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Buying a Used Hybrid SUV: Pros, Cons, and Best Options

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Updated June 3, 2022
  • Used hybrid SUV: cars parked in an open space

With rising gas prices, car buyers are seeking more fuel-efficient models. This is especially true among SUV and crossover buyers, as these large family haulers tend to have significantly lower fuel economy than sedans or hatchbacks. The result is a boom in the used hybrid SUV market. Buyers want to save not only on gasoline, but also on the cost of the vehicle by optioning for a used model. 

Is a used hybrid SUV the right decision for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision. 

Pros of Buying a Used Hybrid SUV

There are plenty of great reasons to opt for a reliable used hybrid instead of a new one. Here are some of the more persuasive selling points:

Lower Price 

If you buy a new car, you will pay a premium. A used hybrid model will be priced thousands less than its equivalent new version. This lowers the amount you will need to finance, reducing your monthly payments and interest charges. A smaller price tag can also open the potential for paying cash for the vehicle instead of financing. 

Value Retention

New cars can lose as much as 20% of their value in just their first year on the road and 15-25% of their value per year until they are five years old. That brand-new SUV may look great, but there’s a good chance you’ll be upside-down on the car loan — owe more than it’s worth — for the first few years of ownership. 

If you purchase a year-old hybrid, you’ll already be through the significant depreciation phase. Better yet, if you buy a five-year-old hybrid, you’ll bypass the bulk of its depreciation. 

Lower Insurance Costs

Generally, used cars will cost less to insure than brand new ones. This is because they generally cost less to repair or replace than new cars fresh off the lot. So, not only can you save some money on your monthly loan payment, you can also trim that insurance bill as well.

More Selection

Used hybrid SUV: cars parked outside

When you go to a used-car dealership, you can find various years, makes, and models of hybrid SUVs. However, when you shop with a new-car dealer, you’re stuck with only that automaker’s models. 

Possible Extended Warranty

If you shop an automaker’s certified pre-owned (CPO) lineup, they sometimes include powertrain warranties that last up to 100,000 miles. That’s longer than many factory warranties on brand-new hybrid SUVs. 

More for Your Money

While you may be able to afford a new SUV with the standard features, why not get a used hybrid SUV with all the bells and whistles? Buying a used vehicle leaves you room to get more features like a leather interior, a sunroof or moonroof, automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, all-wheel drive (AWD) drivetrain, and more.

Cons of Buying a Used Hybrid SUV

While there are plenty of good reasons to buy a pre-owned hybrid SUV, there are also some cons that may make a new vehicle seem like a better option. 

Battery Degradation

Hybrid SUVs, like electric vehicles, have a battery pack to power their electric motors. Over time and with use, these batteries will degrade. As the battery degrades, a hybrid SUV’s powertrain can become less efficient. 

When you shop for a used hybrid car, keep in mind that its battery may have started degrading, resulting in lost efficiency. A new model will have a fresh battery. 

Wear and Tear

On top of potential battery degradation, used vehicles can have other wear and tear that new cars won’t. There may be wear on the engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, interior, paint, tires, and more. 

If the previous owner neglected the SUV’s maintenance schedule, this wear and tear may be significant and lead to problems down the road. And in some cases, you can’t detect these issues with a short test drive, so you may not know until it’s too late.

Limited Warranty Coverage

While CPO models may have lengthy warranties and even roadside assistance, most pre-owned hybrid SUVs will have only the balance of the factory warranty. If the warranty is expired, you may only get a short warranty from the selling dealership, generally 90 days to six months.

So, if there are any mechanical breakdowns later, you may be stuck paying out of pocket. You can opt for an extended warranty from some dealerships, but this coverage can be expensive. 

Outdated Tech and Features

If you purchase a several-year-old vehicle, there’s a good chance its tech and features will be outdated. It could lack some of today’s more advanced features, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth, rearview camera, etc.

Higher Maintenance Costs

As any vehicle ages, its maintenance and repair costs rise. There may be more maintenance costs in the early years of owning your used hybrid SUV than if you bought new. 

