Eric’s Story: Buying a Used Hybrid

The thought of buying a used hybrid—which could have batteries that were all “used up”—was never a worry for us. Eric with wife and kids while on a family vacation.

My wife and I just landed our first hybrid—a 2005 Escape. That’s right. We bought a used hybrid. This is the vehicle that I should have bought several years ago.

I’ve had my eye on hybrids for years, ever since I worked as the editor of a military newspaper, where I worked on a section about cars. Again and again, I laid out stories about the new hybrids on the market, but I wanted to buy an American car and no American manufacturers were on the hybrid scene. When our Chrysler Pacifica lease was scheduled to run out in August, I began shopping around the Internet to see what looked good. I definitely wanted a hybrid, but only if our monthly expenses didn’t increase. That’s why I was considering a used vehicle.

The thought of buying a used hybrid—which could have batteries that were all “used up”—was never a worry for us. It was only when we were signing on the dotted line that the dealer raised that concern. I’ll get to that later.

Buying American

The two options for an American hybrid were Saturn and Ford. I really didn’t consider the Saturn Vue Green Line, because General Motor’s hybrid technology is said to be “weak,” unlike the hybrid technology offered by Toyota and Ford. The Saturns use a style of hybrid that only augments the fuel efficiency by a few miles per gallon. An SUV with that sort of technology seemed like a waste to me.

For a while, I focused on the 2007 Aura Green Line. The conventional internal combustion version of the Aura was the 2007 North American Car of the Year. It’s designed by GM’s European Opal group and looks pretty snazzy. The Green Line edition looks exactly the same as the regular Aura, but boasts better fuel economy and lower emissions.

The local Saturn dealers were zero help. I live in Norfolk, Virg., so I contacted Saturn of Virginia Beach and Saturn of Newport News and enquired about a 2007 Aura Green Line. Apparently, neither dealer had ever ordered the 2007 Green Line for their showroom, and offered no help in finding one. I guess they didn’t want to sell a car, huh?

The Newport News dealer suggested that I come test drive a standard Aura. I told them that it was silly for me to test a non-hybrid Aura when I had my heart set on the hybrid.

I used the web to find some other Saturn dealers, and I finally found a dealer in Harrisonburg, Virg. who wanted to play ball. A salesperson there called around and found an Aura Green Line in Bowie, Mary. He said that he could have it delivered to his dealership if I’d like to see it.

Then we started discussing price. GM had been advertising a deal for the Aura. Some sort of great financing deal or under $250 a month for a lease—but that was only good for the non-hybrid model.

Moving on to Ford

I called a Ford dealer in Williamsburg, Virginia. They had a used 2006 Escape Hybrid with 36,000 miles, leather interior, moon roof, and all the bells and whistles for a mere $26,900. Sort of steep, as you can almost buy a brand new Escape Hybrid for that much.

I was just about to call a friend whose brother works at a Honda dealer to get more information about the Accord Hybrid—when Ford started running television ads for a Fusion leasing for $225 a month. That got me thinking about the Fusion Hybrid, which is not available until 2008. I emailed a Norfolk Ford dealer and asked about that lease. I thought that perhaps I could lease a standard Fusion for one year and then upgrade it when the hybrid model debuts. On a whim, I asked the salesperson if he had any used hybrid Escapes. Bingo! They had a 2005 Escape with 40,000 miles for less than $18,000.

A day or so later, we test drove it and wrote a check for the down payment and drove it home. We purchased an extended three-year warranty from Ford through the dealer, because the original warranty had expired.

Before we finished up the paperwork, the financing manager pointed out that Ford guaranteed the hybrid batteries’ life for 10 years. I hadn’t considered a failed battery as an issue, but knowing that the warranty covered the batteries allowed me to breathe easier.

Whew. We finally made it into a hybrid.

Epilogue

We have been really enjoying our Escape Hybrid. My wife takes our children to and from their preschool and attempts to drive “electrically” the entire way, given the Escape’s ability to run only on its motors when you drive under 25 miles per hour. Of course, if you smash the gas down, then the engine will kick in, but otherwise you’ll hear the sound of a golf cart and the peace of mind that we’re not polluting as we go from preschool to grocery store.

My wife’s criteria for the right car was whether the double stroller could fit into the back—and it fits comfortably in the Ford Escape Hybrid. We removed the luggage rack from the top of the vehicle, to allow for better aerodynamic and reduce the weight for better gas mileage. This change, and driving carefully, is working. Check out this comparison between the Ford Escape Hybrid and our previous car:

2003 Chrysler Pacifica, six-cylinder automatic
Average Fuel Economy: 15 mpg
Normal fill-up costs: More than $60 per tank—premium fuel required.

2005 Ford Escape Hybrid, four-cylinder automatic
Average Fuel Economy: 30+ mpg
Normal fill up costs: About $30 per tank, with regular unleaded

So we’re getting twice the miles, from half the cost. Not too shabby. Have there been any surprises since we bought the car? Only one. When we were first cleaning out the vehicle, I found a discarded Sugar Daddy in one of the rear doors.

Eric Pesola is a writer and graphic designer living in Norfolk, Virginia.


