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$2,000 Toyota Prius Vs $15,000 Prius Which One Ends Up Being The Better Value

With so many second-generation Toyota Prius cars still on the road, would it be a better decision to get a cheaper proven power train or get a newer Prius? Here are my thoughts on what may be the better decision.

This article is going to be somewhat subjective. I will, however, do my best to layout the details. I think that a clean, well maintained $2,000 second-generation Toyota Prius is just as good of a car as a $15,000 third or fourth generation.

What is the difference, though? How can these two cars compare, especially when one is significantly newer than the other? These questions will have explanations here soon. We need to compare both cars as equally as possible to see what option is best for you.

Here are four areas that I believe are key in purchasing a used Prius. These options should cover just about everything that any person looking for a Prius should consider.

Price: What You Can Afford
Not everyone has an 800 credit score or has an extra few thousand dollars sitting around. Many people have pretty poor credit and sometimes are making it paycheck to paycheck. I am saying this because this is a reality for a lot of people.

While unfortunate as it is, these people need a car for whatever reasons. It could be to get to work, or maybe they do door dash or Uber. Whatever the case may be, choosing a reliable cheap car can be tough.

2007 Toyota Prius used red

2004-2009 Toyota Prius is one of those great options. The powertrain is reliable, and honestly, they do not have that many problems. I have purchased a couple of second gens between 600 and 1000 dollars, both in varying conditions.

Even though each car needed attention, I was still able to get both running and in good condition for less than 2,000 dollars. Both have been reliable and trustworthy. The best part is, when I needed to sell them, I got more than what I paid for them.

I will mention mechanical ability here in a minute and why that plays such a crucial role in this process. I will say that there are many used Prius cars out there with higher miles on them but in excellent operating condition. Many of which you can buy for 2,000 or less.

So if you can afford the 15,000 dollars for Prius, go for it. It will serve you well. If you have the time to look around, there is probably an excellent used Prius out there you can pick up an still get a couple of years out of it.

Wear and Tear On The Prius
Okay, so here is the thing when buying a used Prius. Both of mine that I purchased had some serious wear and tear. My 2007 had horrible oil consumption, and my 2005 had a smashed-in driver's door repaired incorrectly.

I did not care about that. However, you may be different. You may want a cleaner, straighter Prius than either of mine. The other thing you need to think about is how the previous owner maintained the car. Both of mine were poorly maintained, and it showed.

2015 Toyota Prius

If wear and tear on the car is a big deal to you, a cheap Prius may not be your sushi platter. However, you can find a clean one owner from some little old lady or neighbor that may be willing to part with it for cheap. They are rare but do exist. Either way, you need to take the wear and tear factor into consideration when choosing a used Prius.

A newer Prius that has not had time to rot would also have softer rubber bushings enhancing your ride quality. The newer one should also have potentially seen far less traffic inside the car and could be cleaner. Of course, this is based on how the owner treated the vehicle, so one can only assume that a newer car has less wear and tear.

Wear and tear means a lot. If you have a 2015 Prius that has been beat and never maintained, you could be far worse off. There could be out there a cheap 2004 Prius with one owner and a few miles just waiting for you to pick it up and give it a new life. You will not know until you look around and see what is out there. Just because it is new does not mean it is the best deal.

Your Own Mechanical Ability
I believe this is the largest factor in deciding what Prius is right for you. Some jobs on Prius are straightforward; however, some should not ever touch a screwdriver. If you can change your oil, you can do many things on Prius.

If you want to know some of the more common issues with second-generation Prius, take a look at this article here. The other thing is that most of the problems that Prius has well-documented solutions to common problems that are present. This means even if you want to try, there is probably a good YouTube that can be followed.

working on your own Prius

In the end, if you do not feel like touching your car, best go with the more expensive option that may have a warranty still. Knowing whether you can work on it or not is a big deal. Make sure you are confident you want to or do not want to before you decide to purchase.

What Options You Want
There are differences between 2004-2009 Prius and 2010-2015. For instance, the highest trim levels in both generations had Bluetooth, but only third-generation could also connect your audio device as well. A solar roof is an option to help keep the car cooler.

The second generation had an Aux port and Bluetooth that only allowed you to connect for hands-free phone calls. Gen 2 Prius had good tech for the day, but it needs a few things to make it feel modern. If you are okay with that, the car will serve you well.

2004 Toyota Prius Trim level 5

Check both options on each of the generations of Prius before you decide. You may find that you want the features on the newer Prius, and the extra money is worth that to you. You may find that a top-level 2009 Prius suits your needs. Whatever it is, that is your choice.

The thing is this; you need to decide what is best for you. A second-gen Prius, if you can find a cheap, clean one, it should serve you well for quite some time. I am still driving both of mine, and they have no issues. I have put some work into them, but honestly, they were pretty easy fixes.

I could go and buy a new Prius right now if I wanted to. The best value Prius for me is the one that costs me the least money after all things considered. The thing is, a more expensive Prius for me is just a depreciating asset. For you, that could be what you need.

