THE TOP REASONS TO CHOOSE THIS CAR FOR THE BUDGET-MINDED
Car price inflation and high gas prices today make the Prius a great bet in used cars for a reasonable price.
The Toyota Prius is my recommendation in our current dilemma of very high used car prices. Many people cannot afford to plunk down 20K or more on a vehicle. Many people cannot pay more than $250/month for a car loan or would just rather pay cash. I will explain why I recommend the Prius considering today’s car-buying conditions.
Let’s face reality for a second. If you live in the USA and don’t live in a large city that is walkable or bikeable with good public transportation, you need a vehicle. Currently, prices for lightly used cars are almost the same as buying a new car. I recently read an article about a man who bought a new Honda Fit 5 years ago and sold the car to Carvana for the same price he paid! Crazy!
We have to throw out the window the notion of early-year car depreciation at least for now. Before, a new car that cost 20K would be down to about 13 or 14K in 3 years with not too many miles on the odometer.
Frugal or budget-minded people would do well with a Toyota Prius.
If you drive a lot of miles per year, the Prius is one of the FEW good options you’ll have. Here are other reasons that a Prius will give you a lot of bang for the buck!
The Prius has always been known to be reliable. The costs to maintain are also very reasonable. Even if it’s a hybrid, it does not cost more to maintain than a regular car. If not driven very hard, the brakes on this hybrid car can last a long time. Most of the longest-lasting vehicles are trucks and larger SUVs. The Prius is one of the few sedans that compete with them.
You can buy one with over 100,000 miles and still expect to get another 100,000 or more if you maintain it well. This will allow a budget-minded used car buyer to have more options (older, higher-mileage cars) when buying a vehicle.
The Prius Gets Excellent Gas Mileage
Being a hybrid, the Prius has always been good on gas. You can get well over 50 mpg on average. Even as they age, they can still get mpg in the high forty range. This gives it an advantage over most smaller sedans like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. You can save at least 200 dollars per year of ownership depending on how much you drive over other sedans that get 35 mpg on average. If you drive around 15,000 miles per year and the average gas price is around $3.20/gallon, you can save around $400/year.
The Prius is Versatile
The Prius is a hatchback which is another plus giving you more space to carry things. Camping can be done in a Prius.
Some even live in their Prius after making certain modifications! Just search for living or camping in a Prius on YouTube and you may be shocked.
The generator can be left on all night giving you heat or air conditioning for the whole night without using a lot of gas! It will turn off and on during the night without wasting gas. People use an inverter with the Prius battery to run electric appliances from the car too.
The Prius has a “Mixed Reputation” and is a Polarizing Vehicle
Some people are big fans of the Prius and will drive them for life. Others think they are just plain ugly and wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Others hate Prius drivers because there are some Prius drivers that “hyper mile” and tend to drive very slowly to maximize their fuel efficiency.
Because of this reputation, a Prius can sometimes be bought at a nice discount. Some of that discount now might be reduced due to higher gas prices which cause higher demand for vehicles with good fuel economy. If you want a reliable, economical car that gets you from point A to point B, the Prius is a great choice and a frugal option.
Misconceptions About the Prius
- The Prius is slow. NO, it is not slow for a small sedan. I leased one for 3 years (with zero issues) and it had a power mode that gave it a little more gas on the throttle. It was enough for occasional passing and to enter highways.
- The hybrid battery doesn’t last and is expensive. The hybrid battery on a Prius usually will last for many years and miles. New York City cab drivers often drive a Prius. Maintain regular service intervals for the car and you will rarely have problems with the battery. The new models have a 10-year warranty on them which proves that Toyota has a lot of confidence in those hybrid batteries lasting a long time.
If you do have a problem, the costs to replace them have gone down a lot recently. Sometimes it is just one or a few modules in the battery that have to be replaced and that may cost less than $500 to fix. A brand new battery will be costly, but most regular vehicles will need the engine or transmission replaced as they age. That can cost more than a Prius battery. Prices are going down for a Prius battery replacement which is good news for high mileage Prius owners!
- Wouldn’t buying an EV be better in most cases? Not necessarily, although BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) have some advantages over the Prius.
The used Prius has a huge advantage over EVs in price. EVs may be a little cheaper to run, but that may be nullified if you use public charging stations. A Prius does not need to be charged at home saving the expense of installing a 240 Volt outlet if you need it (more practical due to much faster charging times than a regular outlet).
The EV has instant torque and drives more smoothly. But on longer trips, you don’t have to worry about charging your Prius. Your range will be close to 600 miles or more once you fill-up the gas tank.
There’s no waiting for the car to charge, no delays, no risk of the charging station not operating or being full. No range anxiety! You can usually find a gas station driving on the highway in less than an hour or two.
And most people reading may not be able to afford to buy even a used EV, making it a non-starter.
How to find a Prius buying guide
There are plenty of ways to check online for used cars. You can check Carvana or Cars.com, as well as other websites. They will be on the higher side since most of the sellers are car dealers.
Lower-priced methods can be found through your local Craigslist or on Facebook Marketplace. There will be better prices, but there’s a higher risk of buying a lemon.
