How the Growing Used Hybrid Market Can Help You Save in More Ways Than One

by Amy on December 15, 2013

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GUEST POST by Collin Seward

The used hybrid market is booming, with some 415,000 for sale from individuals in Los Angeles to car dealers in Little Rock, The New York Times reports. If you’re hoping to trade in that old clunker for a more fuel-efficient car, a used hybrid may be just what you have been waiting for. But shopping for one is a bit different than picking up a late model Volvo.

Shopping for a Used Hybrid

Most used hybrids still offer the high mpg rating that made them so attractive to their initial owners, even if the hybrid technology has changed. If you need a car that offers ample cargo space, be aware that a hybrid has less storage space than a non-hybrid to accommodate a larger battery. Hybrids generally offer enough space for the average user—I have two kids, ages 10 and 12, and we have plenty of room. But if you rely on your vehicle to haul around more kids (and their sports practice equipment) than that, you’ll want something larger.

Check a vehicle’s history through a VIN tracker service like Carfax. This can alert you to any outstanding warranty issues or accident reports. And you’ll want to check with the dealership and the manufacturer regarding any recalls or parts that need replacement.

These are all standard practices of used car shopping, and nothing new to hybrid vehicle ownership, per se. While it’s important to have a mechanic inspect any used car to vouch for its condition, hybrids employ sophisticated technology, and you will need to find a mechanic who knows hybrids. The Auto Career Development Center lists hybrid mechanics nationwide.

Hybrid cars tend to have less wear and tear, especially on the brakes. Because hybrids utilize the motor to help slow the car, they generally have less brake wear. Hybrids do have different batteries, transmissions, electric drive systems and controls that will need to be checked by a hybrid expert. Most hybrids come with an eight-year battery warranty. Replacement batteries are relatively inexpensive, so that shouldn’t put you off of purchasing a hybrid.

Test Driving the Hybrid

Don’t expect to hear the engine throttle as you accelerate the engine. A hybrid is very quiet when using electric power. This was actually somewhat disconcerting to me the first time I drove an EV, because I had 20-plus years of driving a gas-powered vehicle under my belt. Rest assured, you get used to it quickly, but it does mean you won’t be able to recognize any of the traditional noises that signal the vehicle needs servicing. Again, the more you get used to your hybrid, the more you’ll learn the subtle differences in your hybrid from a gas car.

Likewise, during a short test drive you won’t be able to see for yourself how a hybrid consumes less fuel so you will have to trust the numbers. A good mechanic can put your mind to rest by inspecting the vehicle for issues and checking on the battery.

Collin Seward: Colin is a freelance writer from the Midwest that is planning on moving to Portland, Oregon to better his newly found green lifestyle.

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