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Advice on buying a used Prius

Discussion in 'Gen III 2010+ Prius Main Forum' started by tadc, Sep 2, 2012.

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  1. tadc

    tadc New Member

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    Greetings all - I'm in the market for a gently-used 2010 Prius and I'm hoping to tap your collective wisdom.

    My wife presently drives a 2007 Yaris 2d hatchback, and with the arrival of our first baby (actually, his transition to a fixed carseat) we have realized that a 2-door just isn't going to cut it anymore, and as long as we're upgrading we should probably go with something more roomy as well.

    Since we both drive very high-MPG cars, it would be difficult to go with 99% of the cars on the market today, which of course got me thinking about the Prius. I'm also a geek, so I am a fan of the hybrid technology.

    Because I have neither the time nor the inclination to play stupid salesman games, I'm working with an auto broker this time around. So far it's been a much more pleasurable experience than going to a dealership.

    Some questions for the class:
    • Any thoughts on good/bad times of year to buy a used Prius(or a used car in general)? I'm not exactly in a hurry, and I wonder if waiting for the '13 models would be a good move?
    • Anybody have experience buying through a broker? Pro/cons?
    • Some of the cars the broker is bringing me are former rentals. I've heard opinions both ways about this... what do you think?
    • Any Prius-specific gotchas to watch out for?
    • Some other car forums have lists of independent mechanics whom forum members have used and recommend. Is there such a thing here (so I can have the car inspected)? I'd prefer a good independent over a dealership.
    • Target price range for a 2010? Bearing in mind that I'm in Portland, where it seems to be all Subarus, Prii and bikes. :)
    • Other advice I've overlooked?
    Thanks so much!
  2. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Can a Prius be a Campervan?

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    You'll be strangely familiar with a Prius... Many Yaris parts actually are also used on a Prius... I'd steer clear of retired rental cars though.

    I bought used thru a dealer because I was uncertain about dropping that much cash on a craig's list add for a Prius.

    But if I could do it all over again I would of saved a thousand dollars or more buying from a private seller. I wouldn't even use an auto broker. Because after everything I learned on here as long as the car has a clean title and decent service records, my risk wouldn't increase any more buying from a private seller and the price would of most certainly been significantly lower. Besides actually knowing the person who previously owned your car and knowing their driving style and where they drove, etc. makes it easier to know how well the car has been treated.

    But as you mentioned Portland doesn't have as many Prius on the road compared to further south. So keep an eye on Prius for sale in California... Good excuse to take a vacation too! In my experience there are way more used Prius for sale in California than anywhere else, loads of selection!
  3. adamace1

    adamace1 Senior Member

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    • Any thoughts on good/bad times of year to buy a used Prius(or a used car in general)? I'm not exactly in a hurry, and I wonder if waiting for the '13 models would be a good move? Good time would be when gas prices are low. I watch my car go up and down 3-4 grand with gas prices.
    • Anybody have experience buying through a broker? Pro/cons? I wouldn't like this
    • Some of the cars the broker is bringing me are former rentals. I've heard opinions both ways about this... what do you think? I wouldn't want a rental.
    • Any Prius-specific gotchas to watch out for?
    • Some other car forums have lists of independent mechanics whom forum members have used and recommend. Is there such a thing here (so I can have the car inspected)? I'd prefer a good independent over a dealership. Sure. I have learned enough i could do a good inspection of a prius so a good mechanic would do a even better job.
    • Target price range for a 2010?13grand though 20grand depending on option/miles. Bearing in mind that I'm in Portland, where it seems to be all Subarus, Prii and bikes. :)
    • Other advice I've overlooked?


    Read more: http://priuschat.com/threads/advice-on-buying-a-used-prius.114612/#ixzz25PdhOcLU
  4. JimN

    JimN Let the games begin!

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    Timing tends to be a wash. You are on both sides of the transaction as you also have a car to sell. Prius prices do firm up when gas prices increase but 2013 is going to be rough economically.

    Rentals tend to be low end & this is where the One is found. If you don't mind the missing features it's still a good car.

    Any used car should come with 2 fobs.

    Check out the buying service through places like AAA or Costco if you are a member.

    The car you find will most likely have the Brake ECU reflashed.

