Something a little different this time around: buying a hybrid car—used.
One of the pleasant bonuses of owning a hybrid vehicle is that it will probably be reliable. Indeed, according to Consumer Reports, most hybrids are more dependable than their garden-variety non-hybrid counterparts. The Toyota Prius and Camry hybrids, for example, generally top the list of most-reliable cars, period, from CR and elsewhere.
There are exceptions, of course: some years of the Honda Civic/Insight can be problematic, and hybrids, when they do let go, can be frighteningly expensive to repair. As well, hybrid owners tend to keep their cars to the bitter end, and finding a decent used model can be challenging.
At any rate, here are three that seem to have handled themselves well over the years.
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Introduced in 2010, this iteration of the Fusion Hybrid is one of Consumer Reports’ “good bet” models. Aside from potential problems with the transmission, fuel, and electrical systems, it does well in most departments and rates a “better than average” used-car verdict from CR. Indeed, it fares better than the non-hybrid V-6 version of this midsize sedan. Some comments from owners: “trunk space is compromised by battery,” “handles like a real car”, “mileage exceeds the rated miles per gallon.” Transport Canada has three safety recalls on file: one for possibly flawed 17-inch wheels, one for transmission linkage issues, and one for a recalcitrant front-seat adjuster. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), meanwhile, has 28 complaints registered regarding this model. A sampling: “almost a complete failure of the brake system”, “the car shut off on me six times before I could make 20 miles,” and “removed my foot from the brake pedal and the car suddenly accelerated, traveling approximately 6 feet”. Problems with the throttle body fuel-injection system and brakes seem to dominate here. Pricewise, the Canadian Black Book puts it at $15,350 these days, while the Red Book says $11,425.
2007 Honda Civic Hybrid The NHTSA has one safety recall out there for this vintage of the Civic Hybrid, and it involves the voltage converter, which could malfunction and render the car a nonstarter. Telltale signs include stalling and headlight failure. Add to this five technical service bulletins and a rather high 34 owner complaints. These include problems with the vehicle Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, excessive tire wear, and premature battery-failure issues. “Honda refuses to replace any IMA battery unless it completely fails,” says one owner; “the car became unsafe to drive following Honda’s software update 10-034,” claims another, adding, “all owners were asked to have the update performed to prevent hybrid pack deterioration.” Still, Consumer Reports is cautiously positive about the ’07 Civic Hybrid, giving it a “better than average” verdict. Watch out for the climate-control system, but otherwise, this one gets CR’s “good bet” seal of approval. Comments from owners: “This car has almost 47,000 miles and has the original brakes and has never had a repair,” “allows me to use the HOV lane”, and “not a great car for tall people”. The Canadian Black Book values this iteration of the Civic Hybrid at $9,200, while the Red Book has it at $6,525.
2004 Toyota Prius This is the second generation of Toyota’s popular hybrid, and it’s bigger inside than its predecessor, with better fuel economy and improved drivability. The NHTSA found five reasons for recalls: a possibly flawed steering column and yoke on certain models, a questionable electric water pump, iffy airbag deployment, and, of course, the stuck accelerator pedal. To this we can add 52 technical service bulletins and a massive 510 complaints lodged with the government agency. Needless to say, these latter two issues cover every aspect of this generation of Prius, but here’s a sampling: “odometer stops working at 299,999 miles,” “while driving my 2004 Toyota Prius home at night on a dark, winding road, both headlights suddenly went out!!!!” and “sudden acceleration happened three times.” A wonky ignition button and suicidal headlights seem to be common problems. Nonetheless, Consumer Reports gives it a big thumbs-up, with its highest used-car prediction rating and the “good bet” stamp of approval. Engine cooling and electrical glitches are a minor concern, but otherwise this appears to be one of the most dependable cars ever made and is a big favourite with cab drivers across Canada. A few comments from owners: “last week, my Prius turned 143,750 miles,” “limited range from small gas tank”, “love it when the engine shuts off at stoplights.” For a 10-year-old car, the second-generation Prius has held up well; prices seem range from $7,500 to $10,000.