Earlier I wrote about my driving experience with Toyota Prius. In that article I wrote about buying a low mileage clean Prius but one should be careful and exercise all sorts of caution while going to buy it however, people weren’t still sure about the process as many people messaged me asking to explain about how to buy a clean Prius in detail. And I have happily obliged.
So you’ve decided to buy a Prius. You might have owned many cars in the past, but nothing even close to the Prius. There are 2 sources to get a Prius:
A) Car Dealers/Showrooms.
B) Directly from a home.
My advice will be that you prefer buy a Prius being used in a home. Why? Because an overwhelming majority of dealers (Not everyone though) import High mileage and/or accident-ed Prius and after giving some cosmetic upgrades and reversing meters, they present you these cars as “Total Genuine, very less driven”. They do so because it offers them a high profit margin, at the cost of your money ofcourse. But once you’ve bought it, you will be stuck with a vehicle that will give you nightmares during daytime as well. There are good car dealers as well, but their numbers are very few and majority of dealers will not recommend you to visit them by saying “They charge too high!”. Still good dealers do exist, but are a rare sight. Anyways, buying from a Dealer or a Home, create a check-list with the following things a must to check:
This is a car’s equivalent to Book of deeds a.k.a “Amaal naama” in which everything good or bad about the car is written down to the smallest detail. Sadly very few people actually know that an Auction sheet exists, and they don’t ask the seller to provide it to them before purchase, much to the joy of people willing to rip-off buyers. This is to show you what an auction sheet of a Prius looks like:
Except for a few numbers, nothing makes sense. But I found some pictures on the internet and on Pakwheels forums as well which will make things crystal clear to you about the auction sheet. Have a look at the explanatory image:
Now I think things will start to make sense for the common buyer. On the top right you; will see Auction grade, it ranges from 1 (worst) to 5 (Best). Just below the Auction grade, you will see Interior grade as well, from D (Worst) to A (Best)
Furthermore, the following chart will clarify each grade level:
The auction sheet also highlights the treatment to the vehicle’s body. For more clarification, here is a chart to understand the signs made around the body of the vehicle on the sheet:
My advice would be, don’t go for a car which is rated below Grade 4 overall and Grade B for interior. Also if the car is imported fresh, the same auction sheet can be verified online by going to auction house website, or you can even ask Pakwheelers at the Prius Fan Club on Pakwheels’ forums.
After all this information, do ask for auction sheet from people and if seller is hesitant or not providing you an auction sheet, then the probability of the car being tampered goes very high.
Now that we’ve covered asking for auction sheet? What is next?
This is a simple area for people now. Just get an experienced Denter/Painter with you to check the body/paint work. The front/back of the vehicle should be clean as to have a surety that the hybrid/Battery area of the car remains original. Do check for original Toyota label on every glass panel as well.
Just the petrol engine is like any other engine. You can easily get it inspected by a experienced mechanic who can give you his feedback about engine health. A word of caution: DO NOT touch Hybrid synergy system or wires when car is turned on, it can result in a fatal electric shock!
This is where the tricky part starts which very few people know. Please check the following things:
1. Start the vehicle, when it starts, it will be quiet for a while, then most probably the petrol engine will kick in to warm up and after about two minutes, it will shift again to electric motor provided A/C + lights, etc are off. After this period, the car being in Parking mode, press the accelerator and the petrol engine will once again start till your foot is on the accelerator. Do this procedure a few times, and notice the vibration while sitting. Is it less or too much to ignore? A Healthy Prius will get a slight shiver when petrol engine starts whereas a car with trouble in the hybrid synergy system will give you a noticeable jolt. Also open the Hood, and listen for a voice. Whenever petrol engine kicks in, is it just the voice of the engine?…A faulty system will give a noticeable “Takk” sound below the engine every time it shifts from electric to petrol.
2. Drive the vehicle on a light foot (and depending on battery charge) this car will never shift to petrol till 40-70 Km/h. A faulty vehicle, even with the slightest push on accelerator, shifts to Petrol, Meaning that the hybrid system is somewhat not performing to desired levels. Even when moving, observe the switch from electric to petrol mode, it should not be much noticeable and car should not shake to uncomfortable levels.
3. Drive the vehicle in EV (Electric only mode) if available, or on a light foot. On a full charge, the car must drive at least 3 km (4-5 preferred) Km before the battery depletes and petrol engine kicks in to regenerate it. If the car does not even manage 1 Km, then we have an issue with the battery capacity.
4. Start the car and let it idle after the petrol engine shuts down. If no electricity demanding thing (A/c, lights, Sound) is on, the charge level should remain constant for a while. In Prius’s with weaker batteries, the charge level falls very quickly, even when its output is 0.
5. The car when running on petrol, or decelerating, charges the battery, which is a gradual process. In winters If A/C is not on, it takes about 10-15 minutes to fully charge the battery and in summers when A/C is on, it will take 30 minutes or more to charge the battery. If the battery charges and discharges very quickly, again we have a problem with the battery.
6. When the car is idling, shift gears from P->N, N->D, D->R and randomly. A good transmission will change gears without any vibration or noise from engine, whereas a faulty one will let you know itself.
Last, and the most important criteria; take the Prius to Toyota motors (with a decent workshop). There are many advantages to you by going to one; firstly, some dealers won’t agree to it, and most probably, because they have something to hide. If you take a Prius there, and they hook it up with their diagnostic tool, it can give you a wide variety of valuable information. For example, it will most probably give you an error message (if the software of Prius is tampered to alter ODO meter reading). It can also tell status of many other things like A/C, Airbags condition (Faulty Airbag may mean they have been deployed due to accident), etc etc. Their mechanic can also check engine health and body condition for you and let you know their comments. Prius has been officially released here so trust me when I say this; Toyota mechanics know how to check a Prius. It will cost a few thousand Rupees, but buying a car worth lacs and avoiding fraud, there should be no hesitation in going there for a pre-purchase check-up.
If some people have a hard time understanding these checks, they can see a Prius owned by a friend or family member. Drive it and apply these checks to the vehicle to establish a baseline. Then they will be in a better position to judge the condition of other Prius.
Read a detailed account of Prius test drive here: Car ownership diaries: Driving a Toyota Prius in Pakistan