If you have been considering getting a used Prius but are not sure what to look out for, let me give you 4 ways that can help you nail down the Prius you have been wanting.
Checking A Toyota Prius Hybrid Battery
A major concern with anyone that would like to own a hybrid like the Prius, is the condition of the hybrid battery. So before you say yes to that "great deal" on a Prius here is what you should know.
The hybrid battery is susceptible to failure over time and can give you warning signs. There are devices you can use to get them back in health, but what is more important is how to tell if it is in pre-failure.
Using the Carista OBD2 tool and a really neat app called Dr. Prius, you can get a reading right from your phone to see how that hybrid battery is doing.
Interpreting the data on the Dr. Prius app can be found in this article here. This first check is critical and can save you a lot of guesswork in knowing if the hybrid battery is in good shape or is needing replacement.
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Checking For Oil Consumption On A Toyota Prius
While it is common for a used Toyota Prius to consume oil, this does not always happen. There are two ways you can tell if a Prius engine has been taken care of if by the owner.
First, ask if they have any service records. You can look at the records and see how often services were performed on the car. Second, pull the dipstick and see what the oil looks like or if there is any on the stick.
A good sign of regular maintenance is a light amber color of engine oil, and no hard deposits leftover on the stick. Now, if an owner had recently changed the oil, this may not help, which is why you want to ask for the service records.
Chances are if the oil has been changed routinely, there is a much better chance that oil consumption will be at a minimum.
Checking The 12V Battery On A Prius
Checking the 12V battery in a Prius is pretty simple, and it is important. With batteries costing upwards of $250, you do not want to get a new to you Prius with a bad one. Using the check mode built into the Prius, you can easily check on the battery and see how it is doing.
If you are curious about how to do this, here is an article that explains how to get into that mode. Once in there, I've read various ranges of where the battery should be. be, 12.4-12.8v is normal range in ACC mode (1 power button push w/no brake pedal applied). Others say 11.9-12.6v as normal. The lower this reading the worse off your 12v battery is. If it is anywhere in the 10v range, the battery should be replaced.
While not a deal-breaker, having a $250 repair right off the bat does not exactly make me feel as if I am getting a great deal.
How The Tires Look On The Prius
Another key indicator that should always be looked at is the tires. A great indication if the owner has taken care of the car, is if the tires are in good shape. Smooth, even wear is also a good thing, even if the tires are needing a change, the wear of the tires will tell the whole story if the car is driving straight down the road.
Be sure the tires are also worn equally from front to rear indicating that the tires have been rotated on the Prius regularly. It helps to know these things to see how well the previous owner had taken care of it.
While buying a used car is pretty much always a gamble, you can have an edge on the game. If you are not sure of these things yourself, take someone with you who can. Educating yourself before a purchase can help you get the best deal on a used Prius.
Thanks for reading, be sure to check out my other story, Knowing this one tip can keep your Prius for setting a P0420 trouble code. Come back tomorrow for more great articles on the Toyota Prius.
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