2003 Honda Civic Hybrid Front First Generation
Peter Neilson's picture

Prius Holds Value Better Than Honda Civic Hybrid

When it comes to a used hybrid, there is really only one option. Prius. The question is if Honda makes such a great car, why are their used hybrids so much less money?
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It is no secret these days that finding a good deal on a used Prius comes at a cost. So naturally, a Honda would be an excellent alternative to the Prius, right?

You may think so, but the real answer is no. I have owned these hybrids, and I can say for sure Prius is the winner. Here is why I know the Toyota Prius will always hold its value better than the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Prius Beats Honda In The Transmission Area
Reason number one for better resale value, Toyota has a better transmission than the Honda. The duel motors of MG1 and MG2 have a near-zero failure rate. The Honda, on the other hand, well let's say Craigslist and Facebook marketplace alone have plenty "just needs a transmission" postings.

Toyota Prius Transaxle MG1 and MG2

The CVT in the first generation Honda Civic and Insight were prone to starter clutch failure. The second generation was not much better. The starter clutch was redesigned and stronger, but the flywheel could not take the beating.

I have owned three first-generation Honda Civic hybrids mainly because I can find them so cheap, it is almost insane not to buy and flip them. I have owned 1 second-generation Civic hybrid, but the research I have done concludes that I was not the only one with flywheel failure.

Prius, on the other hand, has just about no issues. The first-generation Prius was prone to stator failure, but the only lif the owner never had the fluid in the transaxle changed. It would build up excess moisture inside and then, bam, game over.

Second-generation Prius and on now have WS (world standard) fluid that has an additive in it to block conductivity with high current systems. Less likely to fail, fewer problems, more drive time. Making the Toyota Prius have a better resale value due to fewer significant issues.

Toyota Prius Has A Better Battery Design
To be fair, the Honda is considered a "mild" hybrid, but people still compare the two. Prius did the hybrid thing the right way. Toyota ensured that Prius owners would have an experience, unlike any other. One reason there is such a cult following for the cars.

Toyota Prius traction battery rebuild with prismatic cells/modules

The Prismatic modules that have been in the Prius packs since 2000 have been a better power source for the car. Couple that with more available voltage, and you have a vehicle that will hit the road for hundreds of thousands of miles with few issues.

The battery design in the Honda, however, is quite a bit different. With 144v and 158v options between the first and second-generation Civic Hybrids, Honda did not make many improvements. The battery packs still fell victim to an onslaught of balance problems. They were not as adequately cooled either.

Round cells from Honda packs. Also now available from new prius batteries

The Toyota Prius has a much better and freer-flowing air ducting design, which, when appropriately maintained, allows proper circulation and better heat dispersion.

We all know that fewer battery problems mean a more reliable car. A safer car means that more people will want to own them for a more extended time, as well.

Conclusion
I will say that the one thing Honda did get right is the instrument cluster. I love the first and second-generation instrument clusters in these cars. Prius, yours is cool, but the Honda feels and looks better to me.

Either way, the Prius is a better, safer option when considering buying a used Hybrid. Less significant problems, and overall, a car that will keep the value high. The Prius overall is just a better-built hybrid. People love them, and the resale value will always be higher because they are simply better.

Thank you for reading. I hope that your long weekend has been restful and enjoyable. Please be sure to check out my other article, Two practical thoughts on why the Tesla Cybertruck owners will take the limelight of the Toyota Prius.

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


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Comments

I think that the reliability difference between the Toyota Prius and Civic Hybrids were related to the fact that Toyota started building the firs gen Prius long before the first Civic Hybrid came out. Toyota supposedly lost money on every Prius built for many years. Secondly, I think that along the same lines, Toyota was really committed to establishing the Prius brand as being both economical and reliable. I had heard from devoted early Insight owners who loved their tiny eco-mobiles, but I think that generally Honda had considered their hybrid models to be a secondary consideration to the bread and butter gas-only Civic, Accord, and CR-V models that brought the real profits in for Honda. So Toyota had greater hybrid experience and devoted more resources towards their hybrid engineering and reliability. With the release of the Clarity models, with EV, PHEV, and FCEV versions, they challenged the successful Prius Prime, but it came out almost a year after the Prime's debut. I think that Honda has nearly caught up with Toyota in terms of hybrid engineering and design. It remains to be seen if Honda's first plug-in crossover is released before the RAV4 Prime hits Toyota showrooms. Currently Toyota appears to still be leading the market of PHEVs, but they are behind several competitors like Chevy's Bolt, Nissan's Leaf, Hyundai, and Tesla with regard to BEV models (of which they currently offer none). And similarly, as I've mentioned before, having owned several Chevy Volts I would prefer to buy a used Volt EREV/PHEV over a used Prius or Hybrid Civic for the same price/mileage.