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Old 08-15-2022, 11:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
Isaac Zachary
High Altitude Hybrid
Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Gunnison, CO
Posts: 1,320

Avalon - '13 Toyota Avalon HV
90 day: 40.45 mpg (US)

Prius - '06 Toyota Prius
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The hybrid ticking time bomb

After derailing the Maverick thread (Sorry!) I thought I'd instead make a thread on the subject.

There are two kinds of Hybrid owners:
  1. Those that have never had a hybrid battery go out.
  2. Those that have

The first group just doesn't own their hybrid long enough for it to go out. They trade in their car either because of some other malfunction or accident, or just to have a nicer, newer car.

But this is Ecomodder, the place where people go to save money. Not that buying newer is never the smartest thing to do, but generally the longer you own your vehicle without needing major repairs the cheaper it becomes. So that brings us to the second group.

Mind you, yes, a lot of other cars that are around 15-years-old or older with, say, over 200,000 miles on them are also in need of major repairs. But in a non-hybrid, a little TLC can sometimes go a long way. Frequent oil changes and other fluid changes, easy driving, engine block heaters, keeping on top of leak prevention, etc. all help a traditional car last longer. There are some out there that have way beyond 200,000 miles on the original engine, transmission and most everything else.

Yes, there are those that succumb to rust, sometimes dangerouslyrotting important structural components, long before other parts need major repairs or replacement. But not everyone lives in a rust belt either. And rust can sometimes be delt with too before it becomes too much of a problem.

So why am I talking about all this. Well, if you can buy a car for under $1,000 and drive it for several years, you've got a true econo car.

I've done this twice. First it was a 1993 Mazda 323 5 speed I bought back in 2006 or 2007 for $250. It needed a battery, a radiator and the head was warped. I took the head and had it milled and threw it on with a new gasket set, replaced the radiator and suprisingly there was a receipt for the battery and it was still under warranty, so I got a free battery. The next year or so I replaced every strut cartridge and brake pad and all 4 tires. I also ended up getting a set of rims for $200 and put snow tires on them. I drove that car all over the place, even clear down to Puerto Vallarta Mexico once. It only gave out on me once and turned out to be a bad conection to the fuel pump. Then in 2011 I ended up giving it to a realative and kind of kicked myself in the butt for doing that.

I then had a similar experience with a 1985 VW Golf diesel that needed a motor mount and transmission seals that I replaced myself.

These are the kind of vehicles poor or frugal people buy. That kid, looking for his first car to go to highschool or college in or save up for his first house or his marriage, for an example. Or an ecomodder looking to save every last penny. And yes, a person could go get a better paying job, maybe in another town, maybe give up some other expensive hobby... just to own a newer car... But what's the point of that?

Personally I avoid cars between the 50,000 mile and 200,000 marks. These are the cars that can cost some $5,000 or so and may be decent cars. But sometimes they end up needing a couple grand or more of work too. At that price a person might as well as have gotten a semi-used, single owner car for some $8,000 or more. And on the other end least with a $500 car you can either walk away and have only lost less than what most people lose per month in a car payment, or spend the couple grand and have a new engine or transmission that may even come with a small warranty.

Well, a couple years ago I thought, "Why not get another project car?" and found a 2006 Prius for $300. One problem was the hybrid battery was dead. The car would drive a while, then make a red triangle of death, and after pulling over wouldn't go anywhere. So I ended up replacing 3 modules, the beginning of "whack-a-mole battery care." I've looked into battery replacements, and it looks like most aftermarket batteries are not reliable at all, as finding someone with more than a year or two without a failure is very rare on any battery below about $2,000 for just the battery.

Now I see why so many on Prius forums have said an old hybrid is not a good first car. The question came up, why aren't all cars hybrids? If they were, wouldn't that mean all would have an expensive battery failure at some point? Hybrids are awesome, so is there anything that can be done about that? Or do you just have to budget $3,000 or more for a potential battery replacement when getting an old hybrid? Or is avoiding old hybrids just the way to go to save money?

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