Hybrid cars hit the market in 1999 and, since then, the technology driving these fuel-efficient vehicles has continued to evolve. So although buying a pre-owned hybrid makes smart economical sense, it is best to be armed with some knowledge – and the right questions.
We’ve put together this checklist of what to know about a conventional pre-owned hybrid car before you take your first test drive.
Look at the past
Just as with conventional, gas-only vehicles, you should obtain a vehicle history report. This is something a reputable dealership should provide at no extra cost. See if the car has been in accidents. Perhaps more importantly, check the service records. Hybrid car maintenance is especially critical because it affects the life of the battery.
Speaking of batteries, the cost of replacing one varies from under $2,000 to over $4,000, so do some pricing on the one you’re considering. That said, most hybrid batteries come with a warranty on the main battery pack for 100,000 – 150,000 miles. You should know the details of the warranty that comes with both your car and your battery.
Pick your strength
Hybrid engines come in two varieties. “Mild” hybrids use electricity to give a boost to the gas engine, such as when accelerating. “Strong” or “full” hybrids have smaller gas engines and can run on full electrical power for a short time. Strong hybrids may cost more but also offer better fuel efficiency.
Look under the hood
If you’re working with a dealership, make sure that a certified mechanic performed a thorough inspection on the car. Ask if the car was reconditioned. If you’re going it alone, it pays to find a mechanic experienced with hybrid cars. Checking over a hybrid involves more than looking for the usual fluid leaks (which you still need to check, because of the hybrid’s gas engine).
Check for recalls
Visit the manufacturer’s website or call their customer service line to see if the car has been recalled for defects. Check the service record to see if those recalls were handled appropriately.
Give it a spin
If you haven’t driven a hybrid before, be prepared for a different experience. A hybrid may feel different in the way it accelerates, brakes and steers. It will sound different than a conventional gas-only vehicle. You may want to take more time than usual for the test drive to try the car out on different types of roads, different traffic conditions, and to see if you begin to adjust to the feel of the car. Remember that a reputable dealer or seller will allow you the time to get to know the vehicle you are considering and will provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision.