Hot Car for Summer: Used Toyota Prius

The 2011 Toyota Prius has been a big-seller so far this year. Sales are up 51.5 percent in the first three months of 2011.

Rising gas prices will put the quintessential hybrid in even greater demand. Since the end of March, the national average price at the pump jumped from $3.53 a gallon to $3.87. It could be a matter of weeks before the national average crosses $4. (It’s already $4.21 on average in California.)

Just as consumers start making a mad dash to a Toyota dealership to buy a Prius, the available inventory of new models is shrinking—due to supply disruptions caused by the March earthquake in Japan. Automakers say their Japanese plants are operating at only 50 percent of usual capacity.

This means high demand and low supply. The Wall Street Journal reported that most of the cars heading to dealers “are spoken for and those that aren’t are often snapped up as soon as they arrive at dealerships.” Dealerships that usually stock about 30 Priuses are now suddenly reduced to a handful of new models, and one or two used cars. Trim packages and color choices are limited.

The result is a return of waiting lists for the 50-mpg Prius, and car buyers scrambling over to the used lot to see what’s available. The extra demand for used Priuses has bumped the average price of a pre-owned Prius from $16,883 in January to $19,376 today, according to TrueCar.com.

The vicissitudes of supply, demand, and gas prices can result in higher or lower Prius values for any brief period of time, but the larger trends were established well before the current run on gas prices. Jonathan Banks, executive auto analyst for the NADA used car guide, said that used Priuses have gained 38 percent in value from 2006 to 2009.


  • Daniel O

    unleaded gas in Chicago is averaging between 4.30 – 4.55….So we are already well above four dollars and closer to $4.50 for unleaded gas.

  • Jim Jones

    I love my 2010 Prius III. Most people at my job made fun of me for buying it when the price of gas was still around 2.50-2.75 gallon here but now everyone wants one and are having a hard time finding one in this area.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ Daniel,

    In a far northern suburb of Chicago I paid $4.45 for the cheap stuff. Every gas station in the area by me has it for no less than $4.44. Absolutely ridiculous considering that oil is only $112 a barrel and when it was $147 a barrel I still paid about the same as I did yesterday. Seems to be very little correlation between oil and the price of gas nowadays.

    Anyway, I’m most certainly glad that I have a Prius. It’s a 2nd gen, but it’s getting me 48.8 mpg.

    On the plus side I’m happy to see that my Prius’s resale is up. Or should I say that it’s depreciation has slowed greatly?

    I’ve recently thought about going into a Chevy dealership to fake an interest in buying a new car to see what kind of reaction I would get when they find out that I want to trade in a fairly loaded Prius with average miles. I would do it under the guise of wanting to be “patriotic” and buying an “American” car. Maybe do it when there are a lot of people around and make it known that I have a Prius I’d like to sell. See what kinds of reactions I get. lol! It might be funny to see.

  • Nelson Lu

    Capt. Concernicus, perhaps you should go there with an open mind and take a look at the Volt. What you would get is a nicer and more powerful car that uses less gas (assuming that your regular commute is within its optimal range, not necessarily within its electricity range). (Of course, it is also a lot more expensive, but you’d have to weigh the benefits and detriments for yourself.)

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ Nelson Lu,

    Not to be rude or anything, but to pay mid to high $30k for the Volt (after rebate) when I already have a fairly loaded Prius that averages 48.8 mpg does not make sense financially. The payoff of the Volt over my Prius would be way out in the future. If I were in the market in a year or two I would most likely lean towards the plug-in Prius anyway. However I’m not in the market for a new car and I’m very happy with the Prius I’m driving now.

  • BoilerCivicHy

    Nelson is obviously not living in the real world. To ever compare the Volt and the Prius to a consumer is riddiculous. I can get a prius for about 25K, a Volt is about 40K. A Prius has a proven track record, the Volt is first generation and will probably be full of bugs like most American first gen cars. Sorry I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to buy American, and when an American car company finally starts paying attention to what consumers want in this market, then I will buy American. Until then, its Toyota or Honda. And before anyone says anything, I would love to have a Fusion too, but sorry I cannot afford better than 30K for a second car either.

  • indigo

    For people who don’t need to keep up with the Joneses, there’s always the Insight-2, CRZ, and Fusion Hybrid. Just say “no” to Prius markups!

  • Nelson Lu

    BPPHybrid, unless you plan to violate the law by not filing a tax return, the price of the Volt is not $41K, but $33.5K.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ Indigo,

    You must have missed the $20k mark up on the Volt by a Chevy dealership in Florida. Mark ups aren’t just on the Prius. Two things have combined to make the Prius and OTHER hybrids more expensive than usual. Lack of parts because of the Japanese earthquake and high gas prices have driven up demand for these cars. You should have bought a Prius or other hybrid before this all happened. It just happens that the Prius is the most wanted of all hybrids (supply and demand).

    @ Nelson,

    The sticker price of the Volt is between $41k and $44k. Compare apples to apples, that is sticker price to sticker price. Not sticker price (Prius) to after rebate price (Volt). A fully loaded Volt will cost you $44k vs. a fully loaded plug in Prius for $34k. How long will it take you to make up that $10k difference? Probably longer than you’ll own the Volt for.

  • indigo

    I’ve never owned a Prius. There have been three times in my life where I tried to get one. All three times, the answer from the dealer was “kiss my ass really sincerely, pay me an extra five grand, and you can pick up your car in three months.”

    Compare that to Honda, which went “here’s your $3,000 discount. Your car will be ready in 45 minutes.”

  • walter lee

    I bought the 2010 Prius during the “Runaway Toyota” incident just after Toyota was turned into a punching bag for Congress and there was a surplus of hybrids on the dealer’s lot… 2010 Prius II started at $20K and 2010 Prius III started at $22K. It has taken me about over a year to learn how to hypermile but now I sometimes get +70 mpg (when there little or no traffic AND when the temperatures is over 65 F). My total overall fuel efficiency for 11.8k miles is 58.6 mpg. The Prius is not as nicely appointed as the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. My cousin’s got a Ford Fusion Hybrid and it’s dashboard is way way nicer than the Prius’s —- but the Prius beats the Fusion Hybrid’s in MPG.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ Indigo,

    Three times? That sounds kind of weird, but okay. Sounds like you were trying to buy one when the gas prices were high and there was limited supply of the Prius. Particularly in 2008.

    However, I’m glad that you were able to get a Honda. It’s a good car for sure. Is it a hybrid?

  • Indigo

    Capt:
    Yup! I got an Insight-II. I routinely get 50 MPG. I love it! And I got it for $17,588.

  • orhanyasarcelik

    this is a good new for users, i also think to sell mines. its good

  • ufere orji samuel

    toyota avansis

  • tapra1

    Automakers say their Japanese plants are operating at only 50 percent of usual capacity.TuxNews

  • tapra1

    eported that most of the cars heading to deale