// Maintenance costs
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  1. #1

    Maintenance costs

    Hi everyone, a colleague of mine told me that the savings that are presumably accrued following the purchase of a hybrid vehicle wouldn't be realized for at least 10 yrs post-purchase. He also informed me of an article in the New Yorker (???) that noted the increased maintenance costs for hybrids, including the need to purchase a new electric motor a few years down the road. I'm still trying to get a copy of this article from him but I was hoping the discussion group had some insight into this issue. As it stands, the hybrid is still more expensive than the standard configuration for the same vehicle (e.g., ESCAPE). I imagine that IF an electric motor needs to be changed every 5 yrs, the total cost of regular gas engine and electric motor maintenance (which is quite high already at the dealerships and I don't know if MIDAS can take care of a hybrid) will be absolutely prohibitive for middle class families.

    Any ideas on this?

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  3. #2

    Maintenance costs

    First, the electric motor thing.... never heard that. And whoever said that is talking out their backside, because the very first hybrids are only a few years old (and have not had problems of this nature). Besides, the electric/hybrid parts are covered by a great warranty: for my Escape Hybrid, it's 8yrs/100Kmiles OR 10yrs/150Kmiles if you're in a green state!

    The initial outlay is a few thousand more, however you should check your state's tax incentives. Here in NY, I was able to basically get the FEH for the same price as a conventional Escape since I get the $2000 Fed deduction, a $2000 state credit, and exemption on $3000 of sales tax.

    Savings in gas will depend on how much you drive, as well as gas prices.

    Maintenance is an issue, and for most things I would go with the dealer since other mechanics just don't have a clue about the hybrids, and could really do some damage. Even things that seem unrelated to the hybrid system can be crucial, as so much of the vehicle is integrated with the system. That said, hybrids in general have proven quite reliable, and service intervals are quite long - first service/oil change on my FEH is at 10K miles.

    One more point... many people buying/driving hybrids are not doing it to save money. There are lots of other reasons, such as reducing emissions, reducing usage/dependence on oil, etc.

  4. #3

    Maintenance costs

    Rhoel, most of the things your colleague mentions are either misconceptions or urban myths. In my experience, I usually hear them from my monster-SUV-driving friends, and I have come to believe that at least part of the reason they repeat these falsehoods is to make themselves feel better about driving a gas-guzzler.

    Dispelling some of the untruths:

    - no, you don't need to replace the electric motor
    - no, you don't need a special mechanic to service the car
    - no, the EMT rescuers won't refuse to help you, because the car is a hybrid
    - no, the batteries will not create more of an environmental mess than they cure
    - no, maintenance is not significantly more expensive than for a non-hybrid

    Regarding the extra cost of the hybrid:

    - they say it will probably take about 100,000 miles to recover the hybrid premium via gas savings. However, there are federal and state incentives that will go a long way towards reducing that hybrid premium, so the real time is probably less.

    Then you should also consider the global advantages of buying a hybrid:

    - reduce US dependence on foreign oil
    - promote a technology which can help get the world out from under dependence on fossil fuels
    - reduce emissions and help the environment

    The question I ask myself is: "is the $1500 premium I spend on the hybrid, worth it because of the advantages just listed?" For me the answer was yes.

  5. #4

    Maintenance costs

    For me it was for the savings.

    I drive about 500 miles a week and I try to keep my cars for 10 years, that's alot of miles.

    When I bought my 04HCH I figured that I would get that $1 premium back within 5 years in gas savings and tax incentives, as the MPG is 10-15 better than its regular cousin the Civic EX.

    That was 41K miles and 18 months ago and I've already erased the premium.

    Personally, I wouldn't buy a hybrid car if:
    1. My sole motive is to save money in gas savings and plan a short 3-5 year ownership:
    2. Have a need for speed, to be the first one up front in a pack of cars:
    3. Not willing to do much in the way of learning how to drive for efficiency. Just gas and go.

    The MPG swing on the hybrid cars are much greater than regular ones given poor driving habits vs good driving habits and conditions. The difference is greater than 40MPG.