    2010 was a MY in transition and it was a long one starting in Spring 2009. Early production cars don't have the USB port in the armrest. Later (Nov/Dec 2009) production cars will have Safety Connect (panel by rear view mirror). I don't remember any changes to the car after Dec. 2009.
  5. Munpot42

    Munpot42 Active Member

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    At the top of your price range, how about a new Prius C 2? I don't know about the Portland area but here in LA new Prius 2's are selling at aroung 21.6K. Remember new has many advantages, warrenty etc.
  6. tadc

    tadc New Member

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    Hi all, thanks for the replies and sorry for not getting back to you sooner.

    FYI I did go ahead and pick up a red 2010 Prius II today from my broker, and I went against some advice and got a former rental (Zipcar). I got it for $18k with 44k though, so I think I got a pretty good price given the market around here. I've been watching for private party sales and they are just extremely rare - most of the listings on Craigslist are salvage title... no thanks.

    FWIW JimN - I did reach out to AAA, Costco and my Credit Union's "buying service" and they all were pretty useless. The AAA broker only seemed interested in selling me something from his inventory, Costco just sent my name to a bunch of salesmen, and the CU was just another listing aggregator.

    For the Costco service when I originally indicated interest in a Hyundai Elantra, the salesman told me that the web special they were running that weekend had a better price than the Costco negotiated price, so that doesn't sound like such a good deal. When I went through Costco again for a Prius, I didn't even get that far.
  7. bruceha_2000

    bruceha_2000 Senior Member

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    The Prius C is "not recommended" by Consumer Reports. Too much like the Yaris it shares many components with.
    Plus, it is a smaller than a 'regular' Prius but doesn't get better MPG. Gated shifter, etc. No real value there other than maybe being a bit easier to get into small parallel parking places.



    I am having the same quandary. My '04 was totaled last week and I will NOT buy a Gen III so I have to find a good used Gen II. Hard to tell, but some of the Carfax reports seem to suggest a car may have been purchased to rent out (multiple state registrations). Those do seem to have lower mileage for the model year than others which makes sense if they spend many days waiting to be rented. So, lower mileage and more money but presumably also longer life UNLESS it was a rental and poorly treated. Though I am looking at the high end models and I don't think rental agencies buy those. :unsure:

    I would guess the type of person who goes with Zipcar is more likely to treat a rental well. They are VERY likely to be driving that same car again and again, not like something you pick up at the airport while on a trip. IF I were the type of person who wanted a sports car, I would ONLY buy new or from someone I personally knew well. You have to know that those rentals are driven hard. I don't know if an "airport Prius" would be in better shape than the average "airport rental". People don't try to see "what it can do" other than, maybe, how little gas they can use.
  8. tadc

    tadc New Member

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    Why no Gen III?

    AFAIK, there shouldn't be any guessing as to whether it was a rental - the title history should clearly state if the car was a rental, but I guess that may not be true in all states. All the ex-rentals I looked at (all from various western states) said so on the Carfax/Autocheck.

    If you're seeing registrations in multiple states I'd be more worried about title-washing. I'm not sure which states are suspect but you should be able to find out via Google - basically, registering in certain states will allow you to "wash" a title of a salvage/totaled/reconstructed brand.

    Also FWIW, I would be surprised to see any Gen II (especially with low miles) as ex-rentals. All of the ones I looked at were 2010 with 35-50k on the clock - it seemed to be a pretty uniform practice across all the rental agencies. But then I was looking for a 2010, so I guess there could still be 2009s floating around.
  9. bruceha_2000

    bruceha_2000 Senior Member

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    Long list, all related to the, IMHO, severely reduced ergonomics of the "driver's station" compared to a Gen II. The stupid arch that cramps your right leg with storage below you can't use while driving, the practically useless cup holders and arm rest, the shifter on the stupid arch instead of on the dash where it belongs - out of the way because you use it, what, 2 times max in any given trip unless you back out when you start and back into a parking spot at the end, then 3? Heck, it is a Prius, it puts itself in Park when you shut it down. Why dedicate all that real estate to it? (and make forward be "go backward" and backward be "go forward" - STUPID!!) Lots of little dedicated, mostly non tactile, buttons for functions that are big buttons on function specific MFD screens in the Gen II. Lots of little buttons you have to look down from the road to find, hold and watch to see when the desired selection is reached. Buttons I use frequently taken off the steering wheel. I can go on, and on and on.

    Suffice to say, that for me, what little was gained in the Gen III (better seats, faster heating, etc) are a near total net loss in ergonomics and safety compared to a Gen II.



