I could wrap up this article quick and say that second-generation Toyota Prius is the best. I could leave it at that. Or, we could take a look at all four generations of Prius and see what one appears to hold value with the community the best.
Every generation has its pros and cons, so I think I should expose that and see what we can conclude. Here is what you need to know about which Toyota Prius generation is best.
First Generation Toyota Prius
Ah, the first generation of a long line of awesome automobiles. Gen 1 Prius started life right. It gave us a new way to look at the way we use transportation. Number one was not without fault, though. Starting in Japan only in 1997, this first edition ran through 2003.
Gen 1 Prius did not have a boost converter, and it carried a larger 301.6v battery pack. It has a turtle mode, and this is the generation that gave the people idea Prius is slow. We also had problems with the prismatic battery modules leaking, and the stator for the motor-generator shorting out.
Gen 1 Prius did give us a reliable engine, though. The 1NZ-FXE proved itself worthy enough to be used in the next generation. We also had a car that many people loved and put hundreds of thousands of miles on over the years. The car was pretty darn reliable for being the first edition of something new.
Not as many first-generation Prius was built. Around 123,000 were sold between 1997 and 2003. As these cars age and go into the scrap heap, there will be less support as time goes on. Not a huge deal, but if you are in love with your Gen 1, you may want to consider stockpiling some parts.
Gen 1 is not my personal favorite, but I also have not owned one either. I think they are radical for what they are, but I do not believe they are the longest-lasting Prius.
Second Generation Toyota Prius
2004 through 2009. Gen 1 was the platform from which the Gen 2 Prius built the empire. Gen 2 cleaned up, got a new look, and ditched the glitches. Gen 2 Prius added a boost converter and better utilized a now smaller 201.6v battery pack. Turtle mode was gone, and the little car had some pep.
Gen 2 also has a few issues. The electric water pump which can generate a P0A93 trouble code went on recall. Hybrid batteries do fail just like all generations because no one wants to teach battery maintenance. Gen 2 also has been plagued with oil consumption problems and has been known to loose wheel bearings.
The heater control valve is a common issue as well, along with mass airflow sensors getting debris in them. The MFD or multi-function display and the instrument cluster also have problems as well.
Despite these problems, and how common they are, the expense is not awful when repairing. Overall Gen 2 Prius is reliable and gave taxi companies a better vehicle to use. Hundreds of thousands of miles have been logged on these cars. I own three of them in my fleet.
Third Generation Toyota Prius
2010 through 2015. Gen three, the chosen one, the Prius that was to bring balance. I think that it has just not in the way that we think. Gen 3 has certainly been a prevalent model. Toyota had offered trim levels before, but this time there were other options. The Prius V was new and in 2012 the first plug-in model made its debut.
Gen 3, in the early years, have been known to have some strong failure points, though. The inverter/converter was a new design for this year, along with the engine. Both of which have issues. The inverters are on safety recall and the head gaskets, well, they can fail. Not all of these Prius in this generation have the problem, but I hear about it quite a lot.
While these issues are in Gen 3, it would not deter me from owning one. The oil consumption issue is also a problem as well but is preventable with the proper fuel system and oil maintenance. Overall, the higher cost to repair these problems would make me look for the right Gen 3 Prius to buy before jumping on board.
Fourth Generation Toyota Prius
2016 through the present. We are currently in the fourth generation of Prius. As history shows, about every five years, we get a new generation. So, where is Gen 5? That is an excellent question. We could maybe see it in 2021, but so far, I have not heard of any announcement.
Fourth-generation supposedly has fewer problems, at the moment. There have been reports that some 2019 and 2020 models will have the display blackout. There are other reports that some 2016 models have a problem with the hybrid system as well. I have no exact information on what that is just yet.
Gen 4 seems to have all the bugs worked, and it could be the next Gen 2, but time will tell.
Here is the low down. Do your maintenance on your Prius. Do the required fluid changes, adjustments, filter replacements, and all the things in between. This will significantly increase your odds of having fewer issues. I have seen Gen 2 with 600,000 miles. I have seen Gen 3 with 350,000 miles, and I have seen Gen 1 with 700,000 miles. The common thread is doing your maintenance and staying on top of what the car needs.
Maintenance does not change factory defects, but it can help decrease the number of other problems that can come up because of it. My personal favorite so far of all generations is Gen 2. They are cheap to buy, and you can get an easy 100k out of them with minimal investment. I plan to add a Gen 3 and hopefully a Gen 4 this year to the Hybrid Guy fleet.
If you want to discuss anything further, drop me a line or shoot me a message on Twitter. I am always up for sharing what I know and learning from all of you. See you in the next story, Toyota Prius Slammed With Lawsuit Over Self Destructing Windshield.
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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 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