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Frugal Shopper: No, Hybrids Don't Cost More To Repair And Maintain

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2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

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Hybrids like the 2011 Toyota Prius cost more to repair and maintain, right?

It would seem, given all the additional technical complexity and computational wizardry in hybrids, that they would. And it's a myth that's certainly made the rounds among backyard mechanics. But it hasn't proven true. With the oldest Toyota Prius models now more than ten years old, and hundreds and thousands of Prius models on U.S. roads (and about 900,000 sold), there's no rush on replacement batteries, no rash of Priuses needing costly powertrain components replaced. They've proven surprisingly...bulletproof.

Battery replacement hasn't shown to be the issue that it was feared to be, either. Many of those oldest Prius models are beyond 150,000 miles and still using their original nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Though the full cost of replacing the battery pack still roughly $3,000, a number of specialist shops have emerged that are willing to do it for a bit less—or to soften the blow on older or collision-damaged models, repair the Prius' pack by replacing only one or several of its cells.

In an era when $3,000 is about the starting price for a good automatic-transmission rebuild—or the cost of a couple other major repairs to the front end, or air conditioning—that doesn't sound so horrible.

Repairs might cost more, but they're less frequent

A study last year, by an insurance-claims analysis firm, found that repairs to the Prius cost about 8.4 percent more than equivalent repairs on other models. In that same study, vehicles such as the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid only cost slightly more than their non-hybrid counterparts, so much of this due to the lack of used and aftermarket parts.

Of course, ultimately, the Prius has shown that it needs to be repaired less often than many other compacts, and that's one of the keys to its ownership-cost savings.

Also, brake pads tend to last longer, as regenerative braking from the powertrain helps them out, and in theory, the electric motor system helps spare the ol' gasoline-burner, so you might be able to go longer between oil changes.

Less to insure, too

Hybrids typically cost less to insure, too—mainly because of the more mature driver profile they attract. For instance, in an Insure.com survey last year, the Prius cost $1,300 on average, while the national average was $1,871. A Toyota Corolla even cost a bit more, at $1,400. In addition to hybrid-exclusive parking and commuter lanes in some regions, it's another plus of hybrid ownership.

According to the ownership-costs experts at Vincentric, the Prius II (or Prius Two as it's now termed for 2011) has an MSRP of $22,800 and a market price of $21,666. Over five years, the Prius will cost just $1,406 in repairs and $1,868 in maintenance. On average a small compact sedan costs $1,557 in repairs and $2,304 in maintenance. On average, vehicles cost roughly $1,800 to repair and about $2,600 to maintain, so the Prius is definitely more affordable in those respects.

While repairs and maintenance (as well as insurance) are clearly less, Vincentric found over five years, because of their much higher initial price, you're still paying more for a hybrid. The average price premium for a hybrid was $8,298 while the average fuel-cost savings was $2,364 over five years—with the vehicle driven 15,000 miles annually—and a 2010 Toyota Prius will cost $3,227 more to own than a 2010 Toyota Corolla. That's including the fuel-cost differential of $2,364.

So while hybrids might cost less to fuel up—and, surprisingly, less to maintain and repair as well—choosing one, like the 2011 Toyota Prius, is still the green way to go...but not necessarily the most frugal choice.

[Vincentric LLC]

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Comments (8)
  1. Good stuff, Bengt! But isn't Prius in the midsize category? Why compare it to Corolla then? And even if they were the same, $3K is a small price to pay for supporting this tech, our environment, and pumping less money into Saudi pockets, so it means fewer Ferraris and Islamic schools for those dark age Beduins. It's also a nice hedge against rising gas prices. These can only go up, so the payoff period may realistically shorten.
     
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  2. Cost less to maintain? Tell that to my neighbor who has a 2007 Prius that the batteries won't hold a charge. Toyota has agreed to pay part of it for this early failure but my neighbors part of the bill was $2500.
     
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  3. we live in a very sad world if we feel the need to justify a $3,000 dollar repair to a car with a sub $30k market price.
    where did the manual transmission go? why don't we have comprehensive driver's ed so we can shuck traction control and anti lock brakes? americans need to learn how to drive. we're the most poorly educated country in the industrialized/developed world in terms of driving.
     
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  4. @JKD- Prius is most similar to Corolla. Emotion aside,there is presently no financial justification for the Prius, or any other hybrid. Although the headline says they don't cost more to maintain, the article actually refutes its own premise by noting an 8.4% higher cost per repair! btw- Our two largest sources of imported oil are Canada & Mexico. Only 10% is from Saudi Arabia. The only other mid eastern sources are Iraq & Kuwait which combined provide 6.4%. You might feel good about your hybrid, but there is really not much justification other than emotion.
     
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  5. Perfect, right on.
     
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  6. Dr. Olds. Oh, so that's supposed to make me feel better that only 10% (~$18 billion) is going to the Saudis, the same to Venezuela, and not much less to Nigeria. The article doesn't refute the premise, since it may cost more per repair but it also says the repairs are less frequent. Emotions aside, I'm getting the LEAF in April - in my case it will be priced around what Corolla costs (FED, 5K from GA, 3K from work.) I don't mind supporting new promising technology and not sending 10% (or whatever it may be) of my gas money to the Bedouins (or even the Canadians and Mexicans whom I love to death.) Who do you think sponsored the scholarships in Germany for the 9/11 attackers? Who builds more and more radical schools to appease the public? Who's paying for it?
     
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  7. Hybrids do cost more to insure than their non-hybrid counterparts. This is pretty well known. Look it up.
     
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  8. Where do you get your BS?

    Yes, the DO cost more to maintain, and YES plenty of people have replaced batteries. At $3000 to $5000 more, with gas at $4 a gallon, it would take 100,000 miles just to break even. Less as gas goes down.

    Speaking of gas, you guys are a bunch of gasbags.
     
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