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Old 05-20-2015, 10:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Cheap used (C.R.A.P.) Prius hunting adventure - UPDATE: got one!



Yessir, I'm on the hunt for a Prius.


Last year I decided to quit subjecting my Firefly/Metro to the annual 3 to 4 month long salt bath otherwise known as Eastern Ontario winter. Rolling into its golden years, the Flea has earned a gentler life.

You may have followed last winter's adventures of a 2007 Honda Civic 5-speed that I picked up to drive & modify. For a winter beater, it was actually a very nice car (probably the nicest I've owned), and it returned a respectable 48 mpg (US) / 4.9 L/100 km -- over the nasty half of the calendar. Not horrible! I even stuck a ginormous aerodynamic tail on it.

But I have sold the Civic, and I'm now looking to up my nerd quotient by hunting down a Prius.

UPDATE: July 23, 2015
Finally successfully hunted one down! See post #135 for all the details.

Criteria

My most ambitious goal
is finding a good enough deal that I can reasonably expect to re-sell it after a year or two and break even at least, like I did with the Civic. That includes recovering the 13% sales tax, inspection fees & any repairs/maintenance too. No small feat!

Price range: ~$4k or less, which is going to make this relatively challenging, since they're fairly uncommon at that price. That means a 1st gen (2001-2003) or early 2nd generation (2004-2009) model, probably with higher kilometers and/or cosmetically wanting.

But the $2-$4k ones aren't all turds!

Very occasionally, the seller is just clueless, and sometimes they have already bought another car and are just very motivated to sell, eg...

1st gen or 2nd gen?


I missed out on this nice 2003 for $2500 asking. The owner bought a Volt, and the dealer probably offered her peanuts for it.

I'd prefer a 2nd gen:
  • They're more efficient (46 mpg US EPA combined for the gen. 2 vs. 41 mpg for gen. 1).
  • They're more practical (hatchback)
  • They're more reliable (it's not uncommon to find gen. 1's with failed battery packs; rare to find gen. 2's). Gen 1's also appear to rust more (and not only because they're older).
  • In another year or two, a 1st gen will be that much harder to re-sell than a 2nd gen.
  • Occasionally, very cheap 1st gen's turn up with dead packs, but they're problematic because they can't be driven home, like I did with the 1st gen Insight I picked up with a "dead" pack.
  • Also, it's easier to stick a ginormous aero tail on a 2nd gen!
But I won't ignore a decent 1st gen if the price is right.

The above pic is of a 2003 I was ready to pull the trigger on just last week: 220k kms (137k miles), good shape, and the seller had just dropped the asking price from $3500 to $2500. She had already picked up her new car: a Volt. Unfortunately the Prius sold, right after the price drop, before I got a chance to see it.

A week prior, I was ready to pull the trigger on another 2003 with similar kms for $1400: the exhaust system just fell off it, and it had a bad wheel bearing. But the seller was frustratingly terrible at returning messages/calls, and I gave up.

Supplies are limited! Act fast! No... FASTER!

Shopping at the "screaming deal" end of the spectrum has been educational. The lesson repeatedly driven home is: you snooze, you lose!

I've been actively watching the ads for a few months, and have now lost out on 5 very enticing prospects (including the 2003 pictured above). Every one that was listed for a good price that wasn't an ex-taxi or salvage title sold within hours (2) or by the next day (3).

Today, I called about this 2008 literally within half an hour of the ad being posted:



It's a one-owner, with extra set of winter wheels/tires, high kms (300k / 186k miles) and unspecified cosmetic damage to the driver's seat & arm rest (I'm guessing dog) for $3000 asking. The woman owner said someone was already on their way to see it, and she told me she was amazed that I was the eighth call on it in half an hour.

Aren't you scared of buying a used Prius with high kms?

Nah, not really. http://ecomodder.com/forum/showthrea...ius-22514.html

To be continued...

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Old 05-20-2015, 11:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Cool!

I am also researching Prii for my partner, who I am hoping to get out of a somewhat low FE 2010 Forester. She's into the latest safety ratings as well as little comforts like heated seats. So no "screaming deal" spectrum cars for me. I am looking at 2011 Prii, because she test drove a 2009 and hated the second gen cabin. And the 2010 3rd gen, I have learned, had markedly inferior safety ratings compared to the 2011 revision. I am hoping to pay less than $10,000 US because I should be able to get 12,000 for her Subaru.
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Old 05-20-2015, 11:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Neat. What's the story about the safety differences? The 2010 and 2011 are both gen. 3, no?
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Manual vs. automatic transmission MPG showdown



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Old 05-20-2015, 11:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Neat. What's the story about the safety differences? The 2010 and 2011 are both gen. 3, no?
Yes both are 3rd gen... So I don't know why they might have different ratings, but the NTSB ratings listed on Cars.com for the two years show a few 4 star ratings in 2010 were revised to five stars in 2011. I would imagine a few reinforcements or minor changes in body panels might have been all it took. Modest improvements were all they needed.
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Old 05-21-2015, 01:33 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by California98Civic View Post
I am looking at 2011 Prii, because she test drove a 2009 and hated the second gen cabin. And the 2010 3rd gen, I have learned, had markedly inferior safety ratings compared to the 2011 revision.
You might as well go with 2012 since they did a mid-model refresh that year. Options such as Bluetooth were added as standard equipment, and people report fewer creaks, squeaks, and rattles.

I'd hold off for the 4th gen release to get the best deal on a 3rd (or 2nd) gen Prius. That might be 5 months away.

Why the seat-heater requirement in SoCal? Those frigid 70 degree mornings?
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Old 05-21-2015, 02:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Sold almost out from under you within hours... been there, several times. :/
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Old 05-21-2015, 03:21 AM   #7 (permalink)
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its a Toyota. putting the exploding airbags aside its the most reliable cars out there. I personally know of a guy that has done 1,2 million km's or 745 000 miles on his land cruiser with the original motor and gearbox in. another girl I was seeing had the 2003 corolla 1.4 as a company car and it had 450 000km on and ran perfectly! high millage in these cars should not deter you from buying one
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:47 AM   #8 (permalink)
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It has to be a Prius? Or would a 2nd gen Insight be acceptable too?
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Old 05-21-2015, 08:46 AM   #9 (permalink)
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About time you posted this! (I've been hearing about it for weeks, haha)

The best advantage any car buyer can give themself is time IMO. Time to walk away if it isn't the deal they want, time to search for that good deal and let it come across. I usually find myself searching for about 3-6 months before I find a car that I really want.
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Old 05-21-2015, 09:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedDevil View Post
It has to be a Prius? Or would a 2nd gen Insight be acceptable too?
See "Criteria" in post 1: there ain't no $4000 2nd gen Insights around!

Although I have seen more than a few Civic hybrid CVT's in that range.

But I'm just not a big fan of Honda's CVT IMA hybrid approach. (I'm not at all enamoured with my parents' 2009 Civic hybrid.)

I want true EV mode, and true ICE-off, 1-pedal pulse & glide ability. It's time to play with a Prius.

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Latest mods: 3-cylinder Mitsubishi Mirage. EcoMods now in progress...
Ecodriving test:
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