Hybrids & Electrics

Why the Second Generation Toyota Prius Is so Good

The Toyota Prius is one of the most well-known hybrid cars on the market. First released in 2001, it still rakes in high sales numbers even in the ever-growing EV segment. A newer Prius will have the most features, like standard Apple CarPlay and all-wheel drive. However, if you want to save some money, a used Prius is still a great option.

Second-generation models are generally regarded as the best by automotive experts. As Tyler Hoover points out, many buyers avoid older Prius cars for fear of a worn-out electric battery. However, it’s difficult to find a used hybrid with the same value and reliability.

The history of the Toyota Prius

The first-generation Toyota Prius hit U.S. lots in 2000. These cars have a 1.5-liter engine capable of 70 hp and an electric motor capable of 33 kilowatts. According to EPA tests, the first-gen Prius gets 42 mpg on city roads and 41 mpg on the highway. At the time, these were impressive numbers for even a small sedan.

The third-generation models got a few much-needed adjustments, like a more powerful engine and standard stability control. It received another major redesign in 2016, adding more upscale interior materials and expanded cargo space. Even today, the Toyota Prius is still one of the most fuel-efficient cars, second only to the Honda Clarity. The 2020 Prius has a combined fuel economy estimate of 52 mpg.

Specs of the second-gen Toyota Prius

A prototype of Toyota Motor Corp.'s fourth-generation Prius hybrid vehicle sits parked ahead of the test drive at the Fuji Speedway
The Toyota Prius badge | Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

This generation of the Toyota Prius has improved fuel economy estimates compared to the first: 48 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on highway roads. It also featured an EV-only driving mode. With this function engaged, the Prius can be driven using just electric power. It wasn’t offered in the U.S. version, but it’s possible to install it with some modifications.

A second-gen Prius still has Hybrid Synergy Drive, which allows the driver to accelerate up to 25 mph before switching back to regular power. Edmunds reported that it’s not the most thrilling driving experience, but it drives excellently as a city commuter car.

While its center stack touchscreen is fairly small, the second-gen Prius still has a lot of useful tech features. Bluetooth, built-in navigation, voice-activated climate control could all be purchased as upgrades. You could even get leather-trimmed seats, a backup camera, and satellite radio. 

How reliable is a second-generation Prius?

The second-gen Prius has an excellent reliability rating from Consumer Reports. With the exception of 2007, each model year has a perfect 5/5 rating. Owner satisfaction ratings are also high for this generation.

It has a good safety rating from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. It comes standard with anti-lock brakes and traction control, while the two higher trims have stability control. While the Prius doesn’t have a sporty nature, its handling is stable and allows drivers to have a smooth, steady ride.

Why it’s a great value

You can expect to pay at least $20,000 when shopping for a new hybrid car. In contrast, a second-gen Prius will only cost around $5,000. Most second-gen Prius car batteries are in great shape – another reason why it’s one of the most reliable used cars.

Battery failure is definitely not impossible, but it’s quite rare for this car. On average, it only costs around $1,000-$2,000 for a new electric battery. While this seems like a steep price, new batteries have a guaranteed lifespan of 8 years, with many lasting for much longer. 

Plus, the cost of a new battery combined with a used Prius is still lower than a new hybrid. The battery doesn’t even have to be replaced immediately as the Prius works just fine on gasoline alone.