Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Stacy asks: I was reading your recent article about electric car mileage and depreciation and wanted to ask what you thought about buying a 2010 Prius with about 75,000 miles on it. The price is lower than the cost of buying a roughly same year/same miles Corolla but I’m leaning toward the Prius because it gets about 20 MPG higher gas mileage, which would save me a lot of money every month. But I worry I may have to spend a lot of money on a new/refurbished battery because of the car’s age/mileage. Would very much appreciate your thoughts/advice!
My reply: You’re right – smart – to take into account the possible (the inevitable) cost of replacing the battery in the Prius. All batteries lose their ability to accept and retain a charge over time. It is as inevitable as aging. But the aging can be faster – or slower – depending on usage patterns. If the battery was subjected to regular and heavy discharge/charge cycling, its useful life is likely to be less and after ten years and 75,000 miles, you may be at or close to the point that begins to become obvious – in the form of the car’s gas consumption increasing as the gas engine assumes more and more of the workload. You can also rough-estimate battery degradation by keeping track of charge state – and how long it lasts. The Prius has a gauge/readout for that.
Regardless, I’d take into account the cost of replacing the battery before you buy the car and weigh that against what you save on gas relative to the cost to buy the Corolla, which will never need to have its battery replaced, not having one to replace (other than the usual 12V starter battery, which every car has).
I looked into what it costs and – in general – depending on the specific Prius (e.g., whether it is the standard model or the “plug in” version) a new from Toyota battery will cost you between $2,000-$4,000 (plus labor) but you can also get a good used or refurbished battery for about $1,500.
This may – or may not – be worth the expense. Depending on what you can buy the Prius for – and depending on how much more expensive gas gets, courtesy of Uncle Joe. With gas currently still about $2.30 per gallon, it’s probably not worth it because $1,500 would take a long time to work off, in terms of the savings per tankful driving the Prius at full strength vs. driving the Corolla.
But if gas goes up to $4 or $5 per gallon – and the Prius can be bought for less than the Corolla – then spending the $1,500 or so for a good used or refurbished battery when it becomes necessary could be the smart move, money-wise.
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