Buying Used Car for the first time. Strongly Considering a Prius. Some Questions

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by DanielA, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. DanielA

    DanielA New Member

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    Hi everyone

    After owning the same vehicle for the first 10 years of my driving career, I am in the market for a new (to me) car. Not only am I on my first car, I also essentially bought the car directly off my parents. Being a relatively minimalistic person, the thought of even buying my next car had never occurred to me until recently. However, in an effort to be both more frugal and more environmentally conscious, I recently realized it is time for an upgrade. My current ride is a 2001 chevy tahoe. At my last routine oil change, I found out there is a bad oil leak and the shocks are severely worn down. On top of that, it has a few electrical issues, including the heater not working (I live in Texas, so it's fairly easy to survive without out it). To top it all off, the check engine light recently came on. It also guzzles gas like no other; extremely inefficient for a single guy in his early 20's. Combined with repairs that would cost a pretty penny, it makes sense to look to upgrade asap.

    Any who, the idea of a Prius interests me for a number of reasons. I am looking in the 8-12 year old range, and depending on mileage, year, etc, I am pretty flexible on budget at the moment (4-8k).

    As I have started to do research about the smartest process to use while buying a used car, a consistent theme I have seen is that I should get a pre-purchase inspection on any used vehicle, except for perhaps CPO. While I am totally down with this, a Prius in particular brings up a few questions in this realm. I had a conversation with my mechanic today, who I trust completely, however he told me upfront that they do not really mess with hybrids at all.

    Some of my questions that have stemmed from all this:

    For a PPI, do I need to find a mechanic who truly understands hybrids inside and out?
    If so, what is the best way to go about finding one?

    Can I trust a Toyota dealership to give an honest PPI if I was looking to buy from a private seller?

    On the other hand, what if I find a used Prius at a Toyota dealership that I am interested in? Do you guys think it is worthwhile/necessary to get a trusted 3rd party to look at a Prius from a Toyota dealership?

    These are the biggest questions that come to my mind at the moment. I have only been browsing so far, but I want to be in a position to take action within the next 2-4 weeks if I see something I really like. Considering how new I am to buying any vehicle at all, I greatly appreciate any advice you guys can give me. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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  3. mikefocke

    mikefocke Prius v Three 2012, Avalon 2011

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    I somehow doubt you will find a lot of 8 to 12 year old cars in a dealer's inventory. They cherry pick the best recent used cars and wholesale the rest to go on independent used car lots. You might find one on their back lots waiting for the trip to the auction.

    A PPI done by someone who couldn't use the Toyota hardware/software to do a battery test on the traction battery would be a waste.
    I found several Prius savvy shops in the Dallas area by googling "dallas prius mechanic". There are some old threads which mention some of the shops on priuschat. Two specific independent shops. Sometimes they know of a car for sale they could recommend.

    Given that a 8-12 year old Prius has both and ICE motor and a battery to expensively fail along with the drivetrain, I can't say I'd be recommending a used hybrid of that vintage (3 Prius cars in my immediate family, one over 150k miles but its maintenance history is known and its use is primarily as a 50 miles per trip commuter, the easiest type of use). Heresy I know.

    I'd look for a private sale (craigslist) as you are more likely to get a maintenance history as well as be spared the dealer markup.
     
  4. MilkyWay

    MilkyWay Active Member

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    You don't need a hybrid specialist. Really you probably can tell just by driving if it has problems. Toyota would be a very good place for PPI.

    How much for the Tahoe?
     
  5. DanielA

    DanielA New Member

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    So if my local Toyota dealership had a Prius I was interested in, you don't think a PPI is necessary so long as the service records/test drive all have no issues?

    Are you asking how much I'm selling the Tahoe for? If so, I haven't put too much thought into it. Like I said, it has a lot of issues, and I have no plans to fix them myself, so I'm not expecting much at all.
     
  6. MilkyWay

    MilkyWay Active Member

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    It's not a bad idea to get it inspected but it probably won't have issues at the prices and miles you are looking at.
     
  7. JimboPalmer

    JimboPalmer Tsar of all the Rushers

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    I am going to do a sanity check with you.

    The Prius is on average, a very reliable car with excellent Consumer Reports scores. Sadly, you do not get to buy the average, so your Prius may need work and that is a problem. As you have already seen, mechanics are not familiar with the Prius, so instead of repairing a part, they replace it. They lack the experience to do the repair, so wholesale replacement is simpler. Several Prius sub systems are pricey, I am going to list some, and give hints how not to damage them.

    Transaxle $5000 (drain and fill the ATF WS every 90,000 miles)
    Inverter $4000 (never jump start another vehicle, try not to jump start your Prius, get a new 12 volt battery soon if it dies)
    HV Battery $3500 (keep it cool, use A/C on hot days, and use B mode coming down LONG downhills. Tint the windows to the amount the law allows)
    Engine $2000 (check the oil weekly, change it when Toyota recommends with the oil Toyota recommends)

    So while most used Prius will be faithful cars, plan for repair bills in case yours has a flaw.

