New or Used: A Prius Seller's Market?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used a prius seller s market

TTAC Commentator gman37 writes:

Steve and Sajeev: I was hoping to pick your brain for a second regarding the used Prius market right now. Help a Hammer Time follower out! I own a 2010 base Prius (Model II), and I have been seeing listings at local dealerships for base model Prius’s (????) selling for 3-4K above new MSRP prices. For instance there is one with 15K on the clock selling for 27K, when new the MSRP was around 24K.

Is this actually occurring right now or are these people out of their minds? My wife and I were debating on selling it and buying a cheaper car with a smaller payment if we could actually make a decent profit on it. On the other hand, 50 MPG in the era of $5 a gallon gas is pretty great. Its a gas! Thanks for your time.And Sajeev, I always wanted a Mercury Marauder!Sajeev answers:So get a Marauder! Life’s too short to compromise, even if said Panther wished Ford took that very same advice. And your wife is totally cool with it, I already asked.Of course the Marauder isn’t exactly cheap in terms of fuel economy, and clean examples might actually be at the bottom of their depreciation curve, like the (LT-1 powered) Impala SS it was supposed to surpass. If said Panther Love puts your marriage on the rocks, buy any (reasonably dapper) used compact sedan (Civic, Corolla, Sentra, Focus, etc) and enjoy a better driving experience than your Prius with minimal impact to your monthly fuel bill. Remember, motoring fun is important!Steve Answers:Sajeev, I don’t think he wants a Panther. But who knows? Keep it. What the hell are you going to replace it with?The $27k price is for the unfortunate soul who ruined his credit and can’t be financed through Toyota Financial Services. The dealership will have a partnership with a secondary finance company that is willing to take the risk. What that buyer will be looking for is not the price… but the monthly payment. The dealer makes thousands. The finance company hopefully has a customer that makes the note, and the buyer probably ends up screwing themselves twice.

Once by buying the overpriced car with hysterically bad finance terms. Then they probably end up selling it after the ‘big’ 60k service because they’re bored, bad at math (surprise?), and/or totally ignorant about the future maintenance costs. Usually a combination of all three.

Keep the car. The next time you should go to the dealer (if ever) is when electric cars are the norm and the Prius is no longer an economical proposition. This should be some time between 2025 and Armageddon. By the way, the Toyota dealer couldn’t give a flip about you once you walked out their door with one less check in your pocket. Sorry but it’s the truth.Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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3 of 32 comments
  • Saponetta Saponetta on May 28, 2011

    Steve, I thought you were the TTAC auto dealer expert. Your comments on the readers questions are basically incorrect. Quick dealer track bookout on that prius gives 22225. Tell me a lender that will advance over 120% to a person with poor credit. You couldn't even get that bought rolling sale stax with the check going back to the dealer. Typical secondary terms on this deal would probably require 9k down for this deal. As the bank will probably only lend 18 or so on this to a secondary customer. This is all assuming of course that the customer makes enough money to get an almost $500 payment call.

    • Steven Lang Steven Lang on May 28, 2011

      Gman was the one who mentioned the $27k sticker. But my financial points are still valid. Just because a vehicle may be priced beyond clean book does NOT mean that the vehicle can't be financed for that price and sold to a finance company. Any finance deal primarily takes into consideration the financial capabilities of the seller. If that customer has strong enough credentials the deal can go through. You have to take into account a few other variables. Late models like the Prius can be financed for as long a six to seven years these days. The 'book' depends on which book you use to value the vehicle. NADA for example prices that vehicle $3000+ higher than your own at $25,500. Add in a 120% L/V ratio and you still get over 30k without even taking other financial inducements into consideration. Interest rates and finance charges (and bogus fees) can easily jack these types of deals into the financial stratosphere. This gives more space to the finance company and dealership. Finance companies also provide incentives on the back end of these loans, and in a few cases the dealership may even have the same owners as the finance company. Finally, you also have some companies on the prime side of the business that will simply finance a customer up to a given amount and let them pick what they want (within reason). Peoplefirst Financial (now owned by Capital One Auto Finance) was one of the pioneers in this side of the business. Long story short, I have no doubt that a Toyota dealership would try to sell a late model Prius for that price. I also have no doubt that it could go to either a sumprime or prime customer. It all depends on the parties involved.

  • Saponetta Saponetta on Jun 08, 2011

    dealer track book out is NADA. So that is a correct figure. Thats is the figure 99% of lenders are looking at. There is no way to carry that kind of money on that car for a subprime customer.

  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.