too much on it.

You can shop around and get a much better price on it. You can even use the price you find to haggle your dealership down*. The dealer you buy from does not need to be in the same state as you - it is a nationwide coverage. Here is one such source. There are many others you can find with some googling and reading up.

*this is what I did and got the 125,000 mile coverage on my Tacoma for 900 dollars. The initial quote was $2200.)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be clear - The Toyota extended service agreement is pretty good. Many dealers offer an extended warranty from third party insurers. There be dragons. You are wise to avoid those.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:01 AM on June 5, 2014

You can ALWAYS buy a Vehicle Service Contract if you go directly to the company, you don't have to pay retail mark-up. So if you decide that you WANT a service contract, shop around and compare prices.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2014

I don't think you have anything to worry about. It's hard to predict what will happen with any individual car but the Prius has been very solid. Enjoy!
posted by selfnoise at 10:05 AM on June 5, 2014

Get details on what that agreement covers.

The internal batteries* are covered to 150K miles, and I don't believe that's limited to the original owner but you should be able to find out for sure. And from reading the hybrid boards, almost nobody has ever had to replace them out of pocket. Generally if they are damaged in an accident the rest of the car is totaled anyway.

*The regular under-the-hood 12v battery, be warned, is a deep-cycle marine battery that costs about $190 rather than the old Sears Die Hard for $60. We have two 2006s and both our batteries finally died in January of this year.

We do still take them to Toyota for servicing, and the ass-kissing keeps us coming back - they know we have two cars over 100K miles, they know we were willing to spend that kind of money before, they're just waiting for the time to come - but also honestly we get good service and they always do recall work as a matter of course and except for the air filter thing they don't make up a bunch of crap. Aside from a service every 30K (if I'm remembering right, and I know it includes the recommended transmission service) that costs $500 but they usually give us a free rental for the day, our routine 5K servicing is reasonably priced and the service is good.

The only actual problem we've had with either car (until the battery thing, which wasn't that traumatic) is a fairly common issue with this huge plastic cover on the bottom of the engine compartment. The Prius has a low clearance and you bang that thing at the base of driveways, hitting debris on the road, etc. My husband knocked his off, had it zip-tied back on for some years, and then eventually lost it entirely. They wanted like $5000 to replace it and we just declined. Possibly this has been improved on your model.

I love our cars. They're a little cheap on the inside (I think yours is a little better) and the dashes have gotten a tiny bit squeaky, and the clear coat is bubbling up and flaking off on my spoiler, and the back seat cupholder console got knocked off by a dog and has never gone back on very well, but it has served me well. We were stupid buying two cars in one year, and so will probably replace one of them before the doors fall off of them both, but we will probably buy the tiniest new Prius when we do.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:12 AM on June 5, 2014

$35 per month is $420 per year, but more importantly, for how many months? If you have four years of payments, then the total cost is $1,680. If (heaven forbid) you have five or six years of payments, then your total cost is more. In any case, don't think of this as a monthly cost - think of this as a lump sum commitment. Over how many months would this have gone?

And what do you get for that (lump sum)?

Looking here, Toyota Certified Platinum Vehicle Service Agreements come in four flavors - 7 or 8 years, 100K or 125K. If they were offering you the minimum (7 years, 100K), then you'd be covered for 61,500 miles or for four years (assuming the car was initially sold in May 2011, but it could be older - if it initially sold in November 2010, for example, then you'd have 3 1/2 years).

if you do 18K miles your first year, and 15K miles thereafter, you'll hit the 100K point in almost exactly 4 years.

And your first year is already covered, so basically you're buying protection for years 2 through 4 (three years). And some things (like your battery) covered outside of this service agreement.
posted by WestCoaster at 10:14 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 2005 Prius with 110K miles on it and it's operating like a champ. No major repairs besides regular maintenance, headlight replacement, and new tires. I go to a hybrid-specific mechanic (which I would *highly* recommend if you have one in your area) and they see very high mileage Priuses that are still going strong on their first battery.

I would not hesitate to buy the car you described and I think you're right to decline the extra service plan. If you really want a service plan, shop around and get one directly instead of from CarMax as they're most certainly marking up the cost and using the sale of service plans as a profit center.
posted by quince at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2014

I know it's his job to seem stunned when someone doesn't want this, but he seemed stunned in particular that someone buying a used Prius wouldn't want it.

Sales guys have gotten really sophisticated with their emotional manipulation. Recently I wouldn't purchase an extended warranty for a tv.

"Really?" the guy said, with that tone of voice that mixes surprise with concern with disbelief with just a smidge of judgy judgy.

I could have punched him in the face right then & there.

has it, it's a bet they're making for themselves to win.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2014

Them: Blah blah bah really need to by the extended service plan.

Me: I'm buying Toyota because of the reliability. Are you telling me I've wrong about that?

Them: Backpedalling furiously.....

I never buy the extended service plan, and I've owned 8 or 9 cars by now. Not once have I wished had I done otherwise. You are fine, enjoy the new wheels.
posted by COD at 12:02 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used the exact same technique COD did.

Something along the lines of "I'm specifically buying a CPO prius from you folks because they're probably the most reliable cars on the road. There are prius taxis running around town with three or four hundred thousand miles on them - are you saying this car isn't worth buying without the extended warranty?"

Here's some additional data - we bought our car with almost 70k on it. We've put on another 50k. Literally the only thing we've done since are oil changes, one transmission fluid change, one brake fluid change.

Here's some data beyond that - we actually bought the extended warranty on our previous car, and had to fight tooth and nail to get any repair covered. Even after all that, the total repair costs covered by that warranty never exceeded the original purchase price. Never again.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2014

I wouldn't pay for this. Especially not on a prius.

I know several people who own them, including my boss, who let her two sons beat the shit out of hers. It's an 05, as i remember.

The thing is a tank. That's been my experience with toyotas in general, but people drive priuses as cabs to over 400k miles and then change the batteries. As far as i know my bosses one is on its original cabin and drivetrain battery.

The only bits that seem to screw up are interior pieces falling off(they paid the dealership to replace the glove box latch like 3 times, but one of those was because someone sort of kicked it, and one of them was because someone smacked it...), and stuff like the click-in volume knob on the stereo kinda just falling apart. As an actual like you know, car that drive you places it's awesome. I borrowed the thing for a weekend a few months ago and was impressed the entire time. It's been driven a ton, driven into things in single vehicle accidents quite forcefully a few times, used to haul more than it probably should, driven in the snow up in the mountains a ton, etc... and it was spot on despite all that. It actually made me shortlist a mid 2000s prius as "the car i should probably buy when i get a better job and i need a car".

The toyota i owned was the cheapest car to own i ever had, and i had it until it was over 20 years old. My boss has two toyota hybrids and they seem to be on the same track. Everyone else i know who has one has older ones too, and i've never heard them kvetch about it.

Put the $400 a year in a savings account and pull it out when you like, pop a tire or do other normal car things. Maybe something like that stupid $200 cabin battery shits the bed, who knows. It's better to have that money and make your own decisions with it than pay in to a what if fund on something that's not only very well made, but that was already checked out to be certified used.(which is a Big Deal as far as condition goes with toyota and honda, among others)
posted by emptythought at 3:13 PM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

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