/ Motoring

Don’t be hesitant about hybrid car reliability

Hybrid car logo

It’s claimed that hybrid cars are greener, more fuel efficient, viable alternatives to normal petrol and diesel cars. But are drivers right to fear potentially astronomical repair costs of battery components?

More manufacturers are turning to hybrid power as part of ongoing efforts to improve mpg figures and reduce emissions. Hybrids – cars powered by a conventional petrol or diesel engine and supplemented by a battery-powered electric motor – are becoming more commonplace on our roads as a result.

But anxiety over battery-pack lifespans and the potential costs of replacing them have left some prospective buyers nervous.

And it’s no surprise when you start scouring the internet for indications of how much a replacement battery will cost. For the Toyota Prius, a suggested bill of around £2,000 for a new battery and fitting is enough to make anyone’s eyes water.

However, trying to find horror stories about batteries dying is actually a painstaking process, as it appears they are still going strong long after their warranty periods are up.

Hybrids hailed in Which? Car Survey

This is backed up by an extremely strong showing from hybrid cars in the Which? Car Survey 2013.

The Toyota Auris (2010-2013) and Honda Insight (2009-) were deemed the most reliable cars up to three years old in the medium and large-car reliability tables, respectively.

And that’s not all. In the reliability standings for cars up to three years old, the Honda Jazz Hybrid (2011-) took third slot in our supermini category, while the Lexus CT200h (2011-) placed sixth for medium cars, the Lexus RX (2009-) bagged third in 4x4s and the Honda CR-Z (2010-) was runner-up in sports cars.

What is even more confidence-inspiring is the performance of older hybrids.

The Toyota Prius – the poster boy of the hybrid market – was the fifth most reliable large car up to three years old. The third and second-generation models took first and fifth place respectively for large cars over three years old. And even the Honda Civic Hybrid, available from 2006, came 14th in the same reliability league table behind the two Toyotas. It outscored a raft of petrol and diesel models.

You can find more information on all of these hybrid car reliability standings from our 2013 Car Survey by visiting our car reliability pages online.

These results speak volumes for how dependable a hybrid car could be. But are you still put off by battery-replacement price fears?


I can’t see me going for a hybrid car anytime soon. If the fuel savings were significant, then I’d be tempted, but from what I’ve heard, they only really save money on short journeys, they’re no better than a normal car when it comes to distance/motorway driving, which is what I do.

I would be tempted by an full electric car however, if the mileage coverage per charge was better.
I think the best they can do is around 80 miles per charge. If that was doubled, it could be a real money saver for me 🙂

I have had 2 Toyota Prius (not the current version, the previous) no problems with them at all.

To compare fuel savings, my current 1.4 Golf gives me 35mpg overall, my previous car, a Prius, gave me 55mpg overall.

I do a regular run from Croydon to Rayleigh in Essex, My best mpg in the Prius was 72mpg, the best I managed on this journey in the Golf was 55mpg.

Overall savings;-
12000 miles per year at 35mpg = 342 gallons
12000 miles per year at 55mpg = 218 gallons

342 – 218 x £6.50 = £806

The manufacturers need to build up confidence by offering “lease “options on the battery pack so the buyer doesnt bear the risk of an early failure.
I agree with rich835 that they appear more suited to city or urban use especially as a 2nd car.
The benefits in cities is as much about local pollution as saving fuel.

mlc says:
22 July 2013

I have had a Prius for five years and have found that it saves petrol on all journeys. Modern diesels are also fuel efficient but putting diesel exhaust particles in the air is not a good idea. It is impossible in practice to replicate manufacturers’ mpg claims for hybrids but this is true of ALL cars. If my experience is anything to go by I would warn against the suggestions from Rich835 and rarrar that hybrids should only be used for short journeys in cities. The Prius has a traditional battery principally used for starting the car, but this is smaller than in a standard car. I have been told that this battery is charged from the larger ‘hybrid’ battery. As I found, if you only do short journeys the small battery does not charge properly and wears out quickly. You really need to do the full range of journeys.

I agree with previous comments that the benefits in cities is as much about local pollution as saving fuel. Thank you very much for this lovely piece of information. I have learned a lot just by reading this article. Very much informative.

