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The all-new Toyota Prius won the hearts and minds of regular owners, enthusiasts, and malcontents alike. But not everyone wants to dump $30,000 into a new hybrid sedan, and some are ferrying their luck on the used market. Despite its hypermiling capabilities, how does the 2005 Toyota Prius stack up? If you’re willing to overlook one quite annoying issue, it could prove to be quite a reliable car.

Headlights with a mind of their own

Hundreds of Prius owners have complained about malfunctioning headlights. A majority of owners’ entries on CarComplaints report headlights “randomly” turning on and off while driving. Many claim that the bulbs in the exterior lights burned out far faster than under normal conditions, speculating that the plastic bulb enclosure overheats. At least 348 complaints were filed through the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration), which included the headlights, brake lights, and fog lights.

In 2005, Toyota released several technical service bulletins aimed at various electrical systems. While none addressed the lights, it’s important to note that almost all complaints about the 2005 Toyota Prius’ lighting issues come well after 100,000 miles.

Regarding the 2005 Toyota Prius, headlight grievances outnumber the number two complaint—slight engine efficiency drops—by a factor of five to one. Given the approximately $550 cost of repairing the headlights, potential buyers could hedge their bets with an ’05 Prius. It’s far easier on one’s bank account than most other cars. But does it have any other hidden gremlins?

2005 Toyota Prius common problems

The 2005 Toyota Prius has wonky headlights
2005 Toyota Prius | Toyota

While the 2005 Toyota Prius is generally considered a reliable car, there are a few common problems—other than the headlights—that owners have reported. Some include:

  • Hybrid battery failure
  • Inverter failure
  • Brake actuator failure
  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Power steering failure
  • Dashboard display issues

Given that the Prius is a Toyota, repairs are generally on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. But RepairPal asserts the most expensive repair by far is the two-part catalytic converter, which could run owners over $2,100. Fortunately, some of the above issues were handled through government recalls.

NHTSA recalls

A 2005 Toyota Prius on a test drive
2005 Toyota Prius | David Paul Morris via Getty Images

The NHTSA recalled the 2005 Toyota Prius six times. And they were for fairly major mechanical faults.

According to the government agency, “the intermediate shaft and sliding yoke in the electric power steering system can crack.” The wear-and-tear of daily driving would also expose insufficient spline hardness in the system, which also warranted a recall. Apart from a weak airbag inflator, an incorrect load-carrying capacity label, and a wonky water pump wire, the only other recall amended problems with pedal entrapment.  

It’s also important to note that recalls are a normal part of a car’s lifespan and are fixed at dealerships for free. But if you’re looking to pick up a 2005 Toyota Prius, ensure you obtain proper repair documentation to be safe.

Is the 2005 Toyota Prius a reliable car?

The 2005 Toyota Prius is an excellent used car
2005 Toyota Prius | Toyota

The 2005 Toyota Prius is exceedingly reliable. Even though higher mileage cars have their complaints, they are still minimal. But the odometer numbers speak for themselves.

iSeeCars analyzed over two million vehicles on the road that were in production for at least 10 of the last 20 model years. The automotive research agency found that at least 1% of all Prii can reach 250,601 miles. Only big three-row SUVs can beat it in longevity. With its 1.5-liter gas-electric hybrid drivetrain, it may not provide much performance enthusiasm, but it will offer savings with nearly 50 mpg.


Now’s the Right Time to Buy a Used 2005 Toyota Prius for Under $5,000