Buying a Used Prius? It Pays to Shop Around.

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Dec 04, 2013

Thinking of buying a used Toyota Prius hybrid? You’re hardly alone—everyone wants one (50 mpg!). They're also dead reliable. And why not buy a used example to save even more money?

A 2010 Prius: Best to buy in sunny Florida. Take a weekend and combine car shopping with fun in the sun. (Flickr/Order 242)The problem, of course, is the law of supply and demand. If everyone wants a Prius, then their value as a used car doesn’t go down all that much. But it turns out it matters a whole lot where you go shopping—a “pre-owned” Prius is, for example, a whole lot cheaper in Miami than it is in Seattle or San Francisco. That’s according to a new analysis by, which finds used cars for folks and ranks the deals.

The same basic logic would apply to used electric cars, though there isn’t a whole lot of data yet. Since there’s a wait for the Tesla Model S, the few that are coming up used—anywhere—are selling for premium prices, sometimes even $2,000 or more above MSRP. They all advertise "low miles." Again, it’s all supply and demand. Everyone wants a Model S, even after the fires.

There aren't many used Model S cars yet, and they're so far commanding a premium price. (Flickr/www78)The Miami buyer of the average late-model used Prius would pay $16,981, which is 8.8 percent below the national average market value. In Seattle/Tacoma, that same car would cost $19,871, which is 6.8 percent above that average price. Other expensive cities include San Francisco/Oakland ($19,365), Los Angeles ($19,341), Phoenix ($19,257), and San Diego ($19,231).

It’s not surprising is it? These are really green cities, where people buy a lot of Priuses. From other company research, San Francisco reigns as the town with the highest percentage of cars over 30 mpg—9.52 percent. Owning a Prius in SF is almost like a cliché—everybody has one. Also on the list, Seattle and Los Angeles.

“We analyzed the Prius, and we of course found that the price is high in those cities because the demand is high,” said Phong Ly, the CEO and founder of “Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles were dead last in affordability.”

The Tesla Roadster: Want a bargain from this company? Find one of these as a used car. (Tesla Motors photo)The obvious conclusion: shop around. It actually pays to buy an out-of-town car in this case. Who couldn’t use a nice weekend in Miami? You could fly in, stay in a hotel, have the car shipped back home (or drive it back), and you’re still likely to come out ahead. You might even find hard-to-get options and models that would be snapped up in the eco-cities.

“Our advice to shoppers is to look at nearby cities that are less expensive,” said Ly. “You could even pay someone to go to Miami and buy the car for you.” Good idea, but I’d rather do the weekend in Miami myself.

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