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Buying a Used Hybrid

Tips for Buying a Used Hybrid: What to Know

Hybrid vehicles have been on the market since model year 2000, making the option of buying a used one a viable alternative for those who want to go "green" but cannot or are unwilling to make the investment in a new one.

Here, auto expert Lauren Fix seeks to answer questions about buying used by offering consumers tips on "technical service bulletins", ways to get the most for your money and, of course, saving cash at the pump.

As the first generation of hybrid vehicles has made its rounds, many questions arise pertaining to buying a used one (yes, you can buy used!). Most people can only name two or three hybrids on the market, but there are actually 14 new makes and models.

"There is not much more of a risk in buying a used hybrid compared to any other used car, as long as you do your homework," says Fix. "If you are comfortable with purchasing a non-hybrid car used, then you should feel comfortable buying a hybrid car used."

Below, find key facts about hybrid vehicles that potential buyers should consider prior to purchase...

Inspection of a used Hybrid Car
Fix always recommends that people run a vehicle report, such as those offered by CarFax, on any used car they are planning on purchasing. Reports like these can give you valuable insight into how many different owners the hybrid car has had as well as alert you to any reported accidents involving the particular car.

If you're buying from a private party it is a good idea to have the hybrid car inspected by a dealer authorized for that vehicle make. Tell the dealer you are considering buying the hybrid car and would like a pre-purchase inspection. It will cost a little money for this inspection, but it will be money well spent.

If you are buying a hybrid from a car dealer, look for a certified pre-owned vehicle. If that isn’t possible you can still have the hybrid car inspected by an auto shop.

Miles and Gas Mileage on a Used Hybrid Car
A low mileage used hybrid car is generally better than a high mileage used hybrid car. Less mileage tends to mean less wear and tear on the hybrid’s components. Plus, if you ever plan to resell the hybrid, you'll have fewer miles on it for the next buyer. This doesn't mean that you need to be scared of a higher mileage hybrid car. There are plenty of hybrid cars that have exceeded 100,000 miles.

If you're buying from a private party, ask the owner what kind of gas mileage they typically get, and if possible see if they can back it up with receipts. Some hybrids, like the Honda Insight, have a gauge showing the cumulative gas mileage for the life of the vehicle, but don’t rely only on this; the gauge can be reset by the owner at any time.

Just because a hybrid car has high mileage on it, this does not mean you should be scared away. So far hybrid cars have been as reliable as their non-hybrid counterparts, and when there have been problems, manufacturers have set things right.

Batteries and Used Hybrid Cars
One of the biggest concerns relating to buying a used hybrid car is the hybrid battery. Each hybrid car manufacturer has different warranties for their hybrid components, varying from 8 year/80,000 miles for Honda products, to 8 year/100,000 miles for Toyota products. (This is a generalization; Fix suggests checking with the manufacturer’s customer service for specifics.)

Currently replacing a hybrid battery after the warranty has expired could cost $2,000 - $3,000, although Fix has yet to hear of someone actually paying for one in full on their own. The only hybrid batteries that have needed replacement out of warranty relate to certain 5-speed Honda hybrids and even then, hybrid owners have reported that Honda stepped forward and paid for some, if not all, of the bill.

Prices for hybrid batteries will likely come down as more hybrid cars are on the road, and as battery technology improves.

Used Hybrid Cars and Depreciation
Although hybrid cars have been fortunate to retain a higher percentage of their value due to tight supply, deprecation still occurs. The first year of depreciation is the highest, so you are conveniently missing this when you buy used.

Tax Credit When Buying a Used Hybrid Car
Used hybrid cars are not eligible for the hybrid car tax credit. The hybrid car tax credit only applies to the purchase of a new hybrid car.

To read Fix's list of "Issues to Consider" when buying a hybrid (new or used), click here.

(Source: The Car Coach)