Are Used Hybrids a Good Idea?
Here’s a question that was posed to me late last week:
“Does a used SUV exist that is comfortable and affordable, has AWD, and can hold my gear and get 30 miles per gallon?”
After a chuckle, I could only respond with a quip about that being the Holy Grail of used cars. But then something occurred to me. “Unless you went with a hybrid,” I said.
“Is that risky, though?”
Well…yeah. Depending, of course, on one major factor.
There are hybrid SUVs in CarGurus’ used listings that are reasonably priced and meet the above criteria. The gamble is in the batteries.
Many used hybrids are approaching or have passed 100,000 miles. How long will the batteries last before replacement is in order? Who knows. As jgoods noted, NYC has made use of Ford Escape Hybrid taxis for a few years. Some of those have been retired with upwards of 300,000 miles on the odometer. That certainly bodes well for people in the market for an Escape Hybrid.
Then again, battery packs from the early Prius were rated for only 100,000 miles.
All used cars have maintenance issues, and car buyers know that costly repairs are a possibility. Battery packs break the mold, because battery technology is complicated and hybrid battery packs are shockingly expensive. When these battery packs wear out, they can cost several thousand dollars to replace and require expert technicians to do the work.
If you do buy a used hybrid, say with 100,000 miles on the clock, you could get lucky and go another 200K. But if you end up needing to replace the battery pack, you’ll be out thousands of dollars. Before buying, it’s a good idea to have the batteries professionally load-tested.
Keep in mind, too, that manufacturers typically warranty the batteries for 100,000 to 150,000 miles.
Also, if you own a hybrid that becomes damaged and the insurance wants to total it out, consider that you might be able to sell the batteries. There could be a hot aftermarket that will pay handsomely for a still-working hybrid battery pack.
What do you think? Are used hybrids worth the gamble?