I’m encouraging consumers to go hybrid! As hybrid vehicles have been on the market since model year 2000, buying a used one has become a viable alternative for those who want to go green but cannot or are unwilling to make the investment in a new one. I seek to answer questions about buying used by offering consumers tips on technical service bulletins and ways to get the most for your money and, of course, save at the pump!
Buying a used vehicle never seems to be an easy task. It is important to know what pitfalls to avoid so you do not buy someone else’s problems, most importantly one that has flood damage, which is often overlooked and something to seriously consider!
Consumers should not get confused as to why a vehicle is being sold used. This does not mean its a dud; it could be the simple fact that the previous owner is moving or inability to make necessary payments.
As the first generation of hybrid vehicles has made its rounds, many questions arise pertaining to buying a used one (yes, you can buy used!). Most people can only name two or three hybrids on the market, but in fact there are 14 new makes and models. Lauren saw this as a call to action to inform the public of their options and to guide their decisions.
There is not much more of a risk in buying a used hybrid compared to any other used car, as long as you do your homework. If you are comfortable with purchasing a non-hybrid car used, then you should feel comfortable buying a hybrid car used.
Below, I’ve outlined key facts about hybrid vehicles and issues to consider during the process of buying used.
Inspection of a used Hybrid Car
I always recommend that people run a vehicle report, such as those offered by CarFax, on any used car they are planning on purchasing. Reports like these can give you valuable insight into how many different owners the hybrid car has had as well as alert you to any reported accidents involving the particular car.
If you are buying from a private party it is a good idea to have the hybrid car inspected by a dealer authorized for that make of hybrid. Tell the dealer you are considering buying this hybrid car and would like a pre-purchase inspection. It will cost a little money for this inspection, but it will be money well spent.
If you are buying a hybrid from a car dealer, you can look for a certified pre-owned vehicle. If that isn’t possible you can still have the hybrid car inspected by anyone else of your choice.
Miles and Gas Mileage on a Used Hybrid Car
A low mileage used hybrid car is generally better than a high mileage used hybrid car. Less mileage tends to mean less wear and tear on the hybrids components. Plus, if you ever plan to resell the hybrid at some point you will have fewer miles on it for the next buyer. This does not mean that you need to be scared of a higher mileage hybrid car. There are plenty of hybrid cars that have exceeded 100,000 miles and more.
If you are buying from a private party, ask the owner what kind of gas mileage they typically get, and if possible see if they can back it up with receipts. Some hybrids, like the Honda Insight, have a gauge showing the cumulative gas mileage for the life of the vehicle, but don’t rely only on this; the gauge can be reset by the owner at any time.
Just because a hybrid car has high mileage on it, this does not mean you should be scared away. So far hybrid cars have been as reliable as their non-hybrid counterparts, and when there have been problems, manufacturers have set things right.
Batteries and Used Hybrid Cars
One of the biggest concerns relating to buying a used hybrid car is the hybrid battery. Each hybrid car manufacturer has different warranties for their hybrid components, varying from 8 year/ 80,000 miles for Honda products, to 8 year/100,000 miles for Toyota products. (This is a generalization and Lauren suggests checking with the manufacturers customer service for specifics.)
Currently replacing a hybrid battery after the warranty has expired could cost $2,000 – $3,000, although Lauren has yet to hear of someone actually paying for one in full on their own. The only hybrid batteries that have needed replacement out of warranty relate to certain 5-speed Honda hybrids and even then, hybrid owners have reported that Honda stepped forward and paid for some, if not all, of the bill.Prices for hybrid batteries will come down as more hybrid cars are on the road, and as battery technology improves.
Used Hybrid Cars and Depreciation
Although hybrid cars have been fortunate to retain a higher percentage of their value due to tight supply, deprecation still occurs. The first year of depreciation is the highest, so you are conveniently missing this when you buy used.
Tax Credit When Buying a Used Hybrid Car
Used hybrid cars are not eligible for the hybrid car tax credit. The hybrid car tax credit only applies to the purchase of a new hybrid car.
Issues to Consider:
- Oil and oil filter changes need to occur every 3,000-5,000 miles (keep to that schedule, never above 4,000 or 5,000 miles on any vehicle, no matter what the ads say). Synthetic oil is recommended and will extend the life to 7,500 -10,000 miles between oil changes.
- Rotate your tires every other oil change (every 6,000 miles) to prevent uneven wear.
- Throw away that cheap $2 gauge and buy a digital tire gauge for $10-$15! Check the tire pressure using the pressure off the sticker on the driver’s door frame, not the tire itself. Check your tire pressure ONCE a month.
- If possible, do your 15,000 mile services at a dealership (if a person can’t afford those major services about once a year, they are buying too much vehicle). The dealership will have the latest technical service bulletins, recalls, or other specialized info and tools that the local guys or even national chains may not have.
- Replace the air filter every six months. This is easy to check yourself; just look in the owners manual for how to pop the cover off. Lauren says a dirty filter is like trying to breathe through a dirty rag while running hard! It is the lungs of your car. If the used car has a dirty filter then it may not have been maintained well!
- Read the owners manual! “This is the book in your glove box under all the napkins and ketchup packs. Lauren admits its not a great novel, but there is a lot of very useful information in there. Remember: they wouldn’t pay for it to be printed if it didn’t matter.
- Remember to change the Inverter Coolant! For many hybrids this should be done during the 30,000 mile service, so when purchasing a used hybrid, be sure to ask for all receipts!