I love the Toyota Prius. I bought my Prius brand new from a dealership in Waterford, MI in the fall of 2005. It is the only car I have ever kept until the loan was paid off, and even then I was in no hurry to sell or replace it. Then the hybrid battery died.
Up until that point, however, the Prius was a dream car. It’s a compact car and appears small from the outside, but the interior and cargo space are deceptively spacious. You wouldn’t think of it as “sporty” per se, but between you and me it’s got some zip. We put over 100,000 miles on the car over the past eight years, and the only maintenance we ever really had to do were oil changes, brakes, and tires. The Prius is—simply put—an awesome vehicle.
Full disclosure, I had already replaced the 2005 Prius…sort of. With grown kids who have jobs, and younger kids with extracurricular activities at every corner of the county, we found that we needed a third vehicle. We gave the 2005 Prius to our oldest son, and bought a “new” (actually used) 2011 Toyota Prius to replace it. Now I have a newer, better Prius with a power moonroof, and a stereo that lets me play music from my smartphone via Bluetooth or USB connection. But, I digress.
My son got some sort of warning light a couple months ago. He was overdue for an oil change, so I told him to start there and once he got the oil change completed the warning light was gone. Problem solved.
More like, problem solved? He pays very close attention to the information the Prius provides on the display, and he said that he noticed the battery didn’t seem to hold its charge overnight. The car drove fine, but every morning when he’d start it, the battery would be depleted. A couple weeks later, the dash lit up like a Christmas tree with a whole slew of warning lights. Yikes!
We took the car to an auto repair shop nearby that we trust. The mechanics there are friendly, honest, and good at what they do. A $120 diagnostic fee and five hours later, we got the news that they identified the dreaded P08A0 error code: Replace Hybrid Battery Pack.
The cost to install a new hybrid battery pack? $4,033! According to
Kelley Blue Book
the car is only worth about $7500 on the street, and our mechanic wanted us to pay more than half of that just to keep it running.
I called the Toyota dealership to see what my options were. After some discussion, I got the Toyota service department to agree to do it for just under $3,300 out the door. Granted, that is significantly better than $4,033, but still way more money than my son has available for car repairs, and way more money than seems wise to invest in a 9-year old car with over 100,000 miles.
Of course, with a failing or failed hybrid battery pack, the Prius was worth significantly less if we tried to sell or trade it, and any vehicle we’d be able to get for the same money would likely be just as old, and probably more prone to issues than just keeping the Prius.
Saving The Prius
I did some research online and found posts in forums from other Prius owners about reconditioned batteries, and replacing individual battery cells. You can go on
.com and find used and reconditioned batteries available.
The problem would be finding a local mechanic willing to do it, who also has the knowledge and skill to swap it out. Our mechanic refused to deal with reconditioned parts, and would only agree to install it if I bought a brand new battery.
I was contemplating buying a reconditioned battery online and attempting to install it myself when I found
Prius Battery Repair of Houston
(now called Hometown Hybrids). Their website is filled with useful information about the Prius hybrid battery pack in general, and these guys will replace your failing hybrid battery pack with a reconditioned one for $800. Total. That’s about how much my mechanic and the Toyota dealer wanted to charge me just for the labor, and Prius Battery Repair of Houston came to my house to do the repair right in my driveway.
The reconditioned battery is good for an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 additional miles, and Prius Battery of Houston backs it up with a one-year warranty.
I scheduled a time for Prius Battery Repair of Houston to come to my house. The mechanic—who also happens to be the owner of the company—showed up on time, and was very courteous. He completed the job of removing the failing hybrid battery pack, and installing the “new” reconditioned one in about an hour and a half.
Just like that the Prius is fully functional again, and it cost only a fifth of what we were originally quoted.
Breaking Down The Math
Looking at the numbers, this seems like a no-brainer. Even if the reconditioned battery literally lasts only for the year that it’s covered by the warranty, that’s OK.
That $800 breaks down to only $67 per month for a dependable car. Try finding a reliable vehicle for $67 per month. In addition, that $800 means that my son will also get better-than-average mileage for the 10,000 miles he’ll drive during that year. Based on the average price of gas around here, he’ll save about $350 in gas as well, so the net investment is only about $450. That makes it less than $40 per month for the repair even if this reconditioned battery dies the day after the warranty expires.
Now, assume it actually makes it 50,000 to 70,000 miles. We’ll split the difference and call it 60,000. That’s about six years worth of driving for an $800 repair. Over the course of 60,000 miles, he’ll also save more than that $800 in gas, so repairing the Prius will essentially be free compared with going out and replacing it with another car.
Get With It, Toyota
I don’t want to steal business from Prius Battery Repair of Houston, but this really is a service Toyota should offer. Toyota sold over 100,000 Prii during the 2005 model year in the United States alone, and every year since then. The hybrid battery pack in 2004 and later Prius models is warranted for only eight years or 100,000 miles (10 years or 150,000 miles in states that have adopted the stricter California emissions control standards), which means there are hundreds of thousands of Prii on the street that are out of warranty and will need the hybrid battery pack replaced.
Because of the warranty, the only people who need to pay out of their pocket to replace the hybrid battery pack are customers with cars that are relatively old, and have over 100,000 or 150,000 miles already. Nobody in their right mind is going to pay Toyota half the value of their used car to replace the hybrid battery pack.
The reality is that there are 28 separate cells in the hybrid battery pack. When the unit starts to fail, only a handful of the individual cells are bad. What Prius Battery Repair of Houston does, and Toyota could do if it wanted to, is replace the bad hybrid battery pack with a reconditioned one to get the customer back on the road. Then, determine which cells are bad, and simply replace the bad battery cells, recondition the battery, and sell it to the next customer.
The individual cells are only about $25 each on the street. If there are four bad cells to replace, it only costs about $100, plus the time to recondition the battery pack, then you turn around and sell it at a $700 profit. I assume the cost of the cells is less for Toyota itself, and there are other costs to factor in like paying the mechanic to swap out the battery, but overall it’s not a bad business model.
Instead of alienating customers by telling them it will cost $3,000-plus to fix the Prius they love, Toyota should be hooking those customers up with reconditioned batteries for $800. With hundreds of thousands of Prii needing the hybrid battery pack replaced each year, we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of revenue for the Toyota service department.
In the meantime, though, if you’re in Texas and your Prius needs the hybrid battery pack replaced, call
(formerly Prius Battery Repair of Houston). You won’t regret it.