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Here's Something Amazing About Toyota Prius Odometers

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author photo by Tyler Hoover March 2018

Imagine the disappointment of driving a somewhat boring car that slightly resembles a toaster for over a decade -- a car where the only sources of joy come from squeezing that extra 0.5 miles per gallon out of your commute by disrupting traffic in the passing lane, or bragging to your co-workers as your commuter hits incredible odometer milestones. That's the life of most Toyota Prius owners, except me, as I've chosen to customize mine in the most idiotic way possible -- but imagine how profoundly more disappointing life would be for a Prius owner if the odometer quit ticking at 299,999 miles?

That's the sad reality many Prius owners have encountered with 2005 and older models, which left the factory with a digital odometer that quits counting just before 300,000 miles. Unfortunately, there's no simple way to reprogram the odometer to move past this mark, so owners are forced to live with it, or swap out their cluster with a used, lower mileage unit -- or completely start over with an all new cluster. Most owners go with the first option, using their still-functioning trip odometers to continue tracking their mileage. I imagine the engineers at Toyota never imagined this would be such a common sight -- but ridiculously high mileage Priuses are everywhere. Of the 129 currently listed on Autotrader with over 200,000 miles, a pair of Priuses are listed with these stuck odometers.

Some have embraced this quirk as a right-of-passage, even forming an unofficial club on the Priuschat online forums to give owners a chance to celebrate this achievement. I imagine some high-mileage Prius drivers have the same sense of pride in their car reaching this milestone as a seasoned climber summiting Mount Everest -- when all they really did was annoy thousands of other motorists with their hypermiling techniques over the past 299,999 miles. Other Prius owners are actually angry about this issue, and they think Toyota should fix their cars for free -- even though the warranty expired well before their brave little toaster traveled roughly the equivalent distance from the earth to the moon.

Toyota's standard response to inquiries about this issue is to direct owners to their local service department -- and to remind them of the original factory warranty terms. Personally, I think is Toyota missing a great marketing opportunity, like the European car marques have been doing for decades by rewarding owners with free high mileage grill badges when they reach certain milestones. Perhaps Toyota avoids making a fuss since it's probably not a financially wise move -- since so many of their cars are crossing the interplanetary mileage barrier on a daily basis without serious problems. It makes a lot more sense to give awards to the owners of high-mileage European cars, since most of those spend enough time at the dealer service department to become the god-parent of the service advisor's first-born child.

Still, I think Toyota should at least give the owner a cookie for reaching 299,999 miles -- or maybe a gold star to stick in their back window for achieving such an impressive milestone. I also like the idea of a standing ovation from the service department when the owner drives away. If you want any other dumb ideas, Toyota, call me! I'm full of them!

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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Used 2005 Toyota Prius
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's Something Amazing About Toyota Prius Odometers - Autotrader