Higher Interest Rates

Auto lenders often view new vehicles as a lower risk, which means they get better  interest rates. Plus, some automakers’ financing arms offer special financing on their new models — sometimes as low as 0% APR — that you usually can’t secure on a used hybrid SUV

Ways to Buy a Pre-Owned Hybrid

Sales person showing a car to a couple

Here are some of the more common ways to buy a used hybrid, and the advantages and disadvantages of each method:

Private Seller

Buying from a private seller is a common way to pick up a pre-owned car. The benefits include no high-pressure salespeople, generally lower prices than a dealership, an extensive online inventory, and the ability to learn all about the vehicle from the actual owner. 

There are, however, a few drawbacks to a private seller. There are no dealership warranties beyond the balance of the factory warranty, no financing options, and you can only view vehicles one at a time. 

Private sellers are great for people looking to pay cash for a vehicle and want to get the most value for their dollar. These buyers are generally not concerned about the warranty or financing options. 

New-Car Dealership’s Used Lot

Most new car dealerships will have a used car lot where they sell off the higher-quality trade-ins they receive and lease turn-ins. While the new-car section generally dwarfs the used-car lot, these dealers will have some of the highest-quality used hybrid SUVs. The automaker they’re attached to has strict rules about the used cars they sell.

These dealerships often carry CPO hybrid SUVs, which are among the best used cars and may include an extended powertrain warranty. CPO vehicles also qualify for more attractive financing terms. These dealers may finance non-CPO vehicles too, making it easy to find the car you like and secure financing in one shot. 

The downsides of shopping for a used hybrid at a new-car dealership include higher prices and, in some cases, high-pressure sales tactics. 

Used-Car Dealership

Used-car dealerships are filled with nothing but used cars acquired through a wide range of methods, such as trade-ins and vehicle auctions. 

Used-car dealerships generally provide the widest range of in-stock used cars, giving you plenty of options. Pricing falls somewhere between a private seller and a new-car dealership, and they often offer to finance. In some cases, these dealerships extend buy-here-pay-here terms to buyers with bad credit. Finally, used-car dealerships may have at least a 30-day warranty — or whatever minimum warranty the state or local laws require. 

The downside to used-car dealerships is that some have bad reputations. Some are notorious for selling low-quality cars. Also, buy-here-pay-here financing can include sky-high interest rates that keep you indebted for many years. 

Best Used Hybrid SUV Options

You want to secure the best deal when shopping for a pre-owned car. There are a few approaches you can take depending on your goals.

Go Luxury for a Deep Discount

If you’re looking for the deepest discount relative to the price of an equivalent new car, a luxury model may be your best option. While far more expensive than mainstream cars when new, luxury cars have a steep depreciation curve. This rapid depreciation means their used prices are far lower than the equivalent new model.

Remember, you will still pay a premium compared to a mainstream used hybrid SUV if you opt for a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, Lexus NX 300h, or Lexus RX 450h. But compared to the equivalent new model, you will enjoy huge savings.

Go With a Popular Model for the Most Options

If your goal is to find a model with specific features, you can run into issues finding the car on the used-car market. However, you will have more luck if you opt for a relatively common hybrid SUV or crossover, such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Kia Niro Hybrid, or Honda CR-V Hybrid.

New or used, these vehicles are quite popular, so the used market is more robust. You’ll have more options to pick from and can better align the vehicle’s equipment and pricing with your needs and budget.

Find the Perfect Used Hybrid SUV for You

Man handing a car key

When buying a hybrid SUV, you must first decide if a new or used hybrid SUV is right for you. There are plenty of pros to buying a used hybrid SUV, such as the lower entry price and more features for the money. However, this isn’t for all buyers because these used SUVs may lack the newest features and could have wear and tear. 

With these pros and cons in mind, you can make the right SUV-buying decision for you, and Compare.com’s powerful used EV search tool can help locate a hybrid SUV in your price range.


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