Is Battery Life a Deal-Breaker on a Prius?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 26, 2016

Dear Car Talk:

I'm thinking of buying a new Prius Two. Will the battery system need replacement after, say, eight to 10 years? Does replacement hinge on driving habits, or luck of the draw? I am retired and live in a city with constant traffic congestion. I don't drive more than 5,000 miles a year, mostly stop-and-go. The low carbon footprint and great gas mileage of a Prius appeal to me; however, the expense of a new battery system in a few years is worrisome. Shall I forget the Prius and opt for something more reliable, such as a Camry?

-- Lois

Well, the Prius batteries are warrantied for eight years and 100,000 miles in most places, 10 years and 150,000 miles in any state that has adopted California emissions laws. How many years and miles are you under warranty for, at this point, Lois? Seriously, the drive-train battery pack on the Prius has proven very durable over the years. In all the years we've been servicing "Prii" at the shop, I think we've had one customer who needed a new battery pack. And that customer had over 150,000 miles on his Prius.

That doesn't guarantee that you'll never have a problem. But in our experience, the Prius has been extraordinarily reliable. And so has its battery pack.

For 2016, Toyota is introducing new, lithium ion batteries on some higher-end versions of the Prius. And we don't yet know how well they'll hold up over hundreds of thousands of miles. Write to me if you're still around in 15 or 20 years, and if I'm still around, I'll tell you!

But the Prius Two that you're considering uses the tried-and-true nickel metal hydride batteries that are still powering tens of thousands of Prius taxis in urban stop-and-go traffic all over the country.

So, the batteries are not a reason to shy away from the Prius, Lois. The looks, perhaps. But it's a great car, and if that's what you want, get it.

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