So, you want to buy a Toyota Prius, and the owner has told you that they did most of the mileage on the highway. That should be reassuring, right?
Well, the thing is, there are pros and cons to both high mileage and low mileage scenarios. Here are a few things you need to know when considering a used Prius with "all highway" mileage.
What Does "Highway" Mileage Mean?
When a Prius has higher mileage, let's say over 200,000, and the current owner says those were all highway miles, you need to understand something.
When a car is driven on the highway for long periods, it usually stays within "optimal" operating temperature. That means the vehicle is not generally getting heat-cycled a lot or driven on roads that will beat the suspension. It also means that the brakes are not getting used as much.
Overall a car that does a lot of miles annually on smooth roads should have little to no issues. The vehicle is being driven and used as designed.
There should be little wear to critical components such as the engine and transmission with regularly scheduled maintenance. If these services have been completed, a higher mileage Prius can be a good buy.
However, higher mileage cars can have weak points. They have seen more use and can develop more issues.
It is all in how the owner has taken care of it.
What Does Low Mileage Mean?
Low mileage can be a good thing, depending. If you are looking at a Gen 3 Prius, low miles may be a point of concern. One of the issues with Gen 3 Prius is that if it does not get up to temp or it "heat-cycles" a lot, it can plug up the EGR system and cause premature head gasket failure.
The pros for having a low mileage Gen 3 are that your car will probably drive well. The suspension and braking system have less use and should still feel good and tight.
Like Gen 2, an aging battery is still a concern. With a battery that has not been "exercised" regularly, it can go into premature failure as well. You can learn ways to mitigate battery issues; more information on battery failure is found here.
If you find a high-mileage Prius with a stack of service receipts on it, chances are you will get many more miles out of that vehicle. Do not discredit a high mileage car just because of the mileage.
I personally am not afraid of a higher mileage car. I recently drove a 208,000 Prius from California, home in a 12 hour 700 plus mile drive. It had no issues with the high mileage and it was not even that well maintained. Maybe I am just that crazy though. Who knows.
For low mileage cars, do not buy it just because it has low mileage; you may be walking into a repair nightmare. As always, trust your gut and do what you feel is right but still proceed with caution.
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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.