CarFilter: Should we buy a used plug in hybrid in the UK?
September 6, 2020 2:35 AM   Subscribe

We want a car primarily for city driving, but that can also get us and our two kids from Edinburgh to Mid Wales a couple of times a year. Snowflakes inside, looking for sensible advice and encouragement. (my husband wrote this question, we'll both be reading the answers!)

- We have a house with a parking space on the outskirts of Edinburgh and we have places to be on the other side of town - we're sure that car ownership is right for us.
- We will need to run errands around Edinburgh a couple times a week and there's a chance one of us will commute a few miles daily in the near future.
- We like road trips and will probably spend most of a day in our car several times a year, to visit family or go on holiday.
- We both learned to drive automatics in the US and will probably only learn and test for automatic licenses in the UK. (we've confirmed that we can afford insurance on our US licenses for now, we'll get UK licenses in due course, I grew up on UK roads so am a confident UK driver, just not on manuals)
- We like cars with features, we'll pay more for a not-awful infotainment system and USB ports in the headrests but £25k is a HARD CEILING.

So my proposal is to buy a lightly used, 2018+ Toyota Prius for around £20k:
- It's hybrid, so it has an automatic transmission by default.
- If we can get the plugin version, our city driving will be all-electric, which seems like it would be fun, quiet and cheap. Even a non-plugin Prius would still be cheap to run for our normal every-day driving. And better for the environment and so on.
- The Prius's popularity as an Uber suggests that it's comfortable and (slaps roof of car) will handily accommodate all of our kids, luggage and spaghetti.

However we don't know much about cars and haven't owned many - in the US we just drove an Outback around like a pair of liberal suburban dickheads and we loved it. Are hybrids and plugin hybrids fun to drive? Cheap to own? Is the Prius still a good hybrid, now that so many cars are available in hybrid variants? Are used hybrids actually a risk for total cost of ownership? And how best to go about buying a car in THESE TIMES that we are all ENDURING and SUFFERING together and alone?

Thank you so much for your thoughts and help!
posted by cpatterson to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Prius PHEV is relatively scarce in the UK - I can only find 80 for sale second-hand up to £25k. I also wouldn't say it was 'fun' to drive, but maybe you define hypermiling as fun, which it definitely can be. The most popular PHEV for several years has been the Mitsubishi Outlander and the numbers of second-hand examples reflects that. However, it is very much an SUV and oerhaps not a good city centre car. A £20k ceiling will get you into a used PHEV from Audi, VW, BMW or Mercedes, with all the associated servicing costs that might entail. The Golf GTE is a pretty great all-rounder that's good fun to drive, although it doesn't have a massive electric range. Another more Prius-like recommendation would be the Hyundai Ioniq.
posted by srednivashtar at 3:17 AM on September 6


Depending on how much did you want to carry, you might find the Prius a bit small. A friend who I do a quite kit-heavy sport with struggled with finding enough room to carry equipment, regular bags and passengers when going away on longer trips in his Prius. Those of us in estate cars could carry three passengers plus baggage easily, while he struggled with two.
posted by Faff at 3:45 AM on September 6


I'm in a similar situation, made acute by the fact I'm shortly moving out of Edinburgh to somewhere where a car will be far more useful.

I've lived in central Edinburgh for a decade and I've driven a range of hybrids using Enterprise Car Club. They have tons of them near me. I particularly enjoy driving the Toyota CH-R. In general, I find hybrids very easy to handle and the mileage is very good. A drive out to Dunbar and back, for example, will use less than a 1/6th of a tank. While pootling around in town, I rarely see any movement on the fuel gauge at all.

Car Club is a great way to try out lots of different cars, if you want to broaden your search beyond the Prius. You'll need your licenses first though (I can recommend an exceptional instructor, if you're looking for one, MeMail me). Car Club sanitises them between hires now, so it's a relatively low-risk way to take lots of different cars out for day trips, shopping etc so you can get a feel for them in a more realistic way than a half hour test drive.

Depending on how close your nearest ones are, they might even replace the need for an owned car at all, although they do get fairly sparse the further out you are.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:10 AM on September 7


As an alternative suggestion... buy a used electric car for your city driving. Something like a Nissan Leaf. You won’t need a huge range, so something several years old would be fine. They appear to be extremely reliable, with a lot less to go wrong than conventional cars, or hybrids (which are more complex still).

Then a couple of times a year rent a bigger conventional or hybrid car for your long trips.

In a few years you’ll probably find good new electric cars within your budget, and with better range than today.
posted by fabius at 9:47 AM on September 8


Thanks for all these responses! Well, after a lot of research we did end up doing pretty much exactly what fabius suggests above, just bought a used Nissan Leaf and are intending to rent a car when we need to get to Wales. I think it was the lack of reliable, plentiful plug-in hybrid options that swung us, really...realised we probably wouldn't be able to get one car that would do everything. Maybe that car will exist by the next time we need to buy one!
posted by cpatterson at 8:23 AM on September 17


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