    You do not tell us how far you drive a month, if you are not driving long distances, you will be better off in a Corolla. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to repair, and your mechanic is not afraid of it.
    I certainly loved my Prius when driving 2500 miles a month, it is what it was made for. But it does not get great MPG in the first 5 miles every day, only once it is warmed up. So if it is 5 miles to work/school/whatever, it won't impress you with great MPG.
     
    #7 JimboPalmer, Feb 26, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
  8. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    welcome!
    you definitely need a hybrid shop for an old prius, and you need to expect the rare possibility of a very expensive repair. do your due diligence before purchasing. an inspection will tell you what is broken, but not what may break tomorrow.
    all the best!(y)
     
  9. DanielA

    DanielA New Member

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    Thanks for this! I appreciate the honesty. I am not dead set on a Prius. However, I have started biking more locally (to work, store, etc), so a vehicle would be for my longer trips (15+ miles). I often drive anywhere from 15-40 miles throughout the week for various hobbies, visiting family, etc. I also make trips every few months or so to Austin to visit my parents, which is a ~200 mile trip, one way. So I do think the Prius would suit me well.

    One of my biggest holdups is the fact that mechanics are not as familiar with it (and I am not familiar with them either). It would obviously be a much smoother transition if I got another conventional vehicle. But man, I just hear so many good things, I do get a little excited thinking about owning one. :)

    Like I said though, I'm not dead set on a Prius. There are plenty of other models (Toyota or otherwise) that fit the bill for reliability + fuel economy that I am looking for. It will really just come down to when I find a good deal I am comfortable with.
     
  10. JimboPalmer

    JimboPalmer Tsar of all the Rushers

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    Batch your short trips together, do the longest leg first to get the engine warm. On the interstate, set your cruise control to the speed the trucks are doing in the right lane and you will have a calm, frugal drive.
     
  11. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    Mpg are overrated, just drive. You'll get over 40mpg 99% of the time.

    I think the prices for used 2004/05/06 prius cars are so cheap, they should be considered disposable once they break down
     
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  12. padroo

    padroo Senior Member

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    Don't get us wrong about a Prius. Those of us who have bought them new have enjoyed their fuel savings and the reliability. Our cars have paid us in advance so if something expensive does break we can say that it was a great car and maybe get it repaired or get rid of it. Buying a used one especially an old one could be an expensive proposition like others have mentioned. Any car you buy with over 100,000 miles has the potential to be a financial burden. If you can find a newer Prius with low miles I say go for it.
    Try to buy one new enough that it has the warranty still on the hybrid battery and some of the original factory warranty.
     
  13. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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  14. DanielA

    DanielA New Member

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    Hmmm. That doesn't seem that appealing compared to deals I have seen in my area. I have seen some private sellers selling slightly newer Prii (07-08) with 100-130k miles for 4-5k. Doesn't make sense to me to attach an extra 70k+ miles to save a grand or 2.
     
  15. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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    OK, probably the California surcharge. :eek: :(
     
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  16. TinyTim

    TinyTim Active Member

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    The guy wants a Prius so he should get himself a Prius. My only suggestion, try to find one with 100K or less mileage. That traction battery is your main concern. If that goes, junk it. Don't waste too much money in repairs on an older Prius.
     
  17. Kevin_Denver

    Kevin_Denver Active Member

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    The only major component on the Prius that has a high failure rate in these older years (if proper maintenance is done) is the hybrid battery. Battery failures seem to start to happen at around 12 years, and most HV batteries seem to fail by 18 years. So right now, we're seeing the 04 to 06s with bad batteries on the forums, with the occasional 07. 08 and 09 battery failures are still very rare. There are almost no first generation Prii left on the road for this reason (ones that are likely have a replacement battery pack).

    The age and temperature it is kept at seem to be as important to the life of the battery as the miles. Therefore if going for a 2nd gen, I'd look at the later model years: 08 or 09. If I was buying a Prius today, I'd probably get one of the earlier 3rd gens - 10 to 12 models. They're more powerful, more space, better fuel economy, and IMO the best looking Prius model.
     
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  18. Rph74

    Rph74 Active Member

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    If I were you I would contact Matt at Texas Hybrid Batteries. He is extremely knowledgeable about these cars...he is in Dallas most days of the week, and could maybe help lead you in the right direction to find a good GenII Prius.
    The good news is that if you do buy a GenII, he has one of the cheapest prices in the country for a New oem HV battery. I had mine done 2 years ago by him for $2400 installed. An all around honest, nice guy.

    What KevinDenver said is true. Age is a big factor for HV lifespan. And the hotter climate of the DFW area certainly doesn’t help. Factor in the future cost of a new battery when you buy, because a matter or when, not if.
     
    #18 Rph74, Feb 28, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
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