How to Buy a Used Hybrid ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: How to Buy a Used Hybrid

Friday, May 18, 2007

How to Buy a Used Hybrid

When it comes to buying used cars, you probably know the smart things to do.

  • Get a lifetime report.
  • Check the price at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or
  • Know who you're dealing with.
  • Don't be afraid to bargain.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away.
  • Make sure you test drive it.
  • Get a mechanic to look over the engine.
But, put the word hybrid into that phrase 'buying a used car' and you have a different story. Suddenly, people are unsure of what to look for. They have questions and insecurities they didn't feel before. And like the housing market a few years ago, you don't have a lot of time to think it over. Wait a week and that used Prius you had your eye on is gone.

The Biggest Question Mark?
The biggest question on everyone's minds when buying a used hybrid: How long does the battery pack last? Everyone has heard it would be very expensive to replace the battery and, not surprisingly, they don't want to spend thousands of dollars to maintain a used vehicle.

The truth is the battery pack is expensive, very expensive. It can cost several thousand dollars to buy a new one. But, don't despair. There are a few simple things you can do to alleviate those worries.

Check the Miles and the Warranty
First, it's even more important to know how many miles there are on a used hybrid car. If the used hybrid has a transferable warranty , and it should, then you need to know how many miles it covers. It can vary from 80,000 to 100,000 to 150,000 miles. (Note: the 80 or 100K mile warranty is more likely.) That way, you know you're covered if the battery pack fails.

Your Local Mechanic
Second, having your trusted mechanic look it over may not be good enough. You may need to take it to a dealership. Almost all the engine parts are the same and should be treated as such. But the electric motor and battery pack may be foreign territory for your local mechanic. If you have a trusted mechanic, ask him/her if they are comfortable looking at a hybrid. If they start talking about getting electrocuted, they haven't worked with hybrids before. Instead, take it to a dealership that sells hybrids. They may charge you for it, but it will be worth the money.

Reliability Issues
Hybrids tend to be highly reliable from all reports, and that includes the battery pack. Hybrid owners tend to be highly satisfied consumers. But don't just assume that to be true for this hybrid. Have the history checked. You don't want to find out it was totaled and then repaired last year. Car reports aren't necessarily reliable, so again, make sure a mechanic looks it over.

Ask about the Mileage
If you buy from a private owner, ask them about their fuel economy. Most likely, given gas prices today, that's what you're interested in. So don't be afraid to ask about gas receipts or any other records they may have. They may be proud of what they've been getting and may present you with a report. Also, don't rely solely on the fuel gauge most hybrids come with. That can be reset at any time.

Tax Credits and Other Benefits
When you buy used, you are not eligible for the federal tax credits. If you live in California or another state where solo access to the HOV lane is possible, check for a sticker. The sticker goes with the vehicle, not the owner.

Last Piece of Advice
Don't be afraid to walk away. Hybrids were scarce a few years ago, but that's no longer the case. You still may not find one at your local dealer, and even if you do, they still won't stay there for very long. But don't panic into rushing into buying something. You can always look online or wait until the next one comes along. They may still be rare, but they aren't that rare.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at

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