    Back to maintenance-
    Vastly speaking it is no different than any other regular car.
    There is a difference however in my case, as I'll likely exceed 320,000 miles over the 10 years.

    Sometime along the way the battery will likely become "flat" and useless. What will I do then because the warranty expires at 150K miles?

    If this happens with an HCH it essentially becomes a regular car. It would be slightly underpowered but completely drivable and still get great MPG.

    If I need a new battery at....say:
    (a)150-250K miles I'd likely look for guaranteed used or rebuilt packs at a discount. These are already showing up. The latest posted Honda new battery replacement last year was $2,100 after 130K miles on his used car at Insight Central.
    He ended up buying a good used pack for much less and had Honda technicians replace it.
    (b)250K miles and up I'd just drive it like she is.

    Toyota uses a different technology in their hybrid cars and if the battery goes bad it requires replacement. Period. This was a big factor in my choosing my HCH given my expectancy of +320K miles.
    I'm not saying one car is better than the other in this regard...except in my situation.

  6. #5

    Maintenance costs

    This is going in the direction I want to ask about. What about replacement cost on a new battery when the old one goes "flat"? Does anyone know when it will go "flat"? I want to buy a hybrid, but I want a good value, too. I'm likely to drive 150,000 and 10 years on this car. The HCH battery is warrantied for 8yrs/80K, and the Prius's is 8yrs/100K. The HCH battery is $3,300 to replace and the Prius's is $8,000! If I get to year 80K or 100K (year 5-7 by my driving) and this battery konks then I'm stuck with a HUGE repair! I've been "reassured" that the battery will last the life of the car. But if that's so, then why aren't they warrantied as such. It has taken me a lot just to get straight answers on the above questions. Noone seems to want to talk about this.

  7. #6

    Maintenance costs

    If the battery does die out of warranty, by that time, I imagine that battery technology would have reached a point where a replacement would be quite cheap (and probably much better)... or you might be able to find a reasonable replacement on the used parts market.

  8. #7

    Maintenance costs

    I believe the Prius battery is made up of tubes of regular "D" size NiMH cells so when there are lots of Prii out there needing new batteries I'm sure there will be some choice of options, it's not some exotic piece that would be available only from Toyota.

    We've seen rechargeable batteries come down in price & up in capacity so I'm counting on battery replacement by the time I need it being reasonably affordable.

    The routine maintenance as far as I can see should be no worse than regular cars. My Prius is not quite up to the 10,000k service so I'm going on Toyotas published prices. However I've seen some horror stories of crash repair on the Prius where the effect on the Hybrid system is unclear, or extraordinary measures have to be taken to protect the extensive electronics from electrical welding.

  9. #8

    Maintenance costs

    Prius I and Escape Hybrid both use "D" cells. The current Prius uses a special design cell that has higher density (I believe they are trapezoidal shaped cells?).

    The batteries are really "babied" in that they are never allowed to run totally flat or ever charged to their full design capacity. This greatly enhances their lifespan. Apparently some early-model manual trans Insights didn't protect the battery from being run flat and Honda ended up having to replace some batteries prematurely.

    Toyota has done lab tests simulating 180,000 miles without appreciable deterioration of the battery, and last I'd heard has yet to replace a battery pack in a Prius.

    The battery can safely be considered a lifetime installation.

    By comparison, anyone who has had to replace a modern automatic transmission in a conventional car knows just how expensive repairs can be (hint $3K is not unusual for a remanufactured transmission these days). PSD based hybrids like Toyota and Ford don't have that particular item.

  10. #9

    Maintenance costs

    I am considering the purchase of an '04 Honda Civic Hybrid. The girl that owns it has been told by the dealer that every other oil service there is another "inspection" type service that checks the brakes...at $150.
    I have not heard this before. Has anyone else had heard of this?

  11. #10

    Maintenance costs

    I own 2003 and 2004 Honda Civic Hybrids. My 2003 had its front brakes replaced at 60,000 miles. But other than that I've never had any specific expense associated with the brakes. (I get serviced every 3750 miles.) That $150 charge you mention is bogus - or else some enterprising dealer has established a con game (which is not out of the question).

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