Here are the parameters I suggest using for your search…
- Mileage: 80,000 up to 140,000 (since the Prius can last)
- Clean title (no Salvage Title)
There is too much risk buying a car that was totaled or had some kind
of major damage beforehand. You may save 1000–2000 dollars, but
I don’t think it is worth taking a chance in most cases.
Make sure that the title is clean and in the seller’s name with no liens (loans) on it. Ask if they bought it at an auction.
- Carfax is available so you can check the history.
If you don’t have that, you can still go look at the car if the price is reasonable.
Cars have been selling fast and you have to act fast. Take it for a nice test drive.
Bring a car-savvy friend and inspect the car. Borrow an OBD 2 Scanner or buy
a cheap one on Amazon. If there are a bunch of codes showing up, you should probably walk away.
- One previous owner is ideal, but two owners may be perfectly fine
If you can check the history, it will show if the car was maintained and the length of ownership. It may have been leased by the first owner. More than two owners is usually not a good sign that the car was cared for.
- No accidents are ideal, but minor, cosmetic ones won’t be an issue
This may be covered up, but always inspect the car’s body and paint well. A non-front end accident that is cosmetic is not usually something to worry too much about.
- Price range: for dealers/Carvana 8–15K, for others, including small dealers, 5K up to 13K.
MY QUICK SEARCH RESULTS
I live near Dallas, Texas. On Carvana, most of the used Prius pricing ranged from a little less than 15K to around 16.5K. This is a little high, but the mileage was often less than 80,000 miles. The cars were less than 10 years old.
A 13000 dollar loan at 4.5% for 60 months would run you around $242/month.
Carvana’s financing is way too high, so try to find an auto loan somewhere else… Each 1K interval in the loan amount equates to $19/month at that interest rate and borrowing length.
Remember that Carvana will give you 1 whole week to test the car. You will be able to send it back if you don’t like it for whatever reason. Carvana will try to remedy any notable errors in the representation of the vehicle (for example you find a large scratch on the touchscreen that wasn’t shown in the pictures of the vehicle). A friend of mine recently discovered a large scratch on his touchscreen and Carvana paid for the repair.
Outside of Carvana, there won’t be a big selection of Priuses available with the parameters I’ve given, but prices may be a little bit cheaper. If you do find a good deal, you will have to act fast!
On Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist
I found some lower prices on the Priuses. Many had a little over 100K miles, and the prices were anywhere from 9Kto 12K. There was a rebuilt title 2010 Prius with 132K miles for less than 7K, which could be a great deal if you can do a little detective work on the car’s history.
There is more risk involved in buying from individuals and small car dealers.
You did your due diligence, brought an OBD 2 scanner and maybe a
friend, and thoroughly test drove the car. I’ll assume that you like the car and want to buy it.
Great, but you can also request to get the car checked out at your mechanic or a nearby mechanic. The inspections usually run about 100 bucks. It’s worth the cost if you are interested in going home in the car. The mechanic can put the car on a lift, check all the major areas, run another check on the car’s computer and look for error codes.
Negotiate the price if the mechanic finds other problems that may cost a few hundred dollars to fix. If they are minor, you can still negotiate, but I wouldn’t haggle over 100 or 200 dollars if the car does well on the inspection.
Risks of buying a used Toyota Prius
Even though a Prius is statistically likely to be reliable, last a long time, and get great gas mileage, there is some risk in buying one.
Like any used car, you should do your research and make sure you checked out the vehicle thoroughly.
The main risk in the Prius is if you need to replace the hybrid battery.
Some used Priuses already had the hybrid battery replaced, but you may want to stay away from those unless they can prove they replaced it with a brand new one. Other high dollar expenses on a Prius are the catalytic converter (they can be stolen), and in rare cases, the generator. If the generator goes (which I think is a very rare occurrence), you will probably have to sell the car for parts.
It is around a 6,000 dollar repair!
The hybrid battery will be the biggest risk, but with any older, high mileage car there will be major repair risks like replacing the engine and transmission.
The Toyota Prius brings plenty of value, high reliability, and great fuel economy for the frugal and budget-minded person looking for a vehicle.
Afraid to get a Prius, what else should I consider?
It is understandable if you are reluctant to buy a Prius due to the hybrid
components. You may think it’s too ugly. You might not like the way it drives.
Well, go ahead and buy a Toyota Corolla if you aren’t feeling the Prius.
It gets good gas mileage, it’s very reliable, and can last a long time. For a little
more power and a little less gas mileage, go for a Toyota Camry.
Used Corollas and Camrys will sell for similar prices as the Prius.
Don’t want a Toyota? Then I’d go for a Honda Civic or Honda Accord.
The Toyota Prius is the high-value and budget-conscious choice for a used car. The statistics are in your favor if you value reliability and you want an economical car that will last you a long time. It’s especially good if gas prices stay high and you drive a lot.
There are some risks with buying a Prius. The highest risk factor is how long the hybrid battery will last. If that is a problem, consider buying a Toyota Corolla instead. Do your research and always test drive and thoroughly check any used vehicle before you decide to buy it.
Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your car search!