Author Topic: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!  (Read 4440 times)

homeymomma

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Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« on: August 18, 2014, 10:57:25 AM »
Hoping to tap into the collective wisdom of the Mustachians- specifically the prius enthusiasts!

My husband and I are looking for a second car. My car is a 2012 Hyundai elantra, which we love. It gets good mileage and should last us size-wise with baby #1 and #2 (on the way). Though I feel we will need to get a bigger "mama" car in a few years when #3 comes into the picture.

My husband currently commutes 17 miles each way in DC traffic (1 hour plus in the afternoons). Considering this, I'm thinking a used prius may be a good option for his commuter car. Our target budget is to be under 10K, but I'd go up to 11 or 12K if it made a huge difference in the mileage/quality-reliability/longevity we are able to get. According to fuel cost calculators, driving a prius his 14000 miles per year would save us $400/year over a 34 mpg car (like a yaris or accent or something). We would have to take a hit on mileage, though, to get a prius at our target price. We could find a used, cheap brand compact (accent or similar) at the nearly new mileage of less than 30K and stay under 10K. To get a prius, we'd have to go for one with closer to 80K miles or even more, though I've seen a couple around 65k.

So my questions (for people with experience buying used/driving prii, etc)

1) what is considered still a "newish" prius, mileage-wise? Is it the same as other cars or could we go a bit higher in mileage and expect the same performance/longevity because it's a different type of engine?

2) are the maintenance costs truly lower? I've heard this about the prius, but I have no information to back it up. Is the battery truly a concern? Obviously a 2500 repair is not something we want to sign up for.

3) we looking for a 2004-2009 generation one, since they are the only ones I found in our price range. Any specific concerns with any particular year within this range or recalls to check on specifically?

4) are there advantages to going through a dealer vs. a private party?

5) Possibly the most important, because it confuses me the most- the battery. We live in Maryland. Apparently Maryland is one of the states that has the higher CA emissions standards, and therefore the battery warranty here should go to 10years/150K miles. What I CAN'T figure out is how this applies to a used prius purchase- does the car have to be newer than the implementation of this law? (Either 2008 or 2011, I can't figure out which.)? How do I figure out on a specific car if the longer 150K warranty would apply? Is it in the owners manual or something?

Final thoughts: prius is attractive because of the extreme commute, which is likely to continue for a couple or few more years. But hopefully not forever. Also we would probably dump the commuter car instead of the elantra when we eventually size up to a bigger car for me (again, a few years down the line). Normally we look at cars as very long-term purchases, so I'm not sure how to figure these issues into our decision. Resale value? Perhaps longevity is less of an issue if we're going to sell it in a few hears anyway!? I have no idea.

The big issue here is that I'll need to convince my husband that it's worth going higher mileage to get a prius, which will be hard sell. And I'm not even sure it's true--- so, educate me, Mustachians! You are the best!

seattlecyclone

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2014, 11:36:53 AM »
2) are the maintenance costs truly lower? I've heard this about the prius, but I have no information to back it up. Is the battery truly a concern? Obviously a 2500 repair is not something we want to sign up for.

We own a 2004 Prius. Besides the free recall work that has been done, it has needed very few repairs. The only big one that I remember is that the touchscreen computer unit completely stopped working about five years ago. A bunch of fairly important functions (like climate control) go through there, so it was important to get it replaced. Those computers apparently failed fairly often in the 2004 model year; my guess is that if it hasn't happened to yours yet, it probably won't. This repair was covered by the extended warranty my wife bought in a moment of anti-Mustachianism before we started dating; I think it might have cost somewhere around $500 otherwise.

Make sure your Prius comes with two key fobs and be especially careful not to lose them. Last I checked, there were no third-party keys available, and dealers will quote prices on the order of $300 to replace them.
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3) we looking for a 2004-2009 generation one, since they are the only ones I found in our price range. Any specific concerns with any particular year within this range or recalls to check on specifically?

There were a number of recalls that went into this one. The much-reported floor mat/acceleration pedal issue was one of them, and there was something with the water pump as well, and perhaps one or two more that I can't remember anymore.

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4) are there advantages to going through a dealer vs. a private party?

A good dealer will often (but not always!) fix any major problems or cosmetic damage with a car before selling it, and they often take care of much of the registration/taxation paperwork, but you pay a premium for the dealer experience. Private party sales are usually cheaper and the ability to talk directly with the previous owner about the car's history is nice.

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5) Possibly the most important, because it confuses me the most- the battery. We live in Maryland. Apparently Maryland is one of the states that has the higher CA emissions standards, and therefore the battery warranty here should go to 10years/150K miles. What I CAN'T figure out is how this applies to a used prius purchase- does the car have to be newer than the implementation of this law? (Either 2008 or 2011, I can't figure out which.)? How do I figure out on a specific car if the longer 150K warranty would apply? Is it in the owners manual or something?

I can't speak to the warranty. Our 2004 Prius has about 102k miles on it and the battery is still going strong.

homeymomma

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2014, 12:59:49 PM »
Great info, and good to note about the keys. Thanks!!

Nords

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2014, 12:08:52 AM »
Hoping to tap into the collective wisdom of the Mustachians- specifically the prius enthusiasts!
And that's my first piece of advice:  register at PriusChat.com and ask these questions over there in the Gen II (2004-09) forum.

1) what is considered still a "newish" prius, mileage-wise? Is it the same as other cars or could we go a bit higher in mileage and expect the same performance/longevity because it's a different type of engine?
We bought our 2006 used in 2008 with 58K miles.  Six years later (and after one teen driver training) it's up over 80K miles with no difference in behavior.  I think you can go up over 100K miles and still expect to get another 150K miles out of the car.  Worst case is an air conditioner breaking down.

