Buying a Prius, which, when and should I trade in my Honda

Live in Fort Bragg, CA

Want to buy a Prius and was wondering the following things:

1) Would it be better to buy it now or in January.

2) Should I go for a 2008 or are there previous years that are pretty good to go for? (would love to get the price down as low as I can)

3) Never had a navigational system before (because I’ve always bought used cars)but have a horrid sense of direction, should I go for the Prius’ navigational system?

4) Should I try to trade in my 1997 Honda Accord LX with 100,000 miles on it or should I try to sell it on my own. The body and engine are in great shape.

Any other tips on buying a Prius are mightily appreciated.


I would advise you to get a real car for that kind of huge money. A CR-V is twice the car and much cheaper, but Navi is really a requirement if you live in SoCal. It is worth the money, but most any car brands Navi is better than Toyota.

I have a factory nav system in my Pacifica and find it very handy.

You will get very little for your Honda on trade-in, so if you have the time and patience, sell it yourself.

In a past life I was a car salesperson. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.

Here’s my advice: The best time to buy a car, any car, is RIGHT NOW. The showrooms are deserted in late December, and the salespeople are all desperate for a sale. The closer it gets to Christmas, the better. There are a few people who buy cars as Christmas gifts, but only a FEW. Mostly, everyone is too busy Christmas shopping to worry about cars, and there are no car buyers. Car salespeople hate that. They have quotas to fill. This can and should work in your favor, as long as you keep your wits about you and pay attention. Buying and selling cars is a game (some say a battle). Play to win. After all, it’s YOUR money.

There are no bad years for the Prius. Their reliability has been very good since the current model was introduced. They are not selling as briskly as they had been earlier this year, so your local Toyota dealers probably have them in inventory. You can make a better deal on a 2007 than on a 2008, and there is not enough difference to talk, or worry, about. They may even have some used 2006 or 2005 models on the lot. Who knows?

Bargain for a Prius as you would for any other car. If there’s more than one Toyota dealer in your area, shop them against each other. Don’t tell one what the other’s price is. Just tell them to give you their best price, and you will buy from the dealer with the lowest price. It doesn’t matter where you buy, ANY Toyota dealer will honor the warranty.

If you have the patience to sell your Accord yourself you will get more for it than you will as a trade-in. Trading just gives the salespeople something else to play with, and you’ll never know what you’re really getting for the Honda (it won’t be much). If you sell it yourself you’ll know exactly how much you got.

Honda Accords in good shape are in high demand. 1997 is a GREAT year for Accords. I have one, and my independent Honda mechanic tells me he has several customers with over 300K miles on these cars, and they’re still providing reliable daily transportation. I’m planning to keep mine as long as possible. If you’re sure you want to sell or trade your Accord, don’t give it away for too little money.

Test drive more than one Prius (what is the plural of Prius?) Drive them FARTHER than the salesperson’s standard test-drive route. Go where YOU want to go. If possible, drive on roads familiar to you. If they don’t like it, too bad. Again, it’s YOUR money, and you want to be sure, because you’re going to live with whatever you buy for a LONG time. Take a LONG test drive, or many long test drives.

Get the salesperson to demonstrate the navigation system for you (NOT while you are driving) and see if you like it. Personally, I’m a map person, but I have been in vehicles with some really impressive nav systems, and I can see why people like them.

If you do your research and don’t let the salespeople mislead you, you can make a good deal on a new or used Prius, but I think you should reconsider abandoning your Accord. Many people don’t get nearly the mileage they expect from a Prius (it’s a common complaint). There was a post yesterday from the owner of a new Prius who claimed he was getting less than 30 mpg in city driving. My '97 Accord matches that. Yours probably does, too.

It seems to me that you will do mostly highway driving. The Prius mileage is fine on the highwaym but it really shines on urban roads. Unless you go to San Diego or LA, you might consider keeping your Accord. But it’s your choice.

Well, the two things to really consider about the Prius are, one, that they only really get spectacular mileage in stop-and-go traffic-- on the highway there’s cheaper conventional cars that typically get better mileage. The other thing is that, outside of a taxi fleet, it is really unusual that someone does enough stop-and-go driving that the fuel savings from a hybrid will exceed the premium one pays for a hybrid. Even assuming significantly higher future gas prices, the break-even point usually ends up being 10 years or so down the road, which is longer than most people keep cars for.

