Buying a used Toyota prius

by Govind Rai on June 4, 2015 Comments 

One of my good friends recently asked me some questions regarding buying a used Toyota Prius. Being a Prius owner and the fact my family runs a taxi business with a majority of our fleet consisting of Toyota Prius taxis, I thought this topic to be relevant for our blog and may help others who have similar questions. 

Here’s what he asked:

Hey guys,
I am considering buying a used Prius (probably 2003-2007 model) or a comparable hybrid, and I am seeking some advice.
1) Do you have the service (maintenance) schedule for the Prius that you can send to me/point me to? If you are not familiar with it, this is the document that would tell you when to go into to get your car serviced (ex: 25,000 mile tune up, 75,000 mile inspection, when to replace the timing belt, etc.)
2) How costly have you found maintenance to be in comparison to normal cars that you may have owned? Or, what have been some of the most costly issues that you have had with your Prius? For example, I read that the hybrid battery tends to die around ~100,000 miles, and it costs about $3,500 to repair at a Toyota dealership.
3) Any other miscellaneous advice that you would like to give to me about Prius or car buying if you have experience with it: whether or not to do financing, pay in cash, etc.
Anything helps,
Kurt

Kurt, 

1) There’s plenty of maintenance schedules online. In fact, Toyota has designed them with care because they want you back at the dealership as much as possible. Here’s a maintenance schedule for a 2008 Prius (starting page 6). 

My advice: The guys at the Toyota service centers will tell you to come in every 5000 miles with major service every 15K miles. They’re spending thousands on coupons that they’ll mail to you every couple weeks, and they're spending even more on elaborate marketing campaigns that will instruct you to make your appointment to get your annual checkup. 

That's their job, and that’s how the dealerships make money. But it doesn’t mean you need it. To be honest, you don't need a majority of those repairs. Besides, oil & filter changes, tires, brakes, and topping off your fluids once in a while, you can make do without any of the other fancy, unnecessary repairs. This might come as a shock to you, but having owned over 30 Priuses from 2004, I think our fleet has done just fine. You can probably find many other articles regarding this online, but do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

2) Priuses can be low maintenance vehicles if you use them on a normal basis–the Prius should be your primary vehicle. I have no opinion on the lifecycle of a Prius which sits in the garage. They’re pretty low cost compared to other vehicle brands in my opinion, but pretty average with most Toyota models such as the Camry or Corolla. 

Besides normal tear and wear, our Priuses have run well without any major problems. A battery swap will probably be the only major maintenance you will encounter, and can cost between $2500-$3500. What you’ve read on battery replacements is true, but I think 100K miles is too early for a signs of a non-charging battery. 

In my experience, Priuses are very cost-free until 150-200K miles. After that point, you may need to get a new battery and/or a major repair might be on its way, (but that is the case with most cars that have travelled beyond 150K miles). We’ve only had two battery issues in our entire fleet.

Finally, most of our Priuses started to experience major repair around 275K miles, and nothing survived past 340K.

3. Other Advise: I would not recommend getting anything older than a 2008 Prius. In fact, go 2010 or newer, as there was a major redesign and technology change. Getting a 12 year old car is not the business.

If you want to build credit, finance it. Assuming you've never financed a car, your financing will be higher, but you’ll always have to go through this option, if you want to finance your future rides with the best interest rates available. Finance your car for at least 8 months (that was the advise given to me by a financing agent) and that should add a long enough payoff history to where you can fully pay it off and you'll no longer be a first time car buyer! Then you can enjoy 0% financing options that are many times available to non-first time car buyers.

Also, I don’t know your budget, but you can get a 2015 Prius, Package 2 for 22,750 out of the door at many dealerships, so ponder on that idea as well. It's an amazing car if you don’t care too much about the Prius’ fashion statement ;)

Good luck on finding you car, and let me know if you have further questions in the comments below!

To my readers: Please keep in mind that I write from the perspective of not just a Prius owner, but also a Prius fleet manager. My observations could vary from a normal owner, but I've tried to voice that in this article and remain as objective as possible. Let me know of any discrepancies in the comments below, and I’ll update the article asap. Thanks for reading!

We hope that helped.

If you ever need a taxi in the east bay, we can help with that too.