Should I Buy a Used Hybrid – The Shocking Truth

Buying a used car is always a gamble.  Actually, buying a new car can also be a gamble, but brand new means that it probably comes with a nice guarantee. Nevertheless, there are ways to buy a used hybrid that will perform well even though the battery might be slightly aged.

Should I buy a used hybrid? Buying a used hybrid is ok as long as you have it inspected by an expert mechanic that has dealt with hybrid cars. Hybrids tend to have a higher resale value than a regular car because of less wear and tear that happens to a hybrid.  You need to make sure that you are not wasting your money on a hybrid that has a battery that is malfunctioning or that is about to die.

To do a thorough analysis of whether or not to buy a hybrid, we need to look at the pros and the cons.

Pros of Purchasing a Used Hybrid

Getting a New Battery Pack for a Used Hybrid is around 8-10 years old is not the end of the world

If you were to buy a used hybrid, you may have to replace its battery pack after a few years.  Even though the packs are guaranteed in some cases for the life of the vehicle, this part of the guarantee may be applicable only to the original owner.  When hybrids were first on the market, 95 percent of car owners would have to go to a hybrid dealership to have the battery pack replaced.  Hybrids have been around for around 20 years, and now there are more options.

Here are few of those battery pack options which help to make the buying of a used hybrid more feasible:

  1. You can have a dead battery pack reconditioned.  The battery is tested using a device that will determine the modules that are dead.  These modules are then fully discharged and then recharged at 1/2 amp of current.  If this recharging is successful, then the battery pack will be restored to 95 percent of its capacity.  A shop only has to pay $1500 to have such a device, and it will be up to the shop to set a price for this service. Nevertheless, it will be much cheaper than going to a dealer to have the battery pack replaced.
  2. Getting a remanufactured battery is the best option for replacing a dead battery pack.  There are thousands of used battery packs floating around nowadays.  Cells can be swapped to make a complete battery pack that works just like a new one.  There are numerous companies that sell these remanufactured battery packs.  Sometimes the warranty that is applied to them is better than a dealer warranty. This is amazing because the price is much lower than the price that you would pay for a battery pack replacement completed by a dealership.
  3. If you wish to buy a battery pack from a dealership, replacing a battery pack in your used hybrid will extend the life of your hybrid.  Some people like the certainty of dealing with mechanics that are well-trained to change battery packs.  Nevertheless, you will be paying a premium for this service.  Make sure that you at least shop around for other shops that might have certified hybrid mechanics.  More and more shops that do not specialize in hybrids, might have a mechanic on the payroll that can replace your dead battery pack.

When taking the Battery Pack out of the Equation, a Used Hybrid is Great Because of Lower Wear and Tear

When you buy a normal used car, you have to worry about the wear and tear that may have occurred.  A non-hybrid car has a lot of moving parts that can become damaged due to the vibrations creating simply by driving and using the combustion engine.  A hybrid, even though it has two motors, has less moving parts because of the simple construction of the electric motor.

Maintenance still has to be done on the gas motor, but it is not used all of the time.  Less usage means that items such as brake pads will last longer which will save money in the long run.

Savings on Gas is Still There with a Used Hybrid

Even a used hybrid will use less gas than a normal used car.  It is not as if a hybrid will suddenly lose its ability to used electricity to run its electric motor.  There is less vibration that occurs when the electric motor is in use.  It will continue to work in an efficient fashion.  It is designed to save on gas, and since the electric motor is one of the most important components that cause gas savings, they are usually well designed and will still function even after the warranty has expired.

You are not going to see gas savings on a normal car that is used.  As time goes on, the wear and tear will cause the combustion engine to work at a lower efficiency level which will cause it to require more gas than before.

Cons of Buying a Used Hybrid

A used hybrid is still a risk. Although, I feel that it is not any riskier than buying a used car in general.  Nevertheless, there are parts that can be very expensive in a hybrid besides the battery.  If you are able to get over the fear of buying a battery pack, you may still have to deal with replacing the transfer assembly in a hybrid.

Some hybrids do not have an alternator.  If the battery in a normal car is not getting charged, you may simply try to swap out the alternator for around $100.  If the generator in a hybrid becomes faulty, you may need to replace the whole transfer assembly.  A transfer assembly can cost close to $3500.  Plus, removing and replacing a transfer assembly is not like changing a lightbulb, it takes some mechanics up to 10 hours.  The labor cost alone for a transfer assembly could set you back as much as another $1500.

I have not heard of a lot of cases where the generator dies on a hybrid, but the possibility is there.

If you were to buy a hybrid because you feel that you are going to save on gas mileage, you are right. But you need to think about how much city driving that you are going to do versus highway driving.  Personally, I do a lot of city driving with my hybrid which means that I use very little gas if any, each week.

