Friday, March 28, 2008


The other day my friend Loren at Windyridge mentioned that she was planning on buying a used car soon, and was interested in looking at hybrids this time around.

Like her, our next car will most likely be a used hybrid too. We have, and always will, buy our cars used and with cash. We've had phenomenal luck purchasing this way over the last 15 years by carefully selecting cars that are between 5 and 8 years old, in excellent condition and between 50-80 thousand miles.

But I have some concerns about buying a used hybrid for the simple reason that this is the first time in automobile history that hybrid cars are being sold used. And I worry that I won't know enough about what to watch out for in a used hybrid. For example...

-How long should the batteries last?
-Can they tell how much life is left in them?
-What other types of parts associated with hybrid technology can wear out and how do you know they're worn?
-What other expenses should you watch out for that regular cars don't have?

And recently when I commented on Julie's blog that I was thinking about this, she replied: "Just watch the hybrids. Hybrid doesn't per se equal green."
What am I missing here? By all means, please elaborate.

I know my last few posts have been soliciting reader input for fun (just ask Manic Mom, who teased me about this as an inside joke after she received a bizarre comment from one of her readers) but this time I'm asking for slightly more serious input.

-Have you had any experience either owning or buying a new or used hybrid?
-Are you considering buying one yourself someday?
-Have you heard or read anything against them that would be useful to know?
-Are there other non-hybrid cars that are actually better for the environment we should be focusing on instead?

You get the point. If you can share something, please do.

That's the beauty of having a great group of online friends like you. I know you'll have something to say :-)


Anonymous said...

I have no advice myself , but go talk to Rattling the Kettle

Julie Pippert said...

I should do a better reply but am sneaking 2 seconds between runnig the kids ragged (and myself) and getting dinner.

The thing is to weigh the ACTUAL MPG (not any better on some hybrids than on a fuel efficient car!) and HOW the car is made, plus the amount of charge and so forth. it's complicated math. But I feel you are up to the challenge. ;)

Making hybrids can actually be harder on the environment than a regular car. Or so says a special on the Science channel.

I read somewhere that hybrids should get AT LEAST 40 mpg to be worth it.

I haven't got links or anything to back myself up here but the program suggested that converting a diesel to use vegetable oil was the greenest option.

I have to scoot (sorry!!) but do some research and checking.

Julie (who gave you grief and now is not helping out much LOL)

Julie Pippert said...

P.S. Sorry for typos no time to check kids are coming down the stairs.

Last the same way "NO SUGAR" on food labels is a marketing "scam" in a way (because they use aspartame which is arguably LESS healthy) cars are beign slapped with hybrid label to see, and for a higher cost.

So that's why I say research. make sure the WHOLE package is green, not just the label on the car.


Okay climbing off my high horse (lol at me) (am so not anywhere near perfect, sorry!!).

Anonymous said...

go to Popular Mechanics magazine; then Jay Leno's Garage; then check out his new Tesla Electric. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

Let someone else work out the bugs. I know batteries can be costly, but they will come down.

Yaniv said...

Very long answer:

I wouldn't drive any car available today other than my Prius.

I consistently get 55-60 MPG in my Prius. If you go to the page Dan linked to, you'll see how.

The Prius' hybrid components are warranted by Toyota for 10 years/100,000 miles, so you shouldn't have much to worry about other than what you would normally have to worry about when you buy a used car.

Some hybrids are not as green as the Prius. Some manufacturers use the electric motor to boost horsepower, rather than reduce gasoline consumption and emissions. Some hybrids don't even turn off the gas engine when idling.

Some non-hybrid cars will get better mileage than some hybrid cars. For example, a Honda Accord non-hybrid will get better mileage than the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid (due out next year). But a Honda Accord non-hybrid will not get better mileage than a Honda Accord hybrid. You have to compare apples to apples.

Along those same miles, some have written that the Prius will only get mid-40's on the freeway if you drive at normal highway speeds, which is the same as the EPA mileage estimate for small non-hybrid cards. But this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison -- the Prius at normal highway speeds will always do better than a standard small car *at the same normal highway speeds*. You can't compare the gas mileage for a Prius going 85 MPH to a Corrola going 55 MPH (the speed at which EPA estimates are derived).

There's a meme (not a blog meme, a real meme) floating around that the making of the Prius' battery is bad for the environment. It's a bunch of hokum, though -- yes, there's nickel in the battery, and yes, the factory that makes them belches out a lot of acid rain-causing emissions, but Prius batteries are a miniscule percentage of the factory's business. So, no, it's not perfect, but, yes, it is the best practical solution.

