I have owned, driven, and fixed a plethora of Prius over the years. As someone who has battled all the problems in the trenches, I have learned a thing or two about what ones are good and what ones to stay away from.
I can also tell you if you are looking to buy what to look for. Here are my three reasons to not buy a 2010-2013 Toyota Prius.
Reason Number One: Headgasket Failure
The generation 3 Prius was a complete redesign starting in 2010. Everything about it was new, including the larger 1.8L all-aluminum engine.
Owners loved these cars, at first. Then the issues started rolling in. The first significant problem people began to encounter was a failing head gasket. If you have not read my other article on knowing if your head gasket is failing, read it here.
Head gasket failure is an expensive repair. Most of the time, people let it go too long and end up bending a connecting rod; at that point, you are better off installing a new engine.
After doing multiple head gasket repairs on these cars, I can tell you if you do not catch it early, plan to trade the vehicle in or plan to put an engine in it.
If you can get a car with a bad head gasket for cheap enough and clean, it could be worth your time to have it repaired. Many generation 3 owners have reported 50 to 60 miles per gallon on a good working car, which could be worth it.
Costs for an engine swap or gasket repair usually range in the $2500 to $5000 range, something to consider when purchasing.
Reason Number Two: Inverter Failure
To be fair, Toyota did their best to recall any faulty inverter, but unlike Pokemon, they did not catch them all. Inverters still are failing, and do not expect the repair to be cheap.
A new OE inverter can run you well over $2000, not including diag time or labor to install. Refurbished units from other hybrid places are around $650 before install.
Not a cheap repair, and what is worse, there are no warning signs as to when it could fail. Buyer beware.
Reason Number 3: Ridiculous Maintenance
Two things that grind my gears on Gen 3 Prius are the EGR system that always gets plugged up and the electric water pump.
I understand why the components are there, but honestly, is a regular water pump putting that much additional drag on the engine? Sure, an electric water pump can run when the car is off, but when these things fail, you are really stranded.
New pumps can cost around $650 to have replaced, and that does not include your tow. So, what about the EGR system? Glad you asked.
The EGR system is there to help lower tailpipe emissions which translates into a nightmare. When the exhaust is pushed back into the intake, it carries with it tiny bits of carbon.
These carbon bits get hung up in the cooler and all the tiny ports inside the intake manifold. The carbon builds upon itself and becomes a hardened nightmare to clean. Not to mention that you have to clean it, or it will help contribute to a faster-failing head gasket.
Unfortunately, we will always have carbon build-up as a by-product of the exhaust fumes getting pumped out through our exhaust systems. So, plan on spending a few hundred bucks every 90,000 miles or so to have the system cleaned out thoroughly.
Are Gen 3 Prius bad cars? Not necessarily; they can be pretty good and reliable if all the issues are dealt with and the vehicle has been well maintained. If the EGR is cleaned out regularly, oil changes are done on time, and any open recalls have been taken care of, these cars are pretty good.
As I stated earlier, if you can find a clean one with some issues and get it for cheap, it is worth the investment. But to buy a Gen 3 in an unknown condition is financial suicide.
I hope this helps. That is all for today. Be sure to check out some of my other articles on Prius and follow me on Twitter for all the latest updates trending in the hybrid and EV world. @the_hybrid_guy
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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 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. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.