To Buy or Not to Buy: 2004 Toyota Prius w/76,000 miles (in Switzerland)

We live in Switzerland and are considering buying a 2004 Toyota Prius with 76,000 miles in good condition for $6000. However, it comes without a guarantee, and we’ve been warned against purchasing a nine-year-old hybrid unless we can pay for a new battery (about $3000) soon. On the other hand, I’ve read that Toyota says its batteries should last for the life of the car, and that “lab tests show they can go the equivalent of 180000 miles with no deterioration.” Can a mechanic tell us if the battery will need replacing soon, or is it impossible to determine? Since the car “only” has 75,000 miles, our reservation is with the age of the car. Are we right to be concerned? Any knowledgeable advice is much appreciated.

There’s no sure way to know. Most of that age should do well, but some will fail. I own a hybrid, but I’d have trouble buying used one that old.

You don’t have to replace the entire battery pack. It is made up of several smaller cells to provide the power level and storage required. Each cell in the battery pack can be replaced if required, reducing the cost to refurbish your battery. This service is available in the USA and I imagine it is available in Europe too.

I will state my opinions here:

I believe Toyota has really mastered the Hybrid technology

Honda not so much

I believe Toyota hybrid main battery packs are more reliable and last longer

Honda not so much

I know there are other players, but I named two of the biggest

I think it is a risky purchase! Hybrids, even Toyota’s are not very common in Europe and any repairs will be difficult and expensive. I can’t imagine any Swiss garage rebuilding a battery.

Walk away from that one; there are many better choices of used cars in Europe.

I’d go for one of the many economical diesels available to the OP.

“I’d go for one of the many economical diesels available to the OP.”

+1 to texases’ excellent suggestion.
Europeans have MANY more choices regarding clean diesels than we do in this country, and, unless the OP does mostly urban driving, a diesel is likely to cost less in the long run than a hybrid.

Any 10 year old car is a coin flip and my vote is also for a diesel.

A mechanic who’s familiar with the Prius can test the battery and find out if it’s in good health or not but the warning that you would get is a loss in performance/mileage and warning lights will appear. The battery issue is much more common in the Honda hybrids than the Prius. Here in the USA we can buy batteries that have been remanufactured by specialists, this might not be possible in Switzerland but a used battery might be an option unless none are available in your country. It all depends on how long you plan to keep the car.

Thanks so much for all your responses. There are a surprising number of Toyota dealers near us, and hybrids, while still far outnumbered by diesels in Europe, are becoming more and more common. We will definitely consider your advice.

Hybrids are “cool”. They are “green”. That being said, $6k is not a huge amount of money. Is this your only car? Many folks spend $20k on new car and feel secure. It’s new, they have warranty. All is well. If $6k is a budget limit and it’s your only car I would vote for a more mainstream, boring, plain, simple non- hybrid car

The Swiss buy a different mix of cars than anyone else in Europe. Lacking a large domestic make they’ve long bought cars from all over the place. Not that Toyotas are necessarily rare in Europe. They are very common in the UK.

It’s a gamble. Look around this site. You’ll find lots of information on the reliability and history of hybrid batteries.