Prius lease or buy



Since the technology is new and unproven, is it best to lease a Prius? Also, how long do the batteries last before needing replacement and how much does that cost?


I bought a 2002 Prius new and now have 112000 miles on it. The batteries have not been a problem, there was a recall for them to be inspected but I have not done that yet since the recall came about the time the warranty coverage expired. I have no idea how much new batteries would cost but mine actually seem to be better now than when new based on the MPG indicator and general observation.

However I have a starting code, P3191, that occurs during cold weather for the first start of the engine each day. Now that night time temperatures are higher than 50 it has not been a problem. My major problem now is that the engine seems to stop and start in very short cylces at a traffic light at times, no associated engine code.

The technology, hybrid, is proven in quite well at this point. Believe it or not, GM had this concept back in the 1960s, I think they used a Corvair for a prototype. Of course back then batteries were not up to the task. Stupid of them to drop it and let Toyota and Honda get all reward.


Leasing a car is almost always a bad idea. BTW it does nothing to help you out if you don’t like the car or repairs are expensive etc. In fact it may make the situation worse because if you want to do something before the end of the lease, you just added a third person to complicate things.

However the good news is these cars have been out long enough to indicate that they did a good job and you should not worry about the life of the technology.


Do not buy or lease this car because it will take you 7 years to start saving money because of mpg if you compare it to a standard civic that does 40 mpg.
Also the nickel in the battery is mined in Sudbury in Ontario, Canada. There is nothing alive around that factory not because of the factory but because of the nickel. The landscape has been like that before the factory. And this nickel is being put in batters and shipped out to other places. After the cars are crushed where will the nickel be?


Prius lease or buy

Neither, leasing any car is a horrible idea. Borrowing money to buy a new car is only slightly less horrible. Either way you will be significantly “up-side down” the minute you leave the lot.

Find a good used car that meets your needs and write a check for it. In you want to save fuel, ignore the hybrid hype and just buy the “best mileage” car you can afford.


Save your money a couple years and get a TDI VW, you’ll get similar, or better, mileage from them.


unproven? Hybrid drivetrains have been around on vehicles since the early 1900s. But, battery designs and controls only made them practical for production cars in the late 1990s. (Between that time, the hybrid design was mostly adapted for use on trains, submarines, and large earth-moving equipment…) The Toyota Prius has been on the roads since 1997 (so approaching 10 years old now) in Japan. (The first hybrid sold in the US was the Honda Insight, however, in 1999 for the 2000 model year. The Toyota Prius was first sold outside of Japan in 2000 for the 2001 model year.)

As for buy or lease, note that any tax incentives only apply to the first owner of the hybrid. In the case of lease, the owner is the leasing company, so you do not get the tax incentive.

For a new US Prius purchased between April 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2007, you are eligible for a US Federal income tax credit of up to $787.50. (It could be less if you are hit with AMT.),,id=157557,00.html

(The incentives that some states offer are much better than that… see for some more info.)

The 12v lead-acid accessory battery’s life, well… It’s like you’d find on any other car (only a little smaller). Assuming that you do not abuse it (let it go flat and leave it that way by leaving the lights on overnight or a door open or etc.) to cause an early death, it should last a little longer than that in a traditional car because it is located in the cargo area and isn’t subjected to the temperatures found under the hood of other cars.

taken from a June 2004 Press Release:

How long does the Prius battery last and what is the replacement cost?

The Prius battery (and the battery-power management system) has been designed to maximize battery life. In part this is done by keeping the battery at an optimum charge level - never fully draining it and never fully recharging it. As a result, the Prius battery leads a pretty easy life. We have lab data showing the equivalent of 180,000 miles with no deterioration and expect it to last the life of the vehicle. We also expect battery technology to continue to improve: the second-generation model battery is 15% smaller, 25% lighter, and has 35% more specific power than the first. This is true of price as well. Between the 2003 and 2004 models, service battery costs came down 36% and we expect them to continue to drop so that by the time replacements may be needed it won’t be a much of an issue. Since the car went on sale in 2000, Toyota has not replaced a single battery for wear and tear.

The hybrid battery in the Prius in the US is covered by the hybrid vehicle system warranty for 8 years/100,000 miles. If you live in a CA emissions state and purchase a 2004-current PZEV Prius, then the hybrid battery alone is further covered out to 10 years/150,000
miles. That’s a regular car warranty item - no pro-rating done.
2004 Prius w/CA emissions warranty: CA, ME, MA, NY, VT.
2005 Prius w/CA emissions warranty: CA, CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI,VT.
For 2006 and 2007, there are many more states that have adopted the CA emission standard than I have listed… If someone with a 2006 or 2007 could update my list from their warranty booklet, I would greatly appreciate it!

On the various Prius groups out there:

there’s been only about a dozen reported cases of the hybrid battery pack needing replacement (and most weren’t because it had a part failure, but for testing or accidential reasons). New pricing from the dealer could run in the US$3000-5000 range if you had to pay for it, depending on what is being replaced (just the pack, or the connectors and casing and battery management computer as well), and the dealer labor rate and the time it takes them to figure out how to do the rare replacement… But used packs (taken out of accident-wrecked vehicles) are available for <$1000 if you’re cost-concious. (Also make sure that you get your recycling bounty of $200 by turning in your old pack to the dealer for reclaimation/rebuilding.)


The SSC 40G 2001-2003 hybrid battery resealant campaign was a proactive repair, not a (safety or emissions) recall. There is no charge to you, other than you’ll be away from your car for the 5hr repair. There is no time/mileage limit to when it can be performed.

