Jury's Still Out on Aftermarket Batteries

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 07, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband's car is a 2005 Prius with about 130,000 miles. Our local Toyota dealership told him that the hybrid battery needs to be replaced and that it is no longer under warranty. They quoted him a price of $3,200 to replace it, including labor. I've researched and found a couple of sources for aftermarket batteries at a much-reduced price, but I'm not sure how to figure out where we can have an aftermarket battery put in. We checked with the garage we usually use, and they don't do it. Any thoughts?

-- Anne

TOM: You'd have to ask around to find an independent shop that has the confidence to install an aftermarket battery for you -- preferably one that's done it before!

RAY: You should try to find a Prius owners group in your area by looking online. That may lead you to the one or two shops in your area that do this kind of work.

TOM: But I'd urge caution at this point. It's true, you will save many hundreds of dollars with a "remanufactured" Prius battery, but I just don't know enough about their lifespan, personally, to endorse them yet.

RAY: They might be fine. They might be every bit as good as the original Toyota battery, or even better. But what if your replacement lasts only slightly longer than the warranty they give you? What if they warranty the battery but not the labor to replace it? What if the installer makes a mistake that leads to a small marshmallow roast in your garage?

TOM: Until more people have more cumulative experience with these aftermarket batteries, we don't feel we have enough information to say they're just as good as the original.

RAY: I mean, if you're planning to keep the car only for another year, then sure, save the money, take a small risk and use an aftermarket battery. You'll probably be fine. Plus, you'll help with our research!

TOM: But if you're thinking about keeping this car for another three, four or five years, I'd lean toward a factory battery right now.

RAY: If you do go with the Toyota battery, call around for pricing on those, too, and don't be afraid to negotiate. Dealership prices may vary, and since it's the kind of thing you do once in a vehicle's lifetime, it might be worth it to drive a little farther from home to save a few hundred bucks.

TOM: And by the time your next Prius (your 2021 model) needs a replacement battery, I'm sure we'll have much better information for you.

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