  • J. Johnson

    That is a great story, Eric. I really haven’t heard much about an issue with batteries being used up, so if anyone knows where I can learn more about that I’d appreciate help. Also, do other hybrid suv models give you the ability to drive slowly and not have to use the gas engine? Lastly, does anyone have any recommendations as to how I should begin my research for a low mileage, used hybrid suv? Doesn’t seem like there are many out there yet, so maybe owners generally keep them longer.

  • Tim Fostik

    I still think American Hybrids are simply there to save face. You adequately pointed out the Saturn’s ‘me too’ hybrid technology, which is important to recognize. The SULEV/PZEV emissions are what is attractive with the Ford Hybrid, which equal those of the Prius and Civic Hybrid. That said, the anemic effort of Ford to build any other viable Hybrid in nearly a decade since their emergence into the market is pathetic.

    Chevy is working on the Volt. If Ford can whip up an all-electric SUV, at an affordable price and with modern features, the American automotive spirit may indeed be alive and well again.

    The real losers of Ford’s failed business strategies continue to be the American workers. Let’s put these good people to work building something clean for a change.

    Your hybrid is certainly a good first step.

    Tim Fostik
    Editor, PQL Blog
    http://www.pqlresearch.com/WordPress

  • Lois Ann Zendarski

    I have wanted a hybrid as well. I looked at the Toyota Prius only to find that it did not fit my family of 5! It was also about $7000 more than I could afford.
    We opted to purchase a 2004 SCION XB. This car not only has room for 5, and headroom for a Stetson, it gets 32-36 mpg. A fill up is about $25 at 2.77 a gallon. (which is what I paid last week)
    It is easy to handle, and the most fun since my Chevy Chevette in college.
    I never thought I’d purchase anything that was not American made, but I cannot fault this car’s quality and workmanship.
    Enjoy your Ford hybrid.

  • Watts
  • John Acheson

    Could you expand on your leasing experience?

    What about fleet financing?

    Any good banks you can think of that will finance or lease hybrids to a small business?

  • Anonymous

    I would like to purchase the new Ford Escape Hybrid the 2008 model.
    But I live in Puerto Rico, and because of the different taxes that apply the vehicles price goes up about 10,000 dollars.
    I just think that robbery and I’m not willing to pay that much.
    Looking into a used hybrid is a very good suggestion. thanx

  • Kelly Clancy

    Buying a used one from a location in Florida is a good option………used price and vehicle shipping to PR is only about $2000.

  • Leona Lane

    Oh, Eric….what succulence! I think Hydrids are very daring and above all economical. Wonder what the gov’t will come up with next to surpress the surpluss of hybrids on the market. Just like oil, they will get their hands in on it some how. Personally, I like old beefy Fords, driven by Elvis impersonators who wear toupees!Mmm, mmm, mmm. Better yet, LTD’s, lemon yellow.

  • Reds Cocklerner

    I bougt a used hybrid from Eric and it was very unreliable. The word “Goobers” was written in the dash with some psychodelic crayon. He put mag wheels on it and had a boom box w/2 speakers for a radio. I realize the economy is bad but COME ON brother! I also did not like Eric’s choice of shoewear in the picture. It screams “farakhan” and we can’t have that.

  • Luthor Bowells

    Great article Eric Pesola. You are really informative and I really dig the family photo. Is that you and your mother, wife & sister? How is the size though, of the interior, adaptable to the standard comfort level for a family of 4? I really have to say that my first thought about a hybrid was bent, twisted. I really thought they would end up being like the electric cars of the 70′s. But no, they are very style oriented. Much like the Pacer’s dome effect, my audi “schnietzen” is fantastic on ecology and enviromental impacts. The Schneitzen if also user friendly with pop up mirrors and adjustable side panels.

  • Clara Peniston

    I bought a hybrid after reading this article, last week. I am blow away by the truth of Mr. Pesola’s frankness. I didn’t go with the Ford, I chose the AMC. I like the hydrofoil effect, it’s most exciting when doing 60mph. Good luck to all who purchase them.

    PS. The only concern I had about the Ford was the manuals were all written in Farsi? What’s up with that? Aren’t we boycotting Iranian products?

  • Shannaka H. Brown

    I bought a used hybrid and it was a great buy. Other then the stereo system, everything was right on track. I need the savings to better my lifestyle and it has paid off now. Savings of $650 first 3 months in fuel was amazing. Being an adult entertainer has its limits but being in a hybrid makes me happy.

  • Melissa

    I’m still stuck on the part about the Chrysler Pacifica getting 15mpg.

    Why in the world would anyone ever buy a car with that kind of gas mileage? Even if gasoline were 50 cents a gallon, why would someone want something so wasteful?

    Shame on manufacturers for even producing vehicles like that and shame on people for driving them.

    Seriously… it boggles the mind.

  • jayabaya

    I think hybrid cars will be the future of car choice, safe and environmentally friendly, of course, many people who enjoy such a model

  • hybrid cars

    I often use Craigslist as a place of promotion used cars. Very effective. Hybrid can find cheap used cars there. No doubt the Craigslist has many takers for used cars buyers. Craigslist is the brother of ebay, from there you can find cheap used cars. This site is very reliable
    http://usedhybridcarsunder5000.blogspot.com/

  • Justin Erickson

    I agree Craigslist is the best place to buy or sell a car. Another great way to save energy is to make your own. Look at this website http://www.elitehybridcars.com/alternative-energy-news.html You can make your own energy.

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    hmmm this makes me want to have a Hybrid car even more :)

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