I look at it like this, if I can get into a Prius for $2,000 that will last me a few years with little to no worries, I can get almost 8 cars for the price of one.

Thank you for reading. See you in the next story, The Toyota Prius’ Best Friend, Cat Security™, Is On Sale And Has Free Shipping.

Watch the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid Prime video presentation and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube channel for daily automotive news analysis.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting


Didi Mulyadi (not verified)    December 28, 2019 - 11:40PM

I bought second gen 2005 Prius awhile ago after I totaled my Honda Element. It's and upgrade for me. I was skeptical because I bought it used for so cheap and high mileage. Bought it when it was 230k and I sold it last year when it was 380k drove it for 5 years and added so much mileage. It was slow smooth and comfy ride. I drive more because for the first time in my life I spent so little in gas and maintenance. The most expensive thing I added in the car was tinted windows. I commute and roadtrip with that car more than any of my other cars that owned. Yes I was broke after my friend totaled my very funky spacious Honda. But I did use the Prius to transport a used 70 inch plasma Flat screen to my friend house. And used it to transport many other stuff that I thought I must have a SUV or at least a CUV. It's not the greatest in snow too but I have to change my driving style going back to FWD car. I wanted to get the third gen Prius that have a tech package so my sister can have less stress parallel parking but my sister jumped and bought a lower mile and younger 2012 CRZ instead. It was smaller and easier for my sis to park but I must say it uses more gas and the drive is less comfortable. So I agree with this article an used Prius still good

Toby (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 9:58PM

In reply to by Dan (not verified)

What do you mean? I changed out a headlight two weeks ago because a stick punctured it.

Although I did break a bolt hole in the wheel well, that's just because the prius v is slightly different than the regular prius that featured in the repair video, and I pulled the wrong direction.

But other than that it was pretty straightforward. Unbolt the bumper, slip it out, slip the new one in, bolt the bumper back on, and you're good to go!

Chris (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 1:59AM

Please reply to my first comment 259K mile original battery’s buy news corona le hybrid $23K?

Andrew (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 2:14AM

I've had 4 different gen 2s and one gen 3 and I like the gen 2s way more now. Cheaper, better steering wheel controls, better console, gauges and armrest. Gen 3 is better at high speeds but at normal highway speeds they are similar.

But now that fusion and lincoln hybrids have come down in price I like them way more. Similar gas mpg and much quieter highway ride. Navigation and sound system vastly superior. Looks classier for business big time. burns less oil. Plus has lifetime air filter. Same durability.... Possibly more durable.

Prius carrys cargo way better though with the hatch. That's it though.

DAVID L LAMBERSON (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 7:35AM

In reply to by Andrew (not verified)

Silly advice. Due to the high voltage batteries only a professional should service that system. These cars are not very reliable out of warranty and certianly not past one hundred thousand miles. Very complicated electronics that only a very well trained and equiped mechanic can repair. If you are of modest means from an economics point of view you would be much better off with a convential car like a older Corrola or Civic. Both have great reputations for long life and cheap to repair. Selling poor people on a old worn hybred is unwise. PC is fine for people of means with money to burn but selling the working poor on YOUR pipe dream is wrong. There is a reason why Hybred cars cost more to insure and service and why most mechanics that dont work for dealerships cannot or will not work on them. The Prius is the best of its kind out there while under warranty but out of warranty its a crap shoot.

Joe H. (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 1:26AM

In reply to by DAVID L LAMBERSON (not verified)

This is the right advice. Owning old hybrid is really a crap shoot. Expensive inverter or generator can go out, in which case, you are looking at serveral thousand dollar repair bill, way more than value of the car. If you are DIYer and want low cost maintence old car, you can't beat old corolla, civic or even some other off brand japanese cars which has widely available cheap parts. With older Japanese cars with proven reliable engine and transmission, virtually everything can be repaired by DIYer for pretty low cost. This is not the case with old hybrids. Old conventional cars win hands down over old hybrid for low cost repair and maintenance.

Brad (not verified)    July 28, 2020 - 3:48PM

In reply to by Joe H. (not verified)

You're just wrong. I've owned 3, that's (3) Generation 2 Prii, and they've all been super reliable. They do not break. Zero inverter problems you mention, zero generator problems, zero battery problems. Guess what else? They almost never need the brake pads replaced thanks to regenerative braking. Yours is the typical alarmist attitude people crowed when they came out. Why are these 15 year old cars still bringing over 5 grand??

Lance D. (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 3:46PM

In reply to by DAVID L LAMBERSON (not verified)

That is totally untrue, I bought a used 2004 Prius with 130k on the OD I have driven it for 5 years in my courier business and have exceeded the limits of the Od, the car has roughly 400k miles on it and it still gives me 900-1400miles a week with no issues. Don't get your car advise from Prius haters like Scotty Kilmer and do some real unbiased research next time.

fiteboss (not verified)    December 31, 2019 - 8:32AM

In reply to by Lance D. (not verified)

You are right, I know of a bunch of Prius' that have lots of miles (250k plus) and low maintenance costs. Secondly, if you have to work on them, it's not difficult, or expensive. Lots of sources for parts these days, and in the end, it just a car. Little funky drivetrain, but it isn't difficult to figure out.