Gerard Phelan says:
23 July 2013

We are always told that it is bad to run a car engine for just a few minutes. You might want to do this to shuffle cars on a drive or move your roadside parked car to the other side of the road where parking rules require a daily switch or running a mile down the road to fetch a newspaper on a day when it is pouring with rain. Surely a hybrid is ideally suited to such usage, because no harm is done to the fuel system and you avoid the pollution emitted by a cold engine?

Ella says:
22 August 2013

Hello Rob,Thanks for sharing. The information and previous conversation which you provided on this blog is truly interesting.
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Claire says:
30 June 2014

I drive a Lexus CT and do a lot of motorway driving with my work- I don’t think I’ve ever dropped under 66MPG! It cuts down hugely on my personal use costs as well as it runs on electric in the city centre so when I’m shuffling the kids all over at the weekend it saves a fortune. I was not that keen when it appeared on the car list but my fuel costs were daft and I thought it was worth the punt. very, VERY happy with it- now, if only it had a decent sized boot!

kanu dave says:
28 September 2014

Using hybrid will not use petrol and battery use will be cost a penny. Toyoa Auris small car is selected as the best. Prius.
fear of cost of a new batter about £ 2000 is a factor to consider. Is it covered by insurance ?

Dave says:
27 October 2014

I brought a 2nd Gen Prius in a Toyota dealer, it is my first hybrid car. I must say is does excellent mpg, average 57mpg and I do weekly trip from Manchester to Seascale via A66 about 152 miles one way and I put in just under £40 fuel a week and it deos the round trip plus weekends short trips to shopping and church. I gets 400 miles every time from that £40, so it cost me 10p per mile and I get 45p per mile for work to Seascale. It is great I get back 35p per mile.

Daniel Monaghan says:
9 April 2015

What is the cost off replacing battery in Yoyota PriusHybrid Diesel

Hi Daniel, thanks for your message. As hybrid car batteries are complicated and different to normal car batteries, we’d recommend that you get in touch with a Toyota dealership/service centre for the best advice.

Had a 2010 Auris for 3 weeks. Low mileage, 44,000, best I could afford, (don’t like loans) Very happy with all aspects of the car, but one – the MPG. The computer shows “excellent” for my very careful driving – I used to get 55mpg from my 16 year old Rover 75 TD. So when I did my regular 160 mile M1 trip to my sister. I looked forward to some impressive figures: fill to fill after zeroing the “trip” odometer. Hence, felt a bit disappointed with 53mpg – twice. Does this line up with other users experience? Otherwise, the car is lovely!

When the batteries are depleted one is driving round in an ordinary diesel/petrol car. I read that choosing to charge the batteries on a run significantly lowers the MPG. Town and short journeys are almost cost free but This probably means driving round in an icy car since the main engine is still cold. An electric windscreen defrost will shorten the range as will the use of any other item like a heated seat or headlights and wipers. The usual thirty mile range quoted for most cars is probably optimistic in winter. That said, I shall certainly look into hybrid motoring when it comes to changing the car as it seems a good compromise between all electric and the future, which is still some way off in terms of practical alternatives to fossil fuels. We will know we have arrived when the network of filling stations declare confidence in what ever comes next.

As I see it, the real benefit of electric and hybrid cars are as second cars for shorter journeys at less than 40 mph, which greatly reduces the demand on the batteries. Like motorists of the past, many of us manage without heated seats and windows. I can’t remember how we managed without air conditioning (another energy consuming accessory) to keep windscreens free of condensation in winter, but we did.

The hybrid recharges whenever the petrol engine engages or whenever brakes are applied, so it’s never dependent solely on the battery or the ICE. The hybrids also use two batteries, so use of heater, windscreen wipers etc. all comes from the traditional 12v battery in the engine compartment, and doesn’t affect the hybrid battery at all.

We’ve had four hybrids, and our youngest son drives a Mercedes hybrid, which has the fastest acceleration of any car I’ve ever been in, except his Porsche. Our plan is to go EV just as soon as battery technology allows.

Storing enough energy for heating is obviously going to be a challenge in full-electric vehicles, but we do need to go that way to keep pollution out of city centres.

Electric vehicles will put a huge strain on our ability to produce electricity. We can reduce pollution in towns and cities by imposing restrictions on fossil-fuelled vehicles and transporting people far more efficiently with public transport (strikes permitting). For many years electric trams provided cheap and efficient passenger transport in many towns and cities and precluded the need for many to travel by car.

