We have already tested the Toyota Prius models in previous articles, but these were fairly new vehicles with low mileage. There has always been some speculation as to how these battery/gas hybrid machines will hold up over the long haul. So, to get an idea, I went down to the local car rental agency and found one.
Why a rental car? Well, for one, it enabled me to find one with some miles on the clock, just over 47,000. Also keep in mind that rental vehicles are rarely maintained (if at all) and certainly abused by minimum-wage employees and uncaring renters. Usually by the 20,000 mile mark, they are unfit for service and dumped at auction to shady used-car dealers who pawn them off to “pay by the week” victims. So, in terms of wear and tear, the 47k mileage of this Prius is equal to 120k on a normal one-owner rig.
The first thing I noticed on my first drive was a slight reduction in acceleration times, indicating some wear in the battery unit. In all fairness, it was only slight and I noticed it because I have driven plenty of Prius models. I don’t think the average driver would notice. At least the gas mileage had not dropped. The trip computer showed an average of 43 mpg from the previous driver. I commuted in heavy city traffic with outside temps of over 100 degrees, which showed 34 mpg, which is typical.
In my other driving, I was surprised there were no rattles or unusual noises that are typical on a rental with high miles. Then again, this is a Toyota, so perhaps I shouldn’t be. It was obvious the suspension was worn out, but the ride was still bearable, although the handling was slightly wobbly. I think I could have taken a trip without worrying. Too bad I couldn’t get the strange smells out of the interior; it appears this company had no rules about smoking in their vehicles. But, overall, I was impressed that a car could take all this hard use and still be solid enough to keep going. This should be good news for Prius owners.
Since I had completed this test on our Prius, I traded it for a Toyota Camry rental car with just under 15,000 miles. I could tell by the small dents and scratches this one had been subjected to a hard life as well. It had the smaller 4-cyclinder engine, which still ran fine, but gas mileage was only 21 average, compared to the V-6 models that get 20.
I drove this one around for about a week and aside from a trashed interior (from rental abuse – all the parts were still holding together though), this car was very solid and fit to drive. I figure the wear and tear factor would be about 40k, so it did give me some idea on how Toyota vehicles hold up for the long haul. Consumer data already shows this, but it helps to get a real car and see for yourself. I think this is why many fleets are switching from other brands to Toyota. They cost more to put in a fleet, but save money down the road. Take note!