Don't get me started on that windbag Scotty Kilmer....

Vonplyr (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 3:53AM

You said you bought two Prius' for under $2,000 and sold both for more than what you paid. Then later on you say that you still drive both of them. Ok liar.

Don (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 4:51AM

Since this article was about buying a used Prius, I was expecting that this would include a discussion of battery life on older cars.

Brian (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 8:34AM

I am a 1st owner of a well maintained 2009 prius. The bluetooth audio issue is easily solved with a cheap Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Car Kit that plugs into the AUX port. The two major expenses that I see is the shocks/struts which got me recently for $1600, and the Hybrid battery which is $1500 from Greenbean.

Michael (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 12:06AM

In reply to by Brian (not verified)

Ouch on the suspension!

If you can DIY suspension you can pick up struts/shocks for around $75 each for kyb brand on amazon. Specialty tools can be borrowed from the parts store.

busseja (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 1:36PM

Good article. One issue for California or New York Prisus's is the ease one can steal your catalytic converter. In CA or NY this normally $200 item is dealer only and costs $2000 to replace. If you have collision/comprehensive fire and theft OK but if you don't the out of pocket cost will cost the car. I have heard of people welding a plate on the exhaust flange bolts to prevent the thefts. We did on our 2004. Last week someone tried to steal it but only got as far as cutting the O2 sensor wire off. They could not get a socket on the bolts. We have 3 prius's an 04, 13 and 15EV. Love them all. the 04 has only had the water pump fail The other two, nothing has broken yet although we are on our second set of wipers. Just change the oil, filters, and coolant on time and rotate the tires. How good? 230K on the 04 and the brakes are only 3/4 worn. The 04 has had 3 aux batteries but the main is still fine. (and when and if it fails you can now get a rebuilt one for around 800; easy install) The other two are on their 2nd aux battery. All are garaged.

Sharon A Myers… (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 2:45PM

I have a 2013 Prius v3bought used in excellent conedition and love it came with 35k miles now 82k I maintain all service but want your opinion on maintenance going forward what is major and mandatory...also have 2010 Honda insight bought used and like it to but a bit harder to get into but performs great also has 82k miles..will eventually sell Honda and keep Toyota as I love sitting higher but it isn't a giant suv

Lee Stroud (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 4:16PM

Great article. I agree with you. I finally bought a Toyota Prius--late model 2015 Prius C Type 2 in October of 2015. Of course I paid the going rate at the time and I love it. It has features as a base model that I didn't have before. However, I have seen many older ones on the road. As you alluded to, I have also NOT seen them on the side of the road, either. That says something as well. Today, I think Toyota is selling them for around $ 25,000.00 but if you need a good car and can find a Toyota Prius available, a person can spend far less than 25K and get on down the road.

Sylvia McManus (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 5:45PM

I agree. I purchased a 2007 with 150,000
For 3 grand in 2018.
I've refurbished the battery for 1,300 that includes a 12 month warranty
Purchased tires brakes and a new communications dash and a front heald light bulb.
I love it and with the 1000 monthly I'm actually saving i will purchase another 2nd gen with less miles. The idea is to save gas in sam Diego calif we are at 3.39 a gallon. Also i dropped certain Insurance coverages now :)

Ali (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 5:59PM

Thank you, excellent article. I bought a 2006 loaded Prius for 28k brand new. Best new car I ever had, and with 177k miles on the odometer, I still love the thing. 3 years ago I came across a 2012 Prius V (kinda like a Prius station wagon), level 5 with 114k miles for $10,500 - more loaded than my 2006 Prius - with radar cruise and collision avoidance. The Prius V now, has more miles on it than the '06 and is just as trouble free. The '06 still gets around 47-49 mpg, the '12 still gets 43-45 mpg. I still love them both dearly :)

Raja (not verified)    December 29, 2019 - 6:27PM

I have a 2006 prius, regularly maintained with 130k miles. Put in new batteries (main & aux) last year and drove cross country from San Francisco to Orlando in six days - like everything about it, except it’s too expensive to upgrade the Nav DVD and no way to upgrade the Bluetooth.

Steve Florman (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 8:16AM

I've been driving my '08 Prius for 7 years now. I bought it for $12k. The big difference for me is that it only gets around 40 mpg instead of the 50+ of the newer ones. I do a lot of my own maintenance, and the car has 260k miles. I change oil regularly and check it often. I'm not a car snob. :)

It would take a long time, at only a 10mpg difference, for a third gen Prius to pay for itself as long as my old dependable keeps rolling!

Jennifer (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 8:42PM

In reply to by Steve Florman (not verified)

I bought my 06 Prius 9 years ago for $12,000 and in 1 more year it will have paid itself off in fuel saving alone. Now I am looking for a used hilander hybrid. I would a like more secure ride in the snow.