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Buying a Used Hybrid Car: Pros and Cons

Buying a used hybrid car is nothing new since they have been around since the late 1990s. There are pros and cons, but more car buyers are interested in the number of used hybrids for sale. Used hybrids offer plenty of appeal due to their impressive fuel economy and ease of use. However, with a battery onboard, used car shoppers are rightly skeptical about the possibility of battery drain.

The good news is that even used hybrids are more fuel-efficient than their gasoline-only counterparts. And unlike a fully electric vehicle, range anxiety induced by watching the charge-level gauge is a non-issue. Still, there is plenty to think about when it comes time to start shopping for a used hybrid car.

Our guide will cover the advantages and drawbacks of used hybrids and what you need to know so you can get behind the wheel of the right hybrid vehicle for you. 

Is Buying a Used Hybrid Worth It?

2021 Honda CR-V Touring hybrid

The answer is yes. At the very least, it’s worth doing the research.

Much of the appeal of a hybrid car comes down to a numbers game. A hybrid will almost certainly go a longer distance on a gallon of gas than its gasoline counterpart. The advantage is that it will save you money on fuel.

That said, a hybrid typically costs more than a gasoline model when new. This fact follows concerning used hybrids. Admittedly, there are many more variables for used vehicles than new models since the car’s condition, history, and mileage can drive down its value. 

Still, a used hybrid can be a great alternative to a gasoline model.

Over the last decade, the number of hybrid models available has increased considerably. They’ve gone from just a handful of small hatchbacks to gasoline-electric versions of luxury sedans, SUVs, crossovers, and even pickup trucks. If you’re after these types of vehicles, odds are a used hybrid version is available. 

Pros of Buying a Used Hybrid Vehicle

Tachometer and hybrid gauge

1. Increased Fuel Efficiency  

The biggest draw is fuel economy. For instance, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE can cost as little as $950 to fuel up annually, compared to $1,600 for a non-hybrid version. 

2. Great Value for Used vs. New Hybrid

When new, the hybrid version costs an average of $3,800 more, but that difference is more negligible for used models. Even in today’s ultra-strong used-car market, a 2019 Camry LE with 35,000 miles is valued at about $26,000 in a private party sale compared to about $27,500 for the hybrid version. 

It might take an average driver just two years to break even, and that’s not considering the hybrid’s more negligible impact on the environment thanks to its reduced tailpipe emissions. A hybrid vehicle can drive on electric power alone for short stints and under low-load situations, which means no toxic gasses come out of its tailpipe at that time.

3. Brakes and Transmission in Better Shape 

Additionally, hybrid models can save when it comes to maintenance. Braking systems, in particular, don’t work as hard since hybrids rely on their transmissions to create some drag. This drag captures otherwise lost energy and recharges the battery during deceleration. Additionally, hybrids pair an ultra-low-maintenance electric motor with a conventional gasoline engine. 

Cons to Buying a Used Hybrid Car

Electric charging progress on hybrid car

1. Battery Drain

A hybrid’s large battery pack is its most significant advantage and primary liability. These battery packs are integral to the vehicle’s operation while tucked out of sight. They are usually found under the rear seat or hidden in the cargo area. Like the battery used in your TV’s remote or laptop computer, the pack will eventually begin to wear out. A tired battery results in a less-effective hybrid system, eroding fuel economy gains. 

2. Battery Replacement 

Battery replacement can be expensive, though, in everyday use, packs should last 100,000 or more. The cost of fitting a new battery varies significantly by model. Still, it can range from as little as $1,000 for cars with simpler nickel-metal-hydride packs to many multiples of that figure for the latest lithium-ion packs found in today’s high-tech models. 

Don’t fret, though. In some cases, a technician can replace individual cells that may have gone bad rather than an entire battery pack. This partial fix can be a big money saver.  

3. Battery Health 

When shopping for a hybrid, finding out about the battery’s health is critical. Ask a dealership to plug in a diagnostic tool to give a detailed battery health report. Most models also offer information through the infotainment display. 

A used hybrid may retain some of its original battery warranty, which offers coverage separate from (and usually longer than) the bumper-to-bumper warranty that may have expired. When in doubt, the automaker’s customer service department can tell you exactly how much time on the warranty is left. 

4. Gas Cars are More Affordable

For number crunchers fixated on the cheapest version of a car, a used hybrid will almost always have a higher cost of entry, even if it may be cheaper to fill up over time.

What to Look For in a Used Hybrid Vehicle

You may want to cast a wide net to start comparing hybrid and non-hybrid models when you start shopping. Before you start, use our tips below of what you need to look for in a used hybrid.  

Compare EPA Fuel Savings of Several Hybrids  

Comparing the cars on the EPA’s website can help break down the estimated refilling cost on an annual basis, too. You can also use the EPA’s website to compare two entirely different hybrid models.

Read the Original Reviews  

You may also want to look into reviews to see how the cars you’re considering were received when they were new. That way, you’ll get a glimpse into their reliability over time. Today, a highly-rated model when new will still be a good choice.

Get a Vehicle History Report

As with any used car, a vehicle history report from AutoCheck or Carfax helps you find out about the car’s past. Asking about service records can help you determine if the vehicle has been reliable. It would also validate the existence of major scheduled repairs. This small step can save you hundreds, if not thousands, over time.

Ask a Mechanic to Check Out the Vehicle

If the car has a good history report, a pre-purchase inspection by someone well-versed in hybrids can confirm that it’s as mechanically robust as it looks. At that time, you can also find out about the hybrid battery pack’s condition.

Check the Cost of Replacing the Battery

When it comes to number crunching, it may be worth talking to a specialist about the expense involved in replacing the battery over time. Factoring this into your long-term ownership costs can give you a good “worst-case” scenario, too.

Take a Test Drive Before Buying 

As with any car purchase, be sure to take the car for an extended test drive on roads familiar to you before signing on the dotted line.

How to Find Used Hybrids For Sale

On Autotrader, you can search specifically for hybrids, or you can look at all versions of certain cars. 

It’s a good idea to cast a wide net, perhaps by looking outside of where you live. Some dealerships may be willing to drive a car to you — or at least closer to you, too. 

Read Related EV and Hybrid Vehicle Stories:


Do hybrid cars use gas?

Yes. Hybrid vehicles use an electric motor to drive up to a certain speed, above which the gasoline engine takes over.

Should I buy a new or used hybrid?

Yes, if you are interested in fuel economy, you should buy a new or used hybrid. But if you decide to buy a used hybrid, you should have the car’s battery checked out by a mechanic before you buy.

What kind of fuel does a hybrid car use?

Hybrid cars are fueled just like a traditional gasoline model. A hybrid, however, uses an international combustion engine along with an electric motor but does not use a plug-in device as PHEVs or EVs would.

Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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