It’s always better to sell your car to a private party if that’s an option for you. Car dealers are notorious for using all sorts of flim-flam to make it look like they’re giving a good price for your trade in, but it rarely actually ends up being the case.

As for the Nav system, I’d go for it if it doesn’t cost much more than an aftermarket unit-- having it integrated in the dash is nice, but the aftermarket ones work just fine.

Unless you drive mainly in the city, don’t get a Prius - it’s mileage isn’t that spectacular on the highway. You should also look for a used one - they depreciate quite quickly.

As for the nav system, just buy an aftermarket GPS unit. The built in model costs about $1500. An aftermarket GPS system costs between $250 to maybe $500 - that’s a big premium to pay to have it mounted in the dash. And if you go to sell the car, the GPS is worth nothing. Having an aftermarket one means you can also move it from car to car.

My only recommendation is that you should also test drive the Civic hybrid. Even if you end up with the Prius you will have something to compare it with.

I would add 5) keep your Accord for a few more years and put the cost of car payments into a money market savings account.

If your Accord is still in good condition, which is mostly a question of maintaining it by the book, you should be able to get another 10 years / 100k miles out of it. Eventually, it will require some expensive repairs which you will be able to afford out of the car payments you have been saving. When it gets to the point where you are spending more on repairs than you are saving on car payments, look for something new. By then, you should be able to pay cash instead of making car payments.

remember the batterys need to be replaced in 7 years around $5000 r more not sure I heard up to $9000. so think about trade value at the end.
most people will trade in around 6 years to avoid the cost you will get zip if car needs for gps you put one into any car. if like to keep car longer then 8 years go for avalon. yes the dealers will have to pay the factory for all cars on lot after new year run before 2008
but the toyato dealer has no hasele deals . they not bargain . a couple of guys in pgh did a test run on a prius they found a way by pushing on gas pedal they could put the car into free wheeling and got 110 mpg the road speed was 45mph and stop light about every three miles I can,t remember how it was done. I like the prius alot and will buy one but not until 5 years from now I will not have to worry about trade in because it will be my last car. I will be 85 by this time hold on I will sell you my prius

That’s not really true. There’s no set replacement interval for a Prius battery pack-- failures have been extremely rare, even on Priuses that go well over 200k miles. The battery failures that have happened appear to be fairly randomly distributed, mileage wise, which to me would put a battery replacement as a potential, not expected, repair item. Plus the cost figure is closer to the 3000-4000 range, though that’s still nothing to sneeze at.

The fact that the battery is a potential expensive repair that you don’t have to worry about on a conventional car is something that should be considered, though.

Buying a car is a very personal thing. Firstly, is there a need for you to get a new car? Tom & Ray and others have proven time & again that it is almost always to repair an older, paid off car that is still presentable and SAFE.

If you have decided you want a new car, why do you want a Prius? You appear to drive only 10,000 miles per year, and the extra cost would be impossible to recoup in less than 15 years, unless gas prices rose to $7.00 per gallon overnight. They will eventually, but not any time soon. If you want a Prius for environmental reasons, I can understand your position. The year of the Prius does not matter, the last 3 years models have been very reliable. However, don’t buy Prius because of its GPS system. Others have commented that it is not great. If I lived in LA, I would get the best after market sytem I could lay my hands on; ask the next taxi driver you meet and he will know where his company gets those big screen units. I just bought my wife a Garmin 4.3 inch screen unit. It mounts on the dash and talks to you as well as shows arrows on where to turn.

Good luck and Merry Christmas

Prius battery is warranteed for 8 yrs/100,000 miles. Many Prius taxis are well over 200,000 miles with no problems, and some approaching 300,000. If you needed to pay for a new battery today, it would be about $4000 installed. By the time you reach 8 yrs/100,000 miles, the cost of the battery will have become much lower. You will likely replace the car before the battery gives out. As for mileage on the highway, I just today completed a 580 mile trip at 60 to 75 mph on my '07 and averaged 51.9 mpg. More info at