    Turns out the "two states" thing is Toyota Lease. If you see a Carfax on a Toyota with 1 owner and 2 states, and one location is Atlanta, GA, the car was leased through Toyota. The little 'tip' from Carfax related to multiple states can be misleading. I've found a few < 60K mile 2009s (decided to go with the "how much are they asking for the useful remaining life of the car" calculation. Though quite conservative given my '04 had 131K miles and not a single problem, I used 150K miles. Since anything I buy will not be something I know the complete history on, I think that is fair. Besides, it is just to come up with a common price/remaining miles comparison. I figure 90K to 100K is a reasonable number of miles given my expected driving over the next ~7-8 years I expect to keep it.

    Now I need to decide:
    - How far I am willing to drive - there is exactly ONE 2008 Gen II with nav in my state (no '09s) and they are on the high side per my calculation, plus it is already at 66K miles, more than my wife has on her '06. Everything else is minimum 200 miles away. If there is anyone in NY not far NE of the city that wants a REALLY low mileage 2009, there is one with 16,500 miles in Mamaroneck listed last week for $20,110. I'm guessing whoever owned it worked really close to home or took the train into the city. It's almost a "Grandma only drove it to church on Sunday" car. Not sure If I want to go that high for 133K "remaining life miles" since I don't expect to use that many. If I was still driving 500+ miles a week, I would be seriously interested.
    - How much cash I want to put out (after I find out what the girl's insurance company is going to pay).
    - etc, etc, etc

    Not real easy since they are spread all over Eastern MA and southern CT and NY and northern NJ. Not like I can go look at each one and then go back to the one I like best.
  10. tadc

    tadc New Member

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    I see - I'm not a huge fan of the "pod" but the armrest and cupholders seem good enough... I guess I don't know what I'm missing, not having had a Gen II. Also I'm not a tall guy so the legroom thing isn't an issue.

    What really does appeal to me about the GenIII is the improved technology - better fuel economy, more power, more efficient AC and rear disc brakes to name a few. And I'm not really a fan of built-in nav... in a few years it's going to be outdated and you're going to be stuck with it. And with Google Maps on everybody's phone, who needs it?

    But to each his own...

    Have you considered working with a broker? That's what we did, and it really made things easier.

    Sure, he takes a cut, but he also has access to more and cheaper cars than you do (dealer-only auctions and first chance at the lease returns for example), so it is likely to more than pay off to your benefit unless you happen to stumble across the rare private party sale that meets your needs and can get there "first".
  11. HINewPriusOwner

    HINewPriusOwner New Member

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    I went in to get my Prius One...brand new, I guess they couldn't find a willing rental agency to take it...and when I was doing that I noticed a Prius V demo that was on sale that was only 200 dollars more than my Prius One. Long story short, I was wavering for a long time until I finally found out the demo had already been sold even before I went into get my Prius One. Of course if I had seen the ad in the paper on Friday, I wonder what I would have done. Before we found out it had been sold, my salesperson said a con to the demo was that it was also a loaner so you don't know how it had been used by previous drivers. At first I thought that was a good point, but then I thought about it and thought that whoever drove the Prius will most likely have a certain type of driving habit that would not be detrimental to the car. A stereotype I know, but possibly applicable when thinking of getting a used Prius from a rental car agency in the future. Remember, those who get the Prius when they rent, specifically ask for it, and pay a premium for it when they do.
  12. bruceha_2000

    bruceha_2000 Senior Member

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    Agree and disagree on the built in Nav. Agree that the maps are not cheap to update, nor as frequent (by a LONG shot) but much bigger screen and integrated to the on board controls. Disagree on the "maps on the phone" comment - my Tracfone doesn't do maps :) I am cheap when it comes to cell phones because I so rarely use them. And I find it hard to see detail on the small screen (getting old!). My kids have iPods and I really wouldn't want to rely on a screen that size while driving. I do wish Toyota would let you update the Nav DVDs for cheap, even not cheap (say $50) every year AND let you know what has changed so you can decide it there is value to you. And a DVD with lots more detail for a smaller area would be great. I mean, really, how often am I going to be driving from Vermont to the west coast? Right, NEVER, so let me buy a better map for the areas I AM going to need the maps. I bet they could make a ton of money on map DVDs if they did these things. How much does it cost them to create "another copy" of a DVD; not much. Poor business plan.

    More power? The Gen II has plenty of power. A/C?? What is that?? ;) OK, I use it SOMETIMES. Doesn't get as hot in VT as it does in a lot of places. Rear disks would be nice, but I've never had a problem stopping my Prius. I would never complain about better MPG :) though the 131K lifetime on my '04 was 3 MPG better than the EPA combined and they don't include real winter in their tests. If we only had "Apr - Sept" Vermont weather my MPG would be between 55 and 60 year round. Winter cold and snow and snow tires are not MPG boosters. It would be interesting to know what I would get long term in a Gen III though.



