Consumer Beat: How to Buy a Used Toyota Prius

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My first car was a 1976 Toyota Corolla Wagon that I bought it in Fort Worth, Texas for $1500 in 1982. Years later, I am still buying used Toyotas . Recently, I purchased my second hybrid car, a 2006 Toyota Prius and continue to help save our planet. So far, so good. We are thrilled with the comfort and efficiency and since this car was designed as a hybrid from the ground up (and built in Japan), it continues to be a winner around the world.

With thousands of Toyota Prius hybrids coming off leases, now might be a good time to buy a used Prius – at a good price. Here are a few consumer tips to help you in your search.

Do your homework. My search took me to five dealerships spread across three New England States: Mass., NH, and RI.  It’s worth the effort to explore beyond your local dealer.

Purchase at the very end of the month. It’s true. Especially in this economy,  businesses have to report end of month sales stats. You have more negotiating wiggle room on the last 3-4 days of the month. (Yes, show interest earlier in the month, but don’t go back to the dealer until the end, assuming you are ready to buy, how visited several competitors, and know what you want.)

New vs. used. Consumer Reports for years has recommended that people buy quality and reliable cars – used.  I understand there are people who can fully afford or just have to have that new car, but that’s not me.

Do your homework. Check out Hybrid Center of NE in Nashua, NH

Toyota Prius - Consider buying a used one, now off lease

Supply and Demand. Research local dealerships (or do an exact search for 2007 Prius on ( to get listings.  Go to dealership that have at least 6-10 Prius currently on hand. That’s a large supply and you can get a better price.

Look for low mileage. In my search I discovered a couple of very low-priced Prius hybrids. At first, I was intrigued. Could the market be this flooded? Then I found out that a 2008 has 105,000 miles (wow!) or a 2007 had 89,000 miles. Either way, that’s too much driving of any vehicle in a short period of time. Look for lower mileage – certainly under 50,000 for a 2006 or 2007.

Get your financing in order. We did not finance this vehicle, but as I learned, most people do. In this market, approximately 75% of people are financing used cars (and probably more for new cars…) Amazingly, I found out that 50% of those seeking used car financing, get turned down. Poor credit is the biggest culprit. Know you local bank options before you walk into the dealership. (Note: If you want or need to finance your Prius, Toyota dealers will only provide financing on new purchases. They were recently offering a 0.9% rate, which is quite attractive, but ask yourself if you really want to pay for a new vehicle with extra sales tax, excise tax, and huge instant depreciation).

Cars coming off lease. In my research, the bonus I discovered it that the Prius supply is currently high because a lot of cars are coming off a 2007 lease. Generally, these cars were driven less than 12,000 miles a year. That’s good for you.

Super clean. If you look at enough used cars, you can tell which one have been meticulously cared for by the previous owner – and which ones we flavored with the “new car smell” spray after a rub-a-dub treatment by the dealer. Go for the vehicle that has been loved – and many Priuses have been well cared for by their previous owners.

Shades of Gray. If the exterior color of the car does not matter, go for either of the lighter or dark gray colors available. They are most plentiful and you can negotiate a good deal, since they are trying to get them off the lot.

Dealer vs. Private Party. I did not find very many used Prius cars for sale on Craig’s List over a several month period of time. But there a few out there. If you can get 10-20% better than Private Party blue book price (, then go for it. Otherwise, go for the super clean,  low mileage Prius that came off a lease.

Overall, we were very happy with our experience at and we were treated well by Fosi Hader, an accommodating and knowledgeable salesperson, who worked hard for us and earned our business.

Safe driving to all – especially when getting over 50 m.p.h. ! Oh, what a feeling.

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