Help me buy a used Prius!
June 7, 2006 3:05 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know when Purchasing a used Toyota Prius? Besides the standard used car stuff, is there anything special I should know? Is there anything fundementally different between, say, an '03 and an '05?
posted by silusGROK to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the Prius was all-new in '04. An '03 and an '05 would have little in common.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:14 PM on June 7, 2006

I don't know about the Prius, but we sold our Honda Insight (2000) as it was getting over 80,000 miles because that is when the factory warranty expired and we didn't want to pay to replace the Hybrid battery pack; because what we'd read led us to believe the cost of replacing the batteries would be at least half the blue book value of the car.

It would at least be something to look into if you're interested in buying a Hybrid.
posted by iurodivii at 3:15 PM on June 7, 2006

Kelly Blue Book on an '05 Prius with 20k miles and decent equiment is $25k from a dealer.

New Prius(es?) can be had for that or slightly more new.

I'd say go new.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 3:39 PM on June 7, 2006

A close friend just bought a 2006 Honda Civic hybrid after we did a lot of shopping around. It has an eight year warranty on the electrical bits. I would go new, and go extended warranty on a car with these kinds of unknowns. The Honda is a pretty different philosophy of car than the Prius - it tries to be a normal car in which you don't really know the electrical thing is happening. It's quite a bit cheaper, at least in Canada.
posted by Rumple at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2006

Battery replacement costs have plummeted on the most recent hybrids, running about US$2,000-3,000 instead of $10,000. However, if you buy an older model and have to replace the battery, it may be a lot pricier.

I'd agree that if you want to get a hybrid, going new may be a better choice. And that's not just because one of my major clients is Toyota. *g*
posted by rosemere at 4:00 PM on June 7, 2006

New is certainly an option, but I worry about drive-off depreciation, and I hate to haggle — and all the Toyota dealerships in my region are classic car dealerships. And I refuse to buy from them.

So used it is. Even used '05.


Thanks to jimmy's comment, I checked, and the recent "version" goes back to 04... so 03 is, indeed, a different car.
posted by silusGROK at 4:04 PM on June 7, 2006

The 2001-2003 Prius (sedan) is vastly different from the 2004 and later Priuses, which are hatchbacks. The only thing they have in common is that they're both hybrids and have the same name.

Blue book value for used Priuses is quite high; they hold their value well, better than any other car, because demand remains high. In other words, you aren't going to get any great deal. If you see one for sale used, you're probably going to have to show up quickly and pay the asking price.

Toyota warrants all the hybrid-related components for 8 years/100,000 miles. Few problems have been reported. The way the Prius uses the batteries leads me to believe that they will basically never wear out - it only uses the batteries in a small zone of their charge range, never fully charging nor fully discharging them, to maximize battery life. My guess is the batteries will last the life of the car. I see from the article linked above, "Toyota's own tests have run batteries for the equivalent of 150,000 miles with no discernible degradation, and the company expects them to last the useful life of the cars, Hermance said." I would agree with that assessment - I would be very surprised if any Prius main battery ever wore out.
posted by jellicle at 4:45 PM on June 7, 2006

For the reason of high demand that Jellicle refers to, drive-off-lot depreciation is likely to be fairly low.

The Toyota dealership we looked at was high pressure baloney. The Honda was very low key, confident they made the best product. YMMV.
posted by Rumple at 4:54 PM on June 7, 2006

Also, keep in mind that if you buy new there is a tax credit for buying a hybrid (I think it's about $3000 for a Prius), which may help with the sting of buying new.

If you do go new, sooner is better than later as the Toyota tax credit could expire soon.
posted by awegz at 5:22 PM on June 7, 2006

Don't like to haggle? Well good, because if you're buying a new Prius, you likely won't have the chance. I'd also recomend buying new, or perhaps waiting a little while, as rumors show a fairly big revamp for the '07 model. In many parts of the country, there will probably be a waiting list, sometimes fairly long, so if you're at all interested in buying new, go down to the dealer and talk to them about adding yourself to the list. Expect to pay more or less sticker price; demand is too high to have much room to negotiate.
posted by zachlipton at 5:43 PM on June 7, 2006

What I'd be most curious about is how the gas mileage holds up as after, say, 50,000 miles. Is it still 50-60 mpg, or can the fuel efficiency decrease with age?
posted by weston at 6:02 PM on June 7, 2006

Oh yeah - and when we were recently shopping hybrids command MSRP after your tax break.

Most dealers are tacking on extra charges because they're so popular and it's eating away your tax break.

It's still way cheaper to just buy a gas-powered vehicle with the high cost of hybrids, but then you aren't being nice to the environment.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 6:57 PM on June 7, 2006

Jimmy0x52 is right, if you're just looking for sticker price plus gas savings...over five years the Toyota Yaris is actually your best bet. Now if you're trying to make a statement, that's a different issue.
posted by awegz at 7:11 PM on June 7, 2006

by the way, the rumor is that the '08 prius is going to be all-new, be turbocharged, and have plug-in capabilities.

don't forget that in california you can drive in the carpool lane solo with a prius, insight or honda civic hybrid, provided you get the carpool stickers (they still have about 20,000 left right now, i think)
posted by joeblough at 7:59 PM on June 7, 2006

without wanting to totally derail your choice and the question, since you've made it clear you want a Toyota Prius, do you realise that some european diesel cars are more efficient and emit less CO2 than a Prius?
posted by wilful at 10:21 PM on June 7, 2006 forums
posted by SenshiNeko at 12:30 AM on June 8, 2006

However, if you buy an older model and have to replace the battery, it may be a lot pricier.

Not really. The reason battery pack prices are dropping is that we're getting better at batteries, and they're cheaper to make. Almost every pack in the world is assembled from standard cells, wired up in what ever series-parallel combination you need to get the required voltage and charge required.

Indeed, the Insight's battery pack is made up of 120 NiMH D cells. There's a picture of it here. It is a 144V, 6.5Ah battery. I'm finding the cells cost about $6 per (and would be cheaper in large quantities) so raw cost of the pack is 120*6=$720. Each cell for this price is 10000mAh, 1.2V. 144V/1.2 equals, amazingly enough, 144V, so the battery is a simple series chain of 120V 6000mAh D cells, and simply replacing the cells with these would result in a 144V 10000mAh (or 10Ah) battery.

That means the raw cost of a better battery pack is $720. Assume double, for putting it together. That means, in six years, we've gone from a $7800 at new to $1440 now -- but with 3.5Ah extra capacity.

This is why I sneer at those who cite current battery replacement costs as a reason that hybrids would never pay off. They're assuming that batteries won't get better and will stay the same real price. For the last twenty years, that has been wrong.

Batteries, esp. rechargeable ones, have become vastly better and cheaper. I'm not worried about the battery replacement cost now, because I won't be paying it now. I'm not worried about the battery replacement cost in the future, because the trends clearly show that between inflation, and the rapidly dropping cost of rechargable batteries, the real cost of the replacement pack, in terms of today's dollars, will be well under $1000, and may well be under $500. And, in the bargin, I'll either be able to get a pack that weighs less and takes up less space, or that has more storage capacity.
posted by eriko at 5:10 AM on June 8, 2006

Here's an opinion: The older model Prius was nicer than the new one. More leg room in the front seat! We tried to 'buy' (company car) one in the UK, but the delays in getting the company to go with it, and waiting for delivery, meant we were unable to do so.
posted by Goofyy at 5:42 AM on June 8, 2006

Thanks everyone!
posted by silusGROK at 12:25 PM on June 8, 2006

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