    Never done that, where does one find a broker they can trust? And how much cut? I presume you pay them a % of the purchase price or do they charge a fixed fee? Given I have a fairly narrow "acceptable" car list and very little time, I don't know if a Broker could do enough to earn the fee. I can see the auction thing if you have time to wait for them to come up and there are cars you are interest in that show up often.

    I have found a few cars that seem reasonable, the question is how low will they go :) . The free Carfax reports are great. I was able to skip those with accidents and I know how long the dealer has been sitting on the car.

    One thing I did find, and there is a thread on here somewhere, a number of them are selling "Touring" versions but the don't have the 7 spoke wheels and the spoiler doesn't look any bigger. I have mentioned it to a couple of them and gave them the "check for these color stripes on the rear struts" information so they can change their ads. I really doubt someone would switch the wheels.
  13. tadc

    tadc New Member

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    I was working with two brokers simultaneously - one I found online by searching various car forums for recommendations from actual people who had used them, and the other I was referred to by word of mouth. They both seemed to be on the up-and-up and came up with a lot of the same deals. In the end they each came up with the same car that I ended up buying, so I found myself in the odd position of having to discourage one of them so I wouldn't end up bidding against "myself". :)

    I also had a hard time deciding which one to go with, but I ended up with the first guy, and I'm happy with my choice.

    I also had a very narrow list (2010 Prius, not white or black) and they came up with a "candidate" probably every other day on average. You may have fewer since you're looking for an older car, but OTOH you're also in a more densely populated region so there are probably more options. As for the auctions, there are dealer auctions every week in Portland.

    When I asked about their cut, they both said they took a "flat fee" of "about $600", but the final price was a nice round number, so I think there's some flexibility there. The broker also paid for a great detail job and the mechanical inspection out of his end; I only paid for actual DMV fees.

    Couldn't hurt to at least investigate the option - there's no commitment on your part.

    One thing you may have an issue with is you do have to put some faith in the broker's skill to select a car. Depending on the situation(if it's an auction for example) you may not have much (or any) opportunity to check the car out prior to committing. Of course you'd have an out if there were major unreported issues or misrepresentation, but you have to take his word for it to a certain extent.
  14. bruceha_2000

    bruceha_2000 Senior Member

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    :ROFLMAO: that would be quite a predicament! OTOH, it sounds like both were good, especially since they came up with a lot of the same cars so you'll be happy to recommend either of them in the future.


    There are actually very few Gen II Prii ANYWHERE near me. At least not with NAV. Ignoring EVERYTHING except the Gen II year range and Nav, there are 53 within 250 miles on cars.com. The closest is in Rochester, NH. 189 miles and 3.5 hours away. It seems cars.com uses a crow to measure distances because they say that car is 137 miles away. And I know some of them have accidents so they would be off my list. Apparently the local dealer sold the red 2008 with 66K miles asking price $16K because it doesn't show up anymore. I checked their site and it isn't there but they do have a new listing for a gray 2008 with 82K miles for $15K which hasn't made it to cars.com.



    I'll keep it in mind the next time I am looking for a car. I think I have found one that is a reasonable balance of price and miles. 40K miles, $17K, 3 year leased car (April 2009 to April 2012), clean CarFax. Thus, it still has 20K miles and 2 years on the power train warranty and should last at least as long I'm likely to have it (assuming I don't encounter any more idiots on the road).

    It is 300 miles (cars.com claims 210) and 5+ hours away by road. I asked a friend that lives relatively close to the dealer (a mere 1/2 hour away) if he could go look at it. He checked it all out, including the oil, drove it and said he wouldn't hesitate to buy it if he was looking for that type of car and the price was OK. What a pal! I have to think of something nice to do for him.

    Anyway, I have a deposit on it, they are a GM dealer (why they bought an '09 Prius at a Toyota auction, I'll never know) and said they would take it to the Toyota dealer if I wanted (my cost of course) so we are waiting for a clean bill of health. I talked to 2 of their sales guys and they seem to be very much on the up and up. Plus, since my friend interacted with one of them, he would have told me if the guy seemed sleazy. I trust that the GM dealer checked all the "regular car" stuff but I would like a Prius tech to look over the hybrid components a GM tech would know nothing about. GM failed miserably in the hybrid design area.
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