2) are the maintenance costs truly lower? I've heard this about the prius, but I have no information to back it up. Is the battery truly a concern? Obviously a 2500 repair is not something we want to sign up for.
Yes, maintenance costs really are lower.  No alternator or starter motor replacements.  The regenerative braking greatly reduces brake wear, so you'll get 100K miles.  The cooling system uses long-life coolant that lasts for 100K miles.  The continuously variable transmission is ridiculously simple compared to all the moving parts in an automatic transmission.

Manhattan taxi drivers have put over 250K miles on a battery pack with no issues.  There have been isolated battery failures, but very few & far between-- and mostly in the Gen I Prius. 

You'll either buy a Prius that has had its 100K miles checkup, or you'll negotiate with the seller to reduce the price by the dealer's estimate of the cost of the 100K maintenance.

3) we looking for a 2004-2009 generation one, since they are the only ones I found in our price range. Any specific concerns with any particular year within this range or recalls to check on specifically?
We own a 2005 (with all the bells & whistles) and a 2006 baseline model.  They're both great.  My biggest snivel is that they lack an AUX jack for an iPod.

All of the Gen II Priuses have had recalls, all of which can be checked by running the VIN through a dealer or through CarFax.  If the seller can produce the recall repair sheet then you're good.  If they can't produce the recall repair sheet then you should reduce the price or have the mechanic check the VIN to make sure the recall was recorded as accomplished.

4) are there advantages to going through a dealer vs. a private party?
I don't think so, because you pay extra for any "advantage" of using a dealer.  You'll want to have a mechanic check the car either way, and you'll probably use a Toyota dealer mechanic.  But I think dealers are more of a hassle than a private-party sale.

5) Possibly the most important, because it confuses me the most- the battery. We live in Maryland. Apparently Maryland is one of the states that has the higher CA emissions standards, and therefore the battery warranty here should go to 10years/150K miles. What I CAN'T figure out is how this applies to a used prius purchase- does the car have to be newer than the implementation of this law? (Either 2008 or 2011, I can't figure out which.)? How do I figure out on a specific car if the longer 150K warranty would apply? Is it in the owners manual or something?
I think you're going to have to ask the Prius experts over at PriusChat.  Someone will either know the answer or know where to find out.

Again, I think you could blow off this issue and expect the battery to perform.  But I understand if it keeps people awake at night.

Final thoughts: prius is attractive because of the extreme commute, which is likely to continue for a couple or few more years. But hopefully not forever. Also we would probably dump the commuter car instead of the elantra when we eventually size up to a bigger car for me (again, a few years down the line). Normally we look at cars as very long-term purchases, so I'm not sure how to figure these issues into our decision. Resale value? Perhaps longevity is less of an issue if we're going to sell it in a few hears anyway!? I have no idea.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how "big" the interior of a Prius is.  I can carry a 10'6" longboard (or a 10'6" fence rail) inside the passenger compartment.  It seats five full-grown adults comfortably, with leg room & headroom.  It hauls well beyond its rated weight inside the passenger compartment, and it fits a lot of stuff inside the volume.  I've added an aerodynamic Thule roof rack to mine and it doesn't even noticeably affect the gas mileage.

So far so good.  I'm expecting these cars to be old enough to join the military, vote, and drink alcohol. 

The big issue here is that I'll need to convince my husband that it's worth going higher mileage to get a prius, which will be hard sell. And I'm not even sure it's true--- so, educate me, Mustachians! You are the best!
Well, again that requires you to be interested in selling it.  And if it should come to that, I think the depreciation curve is pretty darn near flat between 100K and 200K miles.

DarinC

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2014, 10:22:04 AM »
Apparently there's all kinds of weirdness with the way Toyota handles the extended hybrid warranties, but it looks like model year has nothing to do with any of that weirdness.

http://priuschat.com/threads/carb-warranty-ins-and-outs-and-in-out-ins.142131/

I second registering on Prius chat. My 05 has 200k miles and the battery has been fine so far. Even if it goes, it's generally just a few cells and you can probably find someone to refurbish it for less than ~$1k. Toyota even has a guide in one of the FSMs on how to refurb existing cells (just draining/refilling electrolyte and making sure there aren't any leaks).

Besides that, I suggest changing the transmission oil, since wear readings some priuschat forum members have obtained indicate it's a good idea to do it more often than the FSM suggests, and keep an eye out for a low 12V auxiliary battery. When it starts to go the car will do all sorts of weird things (error codes, lost mileage/radio presets), so check that first before you go to a dealer.

Mine also has a driver's side engine mount that could stand to be replaced, but it's one of those noise/vibration things and I doubt it'll affect anything else. Other than that it's been a great car. I bought it at 137k miles, and it's just been oil changes and good fuel economy so far.

One last thing about the battery. The closer to ~50-60F you can keep it, the better. Batteries don't like extreme heat or cold, although the batteries Toyota uses are extremely durable.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2014, 10:25:16 AM by DarinC »

FuzzyFace

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2014, 11:11:07 AM »
I have a 2006 Prius with 132k miles on it. The hybrid batteries did fail right before I was given it, but that was covered under warranty.

It has been a pretty inexpensive to operate for the last 2 years, before that I didn't pay for any of the operating expenses, so I'm not too sure.

 Fuel economy isn't as good as it was when it was newer, and I'm not exactly sure why. 6 years ago, it would get 45-47mpg, and now it only gets 40-43mpg. I'm not sure if it's changed driving habits by me, or if the car is simply older and less efficient.

easton

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Re: Looking to buy a used prius... Many questions!
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2014, 09:22:18 PM »
@fuzzyface- supposedly mpg can drop when the smaller accessory battery is in need of replacement, which if you haven't replaced that in 6 years its probably due. Just saw DarinC also mentioned that one in their post as well.