By Michael Crowe
Years of outrageous gas prices, poor auto emissions, increased global climate change, and celebrity endorsements of the Prius have all of us on the road going green. Almost every major automaker has responded will hybrid and/or electric options, from the compact Ford Focus electric to the full-sized pick-up Chevy Silverado hybrid.
But what exactly are the costs and benefits of buying these “new” used hybrids and EVs? Are they as safe and reliable as gas-powered vehicles? Are maintenance costs for a used hybrid or EV much higher? Should you buy a used hybrid or electric vehicle? Here is a brief overview of the costs and benefits associated with purchasing used hybrid/EV vehicles:
The biggest cost concern with hybrid vehicles is the battery life, and the policy on replacing the battery. Each car manufacturer offers a different warranty for hybrid/EV vehicles, just like gas-powered cars. It's helpful to do your research before buying a used hybrid/EV so you can find the best warranties on components. Honda vehicles have an 8-year/80,000 mile warranty, while Toyota vehicles hold an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty.
The current price to replace a hybrid/EV battery runs between $2000-$3000, according to RoadandTravel.com. Prices for these batters will likely come down as more hybrid cars find their way on the road. Until that time, it's best to purchase a used hybrid/EV that still holds a warranty.
While hybrid cars/EV are in tighter supply as compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles, they retain a slightly higher percentage of their value, which is an added plus. And luckily, since the first year of depreciation on hybrid/EV cars is the highest, you can take advantage of this by buying used.
Third, you might have seen or heard of the attractive “hybrid car tax credit” when filling out your taxes this year. Unfortunately, used hybrid cars are not eligible — the tax credit only applies to the purchase of a new hybrid. With the money you would be saving from buying used, you would still save money over buying new and taking the tax credit.
Of the 14 new hybrid/EV makes and models, purchasing used offers excellent benefits. Hybrid/EV cars can be less expensive used than gas-powered cars. You'll also save anywhere between $650 and $1250 a year on gas, depending on the make and model. Motors and batters require no more maintenance over the life of a vehicle compares to gas-powered vehicle. And because hybrids have regenerative braking, brake pads might even last longer than in normal cars.
Hybrid/EV cars can bring enormous environmental benefits. You're keeping down emissions by using a less gas. And even if this doesn't seem like the greatest benefit to you personally, consider the fact you may not have to go through an emissions test ever again. In many major cities, hybrids are exempt from emissions inspections all together.
The way a hybrid functions actually cuts down maintenance costs even further. A hybrid car's gas engine will turn off when the vehicle is coasting downhill, decelerating, or at a stop. Since this inactivity reduced stress on the gas engine, hybrids are known to have longer maintenance intervals. Toyota recommends oil changes every 5,000 miles instead of every 3,000.
The list of benefits goes on an on. Before you go ahead and purchased your hybrid, consult this and other resources to make sure you're making a strategic decision regarding your purchase. However you go about it, buying a used hybrid/EV car is a good choice. Whether you're shopping for used cars in Dallas, Boston, Seattle, Miami or any major city, this swell of hybrid/EV vehicles means you can drive green for less.
Mike is a car mechanic and a freelance writer who lives in Colorado.