Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius is a popular car and makes an excellent used car, if buyers choose wisely.

Is the Toyota Prius a Good Used Car?

The Toyota Prius Hybrid launched in 2001 in the United States and has become the best selling hybrid in the world. The first generation resembled other subcompacts at the time.

When most people think of the Toyota Prius, they think of the oddly-wedge-shaped liftback that debuted in 2004. Not only is the Prius different looking on the outside, but Toyota chose to put the instruments in the center of the dash rather than in front of the driver like most modern cars.

Prius Interior
Interior of a Toyota Prius showing the center gauge pod.

Toyota has a reputation for building solid, reliable cars, and the Toyota Prius is no different. Most years of the Toyota Prius are reliable used cars. As with all used cars, there are some things buyers should take into consideration.

How Much Does a Used Toyota Prius Cost?

The iconic hybrid can range greatly in price based on age, use, and condition. With that said, the Toyota Prius retains value better than any other car like it.

toyota prius
The second-generation Toyota Prius is instantly recognizable with a distinctive, wedge-shape body.

The second-generation Prius was sold from 2004 to 2009. Values according to CarGurus range from $4,743 to $6,970 for the most recent year.

After 2009, prices jump, with average car values hitting near $13,000 for 2014 models.

2015 Prius
The fourth-generation Toyota Prius features new angles and curves, but retains the distinctive shape in an edgy, modern body style.

The re-designed Prius for 2015 is still in production. The 2015 Prius is valued at about $15,000, while a brand new 2019 Prius has a window sticker of $28,000.

Buyers can save quite a bit of money buying a well-cared-for used Prius, even one that is several years old.

What Problems Can a Used Prius Have?

Toyota Prius cars have very few problems. Most owners have no serious issues with Toyota Prius models. The car has two known issues, both affecting cars built between 2007 and 2010.

These cars had issues with high oil consumption when the engine got over 100,000 miles. In bad cases, these cars can burn several quarts of oil every few thousand miles. Changing the oil more often than recommended seems to prevent the condition from happening.

The other issue involves headlights that randomly turn on or off. The problem is with a ballast resistor. Owners using a high-quality repair manual can usually replace the defective part.

Any evidence of problems in the service records should be considered carefully.

What About the Battery?

Toyota began using a Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMh) battery in 2004. The battery is very robust and has very few problems. A common service issue is a fan that cools the batteries can get clogged with dust and hair, leading to overheating.

Toyota recommends a battery replacement every 10 years or 150,000 miles. In California Emissions-Complaint states, hybrid batteries are required to be under warranty for 10 years.

A battery replacement costs between $3,500 and $5,500.

What are the Different Prius Models?

The Prius family of cars has grown to include three current models. Until 2017, Toyota sold the Prius V, a wagon version. The Prius One is the standard model and gets the best overall fuel mileage. The interior is mostly covered in soft, textured plastics that are made from renewable resources, not petroleum-based products.

Toyota Prius C
The Toyota Prius C is a smaller version of the Prius One flagship model.

The Prius C is a subcompact variation that is less expensive than the Prius One.  It has many of the same technical features, but the finish of the interior is not as nice.

Prius Prime
The Toyota Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid that is very different from the Prius One.

The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid that is larger than the Prius One but does not get as good of mileage. It is very roomy and has the ability to carry a substantial amount of cargo.

Which Generation Prius is the Best?

The second, third, and fourth-generation Prius cars are all excellent choices on the used market. Newer models have more features and get better fuel mileage. Buyers should consider what the car they are looking into was used for before buying.

Prius Taxi
The Toyota Prius is an excellent used car, but buyers should be aware of how the vehicle was used. Ride-share and former taxi vehicles can have issues from long periods of idling.

Prius models that have high mileage are not always bad. At freeway speeds, the gasoline engine does most of the work, keeping the battery in good shape and reducing wear on the electric motors. Cars used in the city are likely to have lower mileage, but constant start and stop driving causes more wear and tear on the battery.

Buyers should avoid Prius cars that have been in accidents. The Prius is a highly-advanced car with many sensors and delicate electronics that can be damaged easily in collisions.

The best Prius will depend on what the buyer intends to use the car to do, and what they are willing to spend. With literally millions of Prius cars on the road, there are plenty of options from which buyers can choose.

Find a Toyota Prius repair manual for any year.

 

About Derek F

2 comments

  1. We had a 2007 Prius and found that none of the local auto mechanics would work on it. They all said that the Prius cars required special training and they did not have enough of that business to make it worthwhile to get someone trained. They just sent us to the dealer, which was about 45 minutes from our home. Of course, the dealer pricing was very high also. We sold it while everything worked, because repairs got to be too expensive.

    • Interesting about your experience and trying to find a mechanic to work on your Prius. It sounds like that will be a rising challenge for current Prius owners, finding a mechanic to service the car and the parts needed for maintenance.

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