As for the P3191 “engine failed to start” code, that’s fairly common on the 2001-2003 Prius these days, usually noticed when the weather turns cold and you start the car. There is a Toyota TSB warning that overfilled oil or incorrect weight oil could cause this, but… I would first suggest that you have the throttle butterfly valve cleaned, as this is the easiest (and cheapest) route to remedy the code. Otherwise, you should try and get an updated ECM per the TSB EG011-03. (the higher the number in the last 2 digits of the ECM’s part number, the newer the revision. do not upgrade to an affected ECM ending in -30, -31, -50, -51, but aim for a -53 or preferrably a -54.) The circuit opening relay listed in that TSB is cheaper to replace than the ECM, but usually it’s the ECM that’ll stop the code from coming up. (Basically, the engine takes longer to start than the ECM is expecting, so the ECM throws the error code and stops trying to start the engine fearing a problem. The new ECM waits a little longer before panicing.)

As for the engine start/stop… Do remember that the air conditioner in the 2001-2003 Prius is belt-driven off of the gasoline engine. So, if you have the AC button on, OR if you have the fan position set to the front windshield defroster position, the AC pump will come on and off as needed, so your engine will turn on and off… (in the 2004-newer Prius, it is electrically-driven from the hybrid battery, so no forced engine running to run the AC.) An engine on/off at a light is also expected if you have too high a charge in your hybrid battery (just came down a very long hill), as the battery starts the engine to bleed off that excess energy to get back to a happy medium.


Unless you can write the entire cost of the lease off your taxes, it’s a sucker’s move. You pay for the car but you get nothing at the end…If you can’t afford a normal car payment, you can’t afford a new car…Prius or Hummer, it makes no difference…


Have you even looked into the Inco-Sudbury emissions? Annual emissions data is available back to 1974, (23 years before the introduction of the Prius). Since then, INCO has made a 90% reduction in SO(2) and INCO emissions continue to go down. Yes, there’s about 200 pounds of nickel in a Prius battery, but even counting the <1 million Prius sold worldwide (~200 million pounds of nickel used), that’s still far less than the over 400 million pounds of nickel produced by INCO ALONE in 2004 (one year). Nickel production is driven by the vastly larger market for stainless steel and other high temperature metals, than for hybrid batteries.

as for nothing alive around the plant, how about the nearly 160,000 people that call Sudbury ON home? (or, for that matter, the people who work the mine?) Sudbury may be called The Nickel City for a reason, but not because nothing lives there. Sudbury has has a serious re-greening effort since the early 1970s. (many of the “articles” floating around on the 'net and occasionally in print quote acid rain problems from the time of the moon landing…)

Here’s the 2004 Toyota Prius Green Report (life cycle assessment):
(you’ll need to download the Japanese fonts for your PDF reader in order to read it, but the entire document is written in English.)

Over the lifespan of the Prius, when compared to a comparable mid-sized gasoline vehicle, the Prius comes out ahead in the life cycle assessment (LCA) for airborne emissions for CO2, NOx, SOx, HC, but actually does worse for PM (thanks to the material and vehicle production stages). Lifespan is given as 10 years use/100,000km. The CO2 break-even point for the 2004 Prius compared to this unnamed gasoline vehicle is given at 20,000km. (more CO2 is emitted during Prius production, but the Prius makes up for it over it’s driven lifetime.)

Another neat thing is that the Prius is one of the first uses ofToyota’s Eco-Plastic (plastic made from plants, as opposed to petroleum products). The battery is recycleable (NiMH), as is much of the car (steel and aluminum body, for example).

As for the batteries themselves:

The lead-acid (Pb-A) 12v accessory batteries in hybrids tend to be smaller than those found in every traditional gasoline vehicle. Recycling programs are in place for traditional lead-acid batteries.

All the hybrids on the market use NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) batteries, which contain no heavy metals (so they’re not hazardous waste, like the Pb-A batteries), and are easily recycled.

The hybrid battery packs in the Prius have labels on them for whom to contact to recycle them. See the HV Battery Pack Recycling section inthe Prius Emergency Response Guides.
page 11 (of the printed version):
page 19 (of the printed version):

Toyota press release from 06/22/2004:

Is there a recycling plan in place for nickel-metal hydride batteries?

Toyota has a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information and dealers are paid a $200 “bounty” for each battery.

and also:

Questions for the hybrid battery expert
A big part of the “magic” that makes hybrid vehicles work involves high-voltage battery technology. So, it’s natural that many of the questions Toyota and its dealers receive are about hybrid batteries. Hybrid Synergy View put questions about batteries to Gary E. Smith, national service technology manager at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Q: How long do the high-voltage batteries last?

GS: We designed them to last for the life of the vehicle. We’re aware of owners who have racked up a quarter-million miles without replacing the batteries.

Q: What would it cost to replace a complete battery pack?

GS: Less than $3000, plus labor.

Q: Are hybrid batteries recyclable?

GS: Absolutely. In fact, Toyota pays a bounty to dealers who recover them from damaged vehicles. Additionally, our engineers are studying the possibility of remanufacturing these batteries.


damn, all of my formatting, and my blockquotes, didn’t go through. too bad this new board doesn’t allow one to edit posts to fix formating problems like this!


If you can’t afford a normal car payment, you can’t afford a new car…Prius or Hummer, it makes no difference.

Actually, if you can’t afford to pay cash you can’t afford a new car.