Hopefully we'll start seeing lithium ion batteries (and plug-in options) in hybrids within a few years.

Idaho Dad said...

I don't know.

I'm always happy to be of help!

Elizabeth said...

Maybe check out the Car Talk guys web page. I'm sure they'll have something to say about hybrids.
:o) Elizabeth

People in the Sun said...

Honey drives a Prius and I drive a Camry Hybrid. I love both cars, first of all. Now, it's true that they're not entirely green, but what is, really? They're cars, after all, and they run on gas. The Prius, especially, runs on less gas than other cars and they didn't put a sunroof to make it more aerodynamic and save gas. But it's still a car. And I don't think anyone really has the answer to the battery issue. Hopefully someone will come up with an answer soon.

So, I love both cars. Both were bought new (one is leased). The Prius is very good on gas, compared to other cars, and it's also a statement because of its unique design. You become that guy when you drive a Prius.

But in the end, you're getting the Prius to save gas. If you do it to be green, then you should use public transportation instead.

That was a long answer and I really didn't say anything. I'm like that.

Unknown said...

Most hybrid cars have warranties on the parts (or specifically, the battery) for 8-10 years. The batteries last about 15 years with normal use.

The Toyota Prius uses Nickel Metal Hydrate batteries. There are 38 battery modules in the older, pre-2004, models. There are 28 modules in the newer models. The newer Prius cars are much more efficient than the older Prius cars.

Some other cars, such as the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus 400h, have a longer lasting LiIon battery in them.

The cost of one module is about $100 and it costs about $4900 (including labor) to replace the whole battery

In 2006, the most fuel efficient cars were:
1. Honda Insight (Hybrid model) 60/66 MPG
2. Toyota Prius 60/51 MPG
3. Honda Civic (Hybrid model) 49/51 MPG
This was the same back in 2003, but the cars got a little less MPG. The Insight is only a 2 seater though.

Memarie Lane said...

I'd love to buy a hybrid, but unless the price has gone down to $10 or so I'm afraid they're out of my range.

Unknown said...

don't know where I stand on the whole hybrid-as-hero debate yet - but there's a good dialogue @ Velvetron on the topic:

Sandy said...

Man, I am NO help to you at all on this one.

I'm still trying to figure out the paper or plastic question.

Anonymous said...

Great questions! Unfortunately, I have no advice to share, but I can say that we're planning on buying one in the future. Our cars have several good years of life left in 'em (knock on wood), so it'll be a few years.

By then, I hope to have the answers to your questions.

Anonymous said...

Buy a hybrid if it saves you money. Enviromentalists' concerns do not have you in mind when it comes to their agenda.

If you are going to feel guilty about something be it for the fact that the funding for GW research and their billion-dollar weather forecasting computers could eradicate water supply and sanitation problems in every Third World country a dozen times over.

But we're more worried about natural warming and cooling cycles of the planet.

So buy whatever car or truck you like. Anyone tells you that not buying a hybrid is bad just reply to them to stop breathing so much. :)

Anonymous said...

Jeff, your difficulty stems from your efforts to answer this question with reason. Which would include, in addition to the issues with gas prices and maintenance:

a. the environmental costs associated with battery manufacture (raw materials will jack battery prices way up if current-style hybrid cars approach current numbers of gasoline-fueled vehicles - and there's the pits and the slag) and disposal;

b. the direct and environmental costs of the electricity used to charge the batteries (when the plug-in option becomes available);

c. the inflated direct costs associated with a "trendy" vehicle, used as well as new.

People in the sun is right. The Prius saves gas, it's otherwise (at best) environmentally neutral. Green is public transport - or feet.

But, since We the People are, above all things, prepared to shout down unpleasant facts and win, there seems little point to trying to do this reasonably. You may as well get a Hummer.

Maureen said...

Yeah, I have nothing to help, sorry. It will be awhile before I can see us getting one.

Anonymous said...

I think the Hummer hybrid is pretty green. That and the Ford F-350 pickup truck.

Anything else I can help with??

Gale said...

I say get a horse... a used horse. Big one so you can have it pull a wagon and then you can take the kids to the skateboard park. Then you wouldn't need to cut the grass, you got your own hayburner.

Windyridge said...

Check this out, Beamer vs Prius: