Hammer Time: The Hybrid Deal: Sample Size Two

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time the hybrid deal sample size two

I bought my first hybrid back in 2006. An ’01 Prius that was an absolute dealer queen. Oil changes every 3k. Every recommended service by Toyota performed. A brand new battery. New factory-spec tires from the dealer. It was a complete freak of nature amplified by the fact that I bought it at a time when I was the only dealer in the auction lane. The cost including the auction fee was $6650. It never left the auction. I took 24 pictures. Wrote a glorious soliloquy on eBay, and sold it to a guy from Alabama for $8800. That sale represents the only profit I’ve ever regretted.

It would take two more years before I would be able to find another hybrid at a reasonable price. Priora shot up to the moon. Honda’s shot up to the sky. Plus even then you couldn’t find one at the auctions that didn’t have issues. 1st year Civic hybrids often had terrible tranny problems. Others across the board had battery capacity issues. But then again . . .

What we were seeing at the auctions represented the very far left hand side of the bell curve in terms of condition. New car dealers are more apt to keep and resell their good trade-in inventory these days rather than blowing them out of the auction for cash flow. Especially if the car in question is high in demand. After two years of peaking and poking, I finally bought a 2003 Civic hybrid for $6500 at a Carmax sale.

Unlike the primped up Prius, the Civic would need minor work. The trunk had been dented in on the right hand side. Thankfully, I already knew of a perfect replacement at a ‘recycling center’ with the very same color for $250. I had the O2 sensor replaced, and drove it about 200 miles that day, averaging 55 mpg. A Honda rep also found out that the ICE engine had been replaced by Honda less than 5,000 miles before and the tranny’s torque converter had been R & R’d 10k miles back. This Civic was older, but it was near-new.

I could have sold it for $7900. I put it online and immediately got calls from several folks who were afflicted with the ‘gotta have’ mentality. But my wife, frugal goddess and schlepper of kids that she is, overruled me. The Civic has stayed with her for the last 9000 miles. So far, so good. She’s averaged 41.6 mpg in city driving which is twice as much as before. We may keep it for the long haul.

A Corolla may be the more economical vehicle for the long run. But there’s something about hybrids that makes them a more ‘involved’ driving experience for commutes that usually offer few thrills. She watches the MPGs. I plan for the car’s rainy days. We all hope for the best. So far it’s been sunshine.

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2 of 15 comments
  • Shogun Shogun on Jun 08, 2009

    The old Lexus IS300s had an MPG meter. I couldn't tell if Toyota was joking when they set up the meter capable of showing up to 80MPG.

  • Stingray Stingray on Jun 09, 2009

    My dad's Caprice had the meter... very fun to watch

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)