If we can get more people living near where they work they can walk or cycle to work, which cuts down on the need for both cars and public transport. It has all been said before but we need to take action.

Sidney says:
19 March 2017

great article – any chance of an update for 2017?

I have a six year old Prius of the third generation. I have it serviced by the main agent and they check the battery with each annual service. Although the car itself has a five year warranty, the warranty on the battery actually extends for 8 years as long as it is checked annually with the service. I can therefore be reassured I can keep it for a further 2 years. It has only done 28,000 miles. In spite of its age it does drive and feel like a “new car”.

That’s encouraging. Battery technology continues to improve. Have you noticed any decrease in range since you bought the car?

Much of my driving is around town and I do very few long trips. With an annual mileage of 3000 miles I actually do an average of 8 miles a day! I currently drive a Prius but am thinking about getting an electric car or plug in hybrid as most of my driving could be covered by an electric battery, even a plug in.

One of the issues with batteries is that the range is related to cost. You only have to look as Tesla S to see this, although the 3 will make a 200 mile + car available at an “affordable price”.

Like many people I have “range anxiety” for those longer trips in a purely electric car but the option of a plug in is something worth considering. My current Prius hybrid is actually pretty economical, even though it has 17 inch wheels, and a plug in would involve a significant capital outlay which I would not recoup in reduced running costs. If my current car were falling apart a “new” car would be justified, but it isn’t.

Looking at the market the two cars that catch my eye are the last generation Prius plug in which has 15 mile electric range and the new Hyundai Hybrid which has 39 miles. A 20016 model of the former comes in at around £20,000 and the latter at about £25,000 as far as I can tell from the dealers (the website does not tell you accurately). The 15 mile range is enough for me but hardly stunning and I am buying “old” technology. The 39 mile range is pretty good and would certainly cover needs on days I went further afield.

So will I change my car? Well probably not. Why? Well technology is advancing quickly. When I bought my Prius it was the only game in town. Now there is a greater range and the promise of more to come in the near future. My current plan is to buy a lottery ticket and cross my fingers. Then I can have a petrol and electric car!

Seems the hydrogen fuel cell has just got a lot easier and cheaper to make:


Back in the 70s the possibilities of storing hydrogen as metal hydrides were explored as an alternative to having large amounts of hydrogen stored in a tank, which is somewhat risky. An obvious problem with he fuel cell mentioned in the NS article is the large amount of aluminium oxide and hydroxide produced by the reaction, and what to do with it.

I have a Toyota Yaris Hybrid. November 2014. I have done a lot of mileage, 144,000 miles, so the warranty has expired. A couple of weeks ago, I had a service done. They checked the hybrid system, and it passed. 4 days later, warning lights came on. Took it to my dealer, they said it needs a new hybrid battery, cost, £1,800. I was told they never went wrong, but that’s rubbish. The dealer contacted Toyota HQ to see if they could do something to assist, seeing as it’s only 3 years old. But they never bothered to reply. Personally, I would never buy from them again. I was informed by someone who works for them, that the 3rd generation of batteries have a self destruct built in. This is because the previous generation batteries were so reliable, they weren’t selling spares, so this forces people to spend huge amounts in order to keep it going. Would I buy another one, never again would I buy a Toyota, it seems once they have your money, they are not interested.

Andy. I presume the Toyota 5 year warranty “your Toyota Hybrid battery is also covered by the same 5-year or 100,000-mile warranty as the rest of the car. was the problem as you had exceeded to mileage? Elsewhere it is said “A Toyota spokesman tells us: “Hybrid components rarely need replacing under the warranty, and we’ve always said they’re designed to last the life of the car. We know the tech is reliable and it works. We still have Mk1 Priuses on the road, so battery durability isn’t an issue; you only need to look at the number of Priuses being used by the private hire sector.” (http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/electric-cars/94872/buying-a-used-hybrid-car-the-complete-guide)

I’d approach the dealer under the Consumer Rights Act and claim under “durability” on the basis the battery should have lasted longer than 3 years. Worth looking at what other Yaris’s have achieved (secondhand sales and mileages for example) to bolster your case.

Have you looked at rebalancing the battery – replacing poor cells for example?

From a pragmatic point of view, if you get nowhere, your battery has only cost you 1.25p a mile.