July 11, 2013
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Article by by Justin Pritchard
It started with the automatic transmission, again with the fuel injector, and most recently, with the hybrid car: shoppers skeptical of disruptive technologies wondered how they’d be to live with after some years and miles of service.
Hybrids have their skeptics, especially in the used-car market. How long will the batteries last? Will the complicated network of wiring and modules and electric motors cause issues as the vehicle ages? Will resale values stay strong if hybrid cars don’t catch on any more than they have already?
Thankfully, and largely due to the extensive research and development put into most hybrid models ahead of their launch, many used hybrid models appear to be safe bets.
Here’s a look at some of the common used hybrid cars in the used market today. If you’re considering one to do your part for the atmosphere, to reduce fuel consumption, or just because you think hybrids are neat, be sure to find your candidate on our list and have a look at what its owners like – and what they say you should probably watch out for.
Note that low sales volumes don’t provide the flood of reliability information you’d normally be able to track down on a high-volume model – and that purchasing a used hybrid without a full powertrain inspection and computer scan by a factory-trained technician is not recommended.
Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Draw: Few things made of sheet metal, plastic and glass are as sensible as a Toyota Camry – and the hybrid-powered variant took Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology into the family sedan market in a big way. No other automaker has had the success selling and marketing hybrids as Toyota – and the sales numbers are proof. Many shoppers cite the Camry’s reputation for reliability and comfort as key purchase factors, as well as the many years of expertise Toyota has with building hybrid rides. Performance is highly rated here, too.
The Common Issues: Reported problems seem centred largely around earlier Camry Hybrid models. Shoppers should check the condition and level of the Camry Hybrid’s engine oil, and ensure that the vehicle starts, stops and runs as expected in a variety of driving conditions. Inconsistent brake pedal feel and ‘lurchy’ stops are considered somewhat normal, though frustrating. Gushing water sounds from under the hood or near the firewall are likely caused by an air bubble in the coolant system that keeps the engine and hybrid inverter cool. Other common issues mainly relate to fussy engine-start buttons and interior rattles as the car ages.
Honda Civic Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Honda Civic Hybrid
The Draw: The Civic Hybrid is the Japanese-built, partially electric version of a proven bestseller. To many owners, the premise here was simple: all of the goodness offered by the Civic, combined with better fuel mileage and even lower emissions. Many owners also like that the Civic Hybrid looks the same as a normal car – not a goofy-looking hatchback.
The Common Issues: Batteries, batteries, batteries. Though the Civic Hybrid’s battery pack is covered by a lengthy warranty, numerous reports of failed batteries tend to tarnish the reputation of this otherwise reliable model to some degree. Technical service bulletins were issued to extend the battery warranty. Talk to the seller about the battery in the Civic Hybrid you’re considering, or better yet, take the vehicle into a Honda dealer for a closer look.
Also, ‘feel’ the transmission on pre-2006 Civic Hybrid models for signs of shuddering, and ensure its fluid has been changed as per factory guidelines. A number of CVT transmissions have failed, according to posts in various owner forums. Opt for a model with the manual transmission where possible.