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Buying a Used Car: Is a Used Hybrid a Good Deal?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2014

If you're interested in buying a used car, you've probably found yourself considering some used hybrids. After all, they're often roomy, comfortable, well-priced and -- of course -- fuel-efficient. Although, with all the horror stories out there about hybrid batteries, should you really consider a used hybrid car? We have the answer.

Hybrid Battery vs. Regular Battery

Before we get started, it's important to explain why hybrids must be treated a little differently than normal vehicles when you're buying a used car. Hybrid cars use a dedicated hybrid battery that's very different from a standard car battery. While the function of a hybrid battery is similar to that of a car battery, hybrid car batteries are much larger and more powerful. The result is that replacing one can be very expensive -- in some cases, upwards of $2,000. Like all batteries, a hybrid battery will eventually go flat, and it will inevitably need to be replaced.

How Used Is "Used"?

When it comes to hybrid cars, a few years can make a big difference. That's because hybrid batteries are unlikely to give out after just a few years on the road -- despite what some people will tell you. Instead, these batteries typically last for 10 years at a minimum.

You won't need to worry about the hybrid battery if you're considering a 2- or 3-year-old hybrid car. Instead, you can reasonably expect this battery to have a lot of life left for years of trouble-free driving. Plus, many automakers extend their powertrain warranties to cover hybrid batteries that go flat after 8 or 10 years on the road.

How Long Will You Own It?

As you consider buying a hybrid car, you should also think about just how long you'll own it. If you only plan to spend a few years behind the wheel, you shouldn't spend much time thinking about the battery. If you plan to own the car for a decade or if the car is already almost a decade old, the battery should be a concern.

As you consider your car, ask yourself if you'll really be able to spend $2,000 or more to replace the battery, should it go flat while you own the vehicle. If that sounds like too much, you might want to reconsider your purchase -- though, we must remind you that some hybrid battery replacements cost about as much as major work typically performed on a car of this age. For instance, a new transmission will likely cost more than a new hybrid battery, which means you won't necessarily save money by simply choosing a different vehicle.

Should You or Shouldn't You?

In the end, shoppers considering a recent used hybrid car don't have anything to worry about when it comes to batteries. If you're looking at an older model -- or if you plan to keep your car for a long time -- you might want to pay a little more attention to this potentially costly issue.

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.
Buying a Used Car: Is a Used Hybrid a Good Deal? - Autotrader