Only a few years ago, it seemed that every other car in the DC area was a Beamer, Merc, Lexus or some other type of luxury car. But with gas prices on the rise and a slumped economy, more and more people are realizing that filling up a car that is fuel inefficient isn’t going to fly.
The Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car in America and in DC as well. Luxury vehicles have been replaced by the Prius family in the DC area and there are more and more being sold every day. If you’re in the market to purchase a used Prius, there are some things that you should know:
- Are you prepared to become a Prius driver?
The Prius is a computer on wheels. It’s actually designed to reduce emissions more than fuel efficiency, so in order to maximize your MPG, you need to drive like a Prius owner. The car is powered by two things: the battery-driven electric motor and a gas engine. The battery is charged by regenerative braking, coasting, and by the gas engine if needed. While you may think that this means stop and go traffic is ideal for a Prius, it isn’t if you tend to be an aggressive driver. Aggressive driving uses a phenomenal amount of gas to speed up and then braking to slow down when weaving in and out of traffic. When drivers do this, the car uses a lot of gas to move the vehicle faster and then loses momentum when it must come to a stop. Prius drivers get the most efficiency from maintaining a constant speed. These driving patterns can be learned by watching the energy monitor that is standard in every Prius.
Another thing to consider is the distance you are traveling. Prius are actually more fuel efficient on highways (if driven correctly) than they are for short distances. If the majority of your driving is under 10 miles a day, consider the Prius plug in or an electric vehicle as they will cost less.
- Why are cars over 100,000 miles so cheap?
Because the battery is such a large component of driving the car, many owners get scared when the vehicle passes the 100,000 mark on the odometer, because that’s when Toyota’s warranty runs out. Years ago, the Detroit car companies tried to put the fear of battery failure into the minds of consumers telling them that the replacement costs would be around $8k-10k. The cost to replace a battery that has failed has come down to about $3,000. While that may be a large chunk of change to pay out, the real rate of failure on these batteries has been one out of 20,000.
Toyota admits that they built the battery to last around 180,000. But even that number shouldn’t scare you, because battery failure means that the car loses it’s pep, but it can still drive around just fine. So if you’re the type of person that doesn’t feel the need to beat the other car into the lane when merging onto the highway, this won’t be a concern for you.
- I can use the HOV lane, right?
When the hybrids first came out, the states decided to incentivize drivers to purchase hybrid vehicles by allowing them to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes without having to meet the minimum number of passengers. These laws have changed in Maryland. Now only motorcycles, plug ins, and electric vehicles are exempt from the HOV passenger restrictions. In Virginia, this still hold true on most roads. You will need “Clean” plates. Visit the DOT website for more information.
One thing you can take advantage of is parking. If you’re headed to one of the Kimpton hotels, they offer discounted parking for hybrids. Visit their website for more information.
- Buying out of state
With Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia being within miles of each other, it’s tempting to look out of state for a deal on a used car. The only caution there is that Maryland has much more strict vehicle requirements than does Virginia or DC. This means that if you purchase a vehicle in Virginia and it does not meet Maryland’s inspection, you will have to pay to have it meet inspection requirements before you can register the vehicle. Some dealers offer both state inspections, so just ask if you are from out of state.