When I use my hybrid for longer drives, I may stop a few times while eating in certain restaurants to charge up the battery slightly. I recorded the quantity of gas that I had used over a long highway trip last week.  My hybrid required 2.5 gallons per 100 miles.

Getting a Used Prius

I read about a case online about how someone online was thinking about getting a used Prius that was priced low at $5000.  I decided that analyzing the items to watch out for would provide you with an idea on whether or not to buy a low priced hybrid.

Here are points to consider:

  1. If the hybrid is priced that low, it probably has a lot of miles on it.  It still could be worth it.  I would assume that you will need to replace the battery pack.  A battery pack does not last forever, and you need to take that into consideration with an older hybrid.  If you are on a strict budget, having the battery pack tested thoroughly is advisable so that you can replace the cells that are dead or about to die.  This is not going to cost thousands of dollars.
  2. If you are ok with making repairs on your own, it is possible to rebalance the battery pack yourself.  Personally, I would not do it since it does take some time and lots of precautions.  Nevertheless, if you search online, you can find videos for a Prius that show how to swap out the dead cells with new ones.  You may be able to increase the life of the battery as much as 6 years if you do so.
  3. Airflow for a hybrid is very important in order to maintain the right heat level for the battery pack.  Assume that you are going to need to change the cabin filter, any other air filters, and especially the cooling fans that designed to cool the battery pack area.
  4. You may need to have the gas motor serviced, but not as much as you would expect for a used car.  The gas motor lasts a lot longer than for a regular car.  I have read comments left by mechanics stating that they encounter many Prius Hybrids in their shop that have well over 300k miles.
  5. You can assume that you might need to change out the brake pads.  They seem to last on average up to 135k miles.  Once the brakes have been serviced, it will be a very long time before you will need to worry about them again due to the regenerative braking aspect of the Prius.
  6. I realize that each Prius is going to have a different life span, but I have read an interesting post that someone had left in a car forum.  He stated that he had purchased a used Prius that was the second generation type for $1000.  It had 240k miles on it. He only had to spend $35 on one used cell that he had found on eBay in order to balance the battery pack.  He had purchased this vehicle for his son and his son used it over a period of two years without any problems.  After two years, it had 265k on the odometer.  They managed to sell it for $2800 even though it had some slight body damage.

What to Ask When Buying a Used Hybrid

There are certain questions that you should ask a seller before you purchase a used hybrid.  They are general questions that you may have posed for regular vehicles. However, there is only so much that a seller will know about their hybrid.  For instance, they are not going to be able to tell you how long the battery pack will last.  So, you have to assume that at some point, that it will need to be changed no matter what they tell you.

Here are some questions that you should ask the hybrid seller:

  1. Find out if the warranty has expired or not. Some hybrids come with an eight-year warranty.  Ask them to show you the warranty if it is valid.  Hybrids tend to have more fine print than a regular car warranty.  If the seller says that battery pack is still under warranty, they might not be lying to you, but they could be wrong.  I have noticed that some warranties state that the battery pack’s warranty applies to only the original owner.
  2. Of course, you have to read the odometer to find out the mileage.  Just be aware that some hybrids tend to need to have items replaced after around 100k.  Even if the buyer states that the vehicle is in great shape, have it inspected so that you will get an idea on pending repairs.
  3. Something that I have not heard about too often on blogs is that you need to check for previous recalls. If you enter the used hybrid model and year into a google search along with ‘recalls’, you will be able to determine all of the recalls that are applicable.  Then, question the seller to see which recalls have been dealt with.  If there are any that were missed by the seller, ensure that you will able to remedy the required items free of charge.  If not, you will need to take those items into consideration when setting the price.
  4. For instance, the 2010-2014 Prius had a recall because of the intelligent power module that contained transistors that could become damaged due to high temperatures.

Why Are Used Hybrids So Cheap You Might Be Asking Yourself

You might be wondering why a used Hybrid is usually priced low.  The possibility of saving money on gas should be something that people should consider when pricing their hybrids.  However, hybrid knowledge is not widespread.  Many people that are environmentally conscious or those of us that love new technology are drawn to hybrids.

Now is actually the best time to buy a pre-owned hybrid before buyers realize the great deals that are out there.  Many buyers will shy away from a hybrid once they realize that the battery pack is going to die in a few years.  They do not realize that battery pack prices are getting lower and that there are simple options out there to have a battery pack replaced.

Personally, once I understood that a dying battery pack was not a tragedy, my view on used hybrids totally changed. I also know that repairs on the components of its gas engine are going to be less than those of a regular car because a hybrid uses both engines, allowing the gas engine to last longer.

In other words, do not assume that there is something majorly wrong with a hybrid if the price is low.  It could simply be a great deal.

Have a thorough inspection done and check into your options to replace the battery pack and you will be one happy buyer.

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