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I Bought a Cheap Toyota Prius … With a Dead Hybrid Battery

This will probably be the final blow to any credibility I have left, but I’ve always loved the second-generation Prius, which was sold from 2004 to 2009. Back when I was a full-time used-car dealer, I sold tons of them. The biggest challenge to Prius selling was convincing a buyer that hybrid battery failures are rare — and, if it happens, not a total shock to your bank account. I have decided to demonstrate this by purchasing a Prius with a dead hybrid battery on purpose — and to show the four people who care that it’s really no big deal. See the 2005 Toyota Prius models for sale near you

The latest addition to the hooptie fleet is a 2005 Toyota Prius, and it came from my favorite local wholesale auction, which happened to have a few cheap hybrid vehicles for sale. This Prius was traded in to the Toyota dealer after probably getting a $4000-plus repair estimate for a replacement hybrid battery back. The car was in decent shape otherwise, with 156,000 miles, and I purchased it for only $1,500. This certainly isn’t the cheapest Prius in the USA — and it wasn’t even the cheapest Prius at the sale. For only $400, my friend bought a trashed 2008 Prius (with 360,000 miles!) for parts — and it easily made the final voyage under its own power to the salvage yard.

Even though the dashboard in my new Prius is lit up like the yard of your neighbor who goes overboard for Halloween, it drove just fine. The Prius has a small 4-cylinder engines that works in tandem with the hybrid battery, but the motor alone will still slowly push the Prius around town even without its propulsionary partner. I had no problems maintaining the “Prius Standard” — a steady 10 miles per hour under the speed limit in the passing lane — during my highway cruise up to my mechanic’s shop to get it fixed.

In my experience, the Prius is very nearly invincible. Since the battery helps the engine during acceleration, it lives a very stress-free life, and the transmission is a planetary-drive CVT — like a moped — meaning that just a few unbreakable metal gears make it all work. The batteries were very reliable — but after 10 years and over 100,000 miles, something’s gotta give…

Thankfully, the aftermarket has gotten involved with Prius batteries, making repairs much more affordable. The Prius battery has 28 little tablet-sized cells housed in a case directly behind the rear seat. If only one of these cells fails, it sends the whole pack into chaos. Some repair services replace only the bad cells, then rebalance the whole system — but I opted for a complete kit from an outfit called Electron Automotive. They sent me all 28 cells, each tested and balanced beforehand. The also provide freshly cleaned battery terminal banks and new bolts — and they warranty their product for up to 5 years. I’m happy to give them a plug, especially since they sent me all this stuff for free.

I decided, since the wizard is occupied with other things, that I should do this repair myself. Aside from the fact that I dropped one of the old battery cells on my foot and cut myself on the sharp metal battery housing, the job was very easy. The whole process took around 3 hours, and I now have a mechanically like-new Prius — which I have no idea what do with.

It’s been a long time since I’ve owned a hooptie for way less than it’s worth. I expect this car would fetch $4,000 if I listed it for sale, but I’m toying with the idea of customizing my Prius — and enjoying the screams of the entire car enthusiast community as it happens. Do I dare??? Find a 2005 Toyota Prius for sale

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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  1. So tell us how you addressed the “ not a total shock to your bank account” when you get parts for free? The rest of us are not so fortunate and I was really hoping for some real world numbers on replacing the battery.

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