Tips, Tricks & Trends

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

Toyota’s 2005 Prius is the ideal car if you’re in the market for a used car on a tight budget. Traditionally, there were two things to think about when you were in the market for a used car — cost and reliability.

A third thing has poked its nose into the mix in recent years — sustainability. There are a couple of factors driving the sustainability thing: a desire to reduce the carbon footprint on the high-minded side, and a desire to fill up for less on the practical side. 

Pros for the 2005 Toyota Prius

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Consumer Reports names the 2005 Prius as one of their best buys under $5,000. This kind of budget doesn’t leave a lot of room for style and flash, but that’s not the typical Prius buyer anyway. What the 2005 Prius does get you is a solidly reliable car with a low operating cost. 

This car rolls along with a strong 44 mpg overall, but that’s just with the gasoline engine running — it runs at slow in-town speeds on electric power alone. 

2005 Toyota Prius owners — a whopping 85%–are pretty happy with their choice, and 88% would buy the car again. Toyota has a reputation for building some of the safest cars on the road, and they don’t sacrifice that standard for size and sustainability.

The 2005 Prius scored 4 out of 5 stars on NHTSA crash tests. A genius move by Toyota was building a small hybrid with a body style that would go from odd to iconic in one generation.

Even a loaded Prius is low on flash and long on practicality — almost like a Volvo. Prius owners don’t care; they’re happy with the spaceship body style, roomy interior, and high-quality cabin features. 

Cons for the Prius

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Now for the downside of the 2005 Toyota Prius. Mechanically, there really aren’t any. The car is safe, reliable, and cheap to drive — with current gas prices you can fill up the tank for about as much as you’ll pay for a Starbucks Venti.

One relatively minor trouble spot has popped up — excessive oil consumption with high mileage, according to CarTalk. Changing the oil at short intervals, like every 5,000 miles — seems to solve that problem. 

The 12% of Prius owners who would not buy another one mostly have issues with comfort and handling. With an acceleration score of 53/100, it’s not zippy.

This isn’t a worry tootling around town but makes merging onto an interstate at 60 mph a bit unnerving. Traction is another concern. The car is lightweight and not great in wet or icy conditions. It’s not likely you’ll find factory tires on a 2005 Prius, but replacing the original size tire with one a couple of inches wider solves some traction problems. ESC was not available on the Prius until 2007. 

Road noise is another problem for some owners, as is cabin comfort on long trips. The 2005 Toyota Prius is roomy in the back for a car its size, but the seats are not supportive enough to compensate for the rough ride.

Should I buy a 2005 Toyota Prius?

A 2005 Toyota Prius on a test drive
A person taking a Toyota Prius on a test drive | David Paul Morris/Getty Images

The average price for a 2005 Prius is $4,375, per Consumer Reports. If you’re looking for a second car, one for a new driver, or one for short-range in town driving, it’s hard to beat the Prius.

The Prius was not built for cross-country road trips, off-roading, or anything glitzy, so if you’re into a blinged-up high ride, keep going. If you’re into safety, reliability, and a low operating cost, the Prius is for you.

Before you commit to buying one, check the maintenance and service records — spend the $39.99 on your own Carfax if the seller doesn’t have one. Have a Toyota hybrid mechanic test drive the car. The powertrain in a hybrid is different and requires hybrid expertise.