Five Used Hybrid Cars To Consider Steering Clear Of

Follow John

chrysler aspen dodge durango hybrids 002

chrysler aspen dodge durango hybrids 002

Enlarge Photo

Some used cars are better bets than others.

And just as there are new hybrids you may want to consider avoiding, some used hybrids may be a more conservative bet than others.

A used Toyota Prius is by far the most familiar and most numerous hybrid, with a few million sold in the U.S. since 2000.

But there are also orphan hybrids showing up on used-car lots.

And just because it says "Hybrid" on the badge doesn't mean that it will get particularly good gas mileage, or be a pleasant vehicle to drive.

So here's our list of five used hybrids you should think twice about before digging into your wallet.

2010-2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

On the outside, except for a few badges, it looks just like a conventional BMW X6, or as BMW terms it, a "sports activity coupe"--essentially a fastback sport-utility crossover vehicle.

But the now-discontinued ActiveHybrid X6 used a modified version of GM's Two-Mode Hybrid system for large, rear-wheel drive trucks and sport utilities, paired to a modified version of BMW's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine putting out 407 hp.

Fuel efficiency? At 19 mpg, considerably better than the conventional 4.4-liter X6, which earned a combined 15 mpg rating. We saw 20.4 mpg during a launch-event driving test.

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

Enlarge Photo

The goal was to "build the BMW of hybrids," as one engineer put it at the introduction, with no compromise in power, performance, or driving experience. Total power output from the engine and two motor-generators was 485 hp.

In practice, BMW radically retuned the hybrid control software to mimic the driving experience of a seven-speed automatic transmission, using four direct-drive gears and three different electric assists. Behind the wheel, no one would know there were electric motors providing part of the torque.

The problem with the ActiveHybrid X6 is that it's a very low-volume vehicle only built for two model years, and the Two-Mode Hybrid powertrain was reputed to have cost each maker that used it more than $10,000 per car.

BMW service can be pricey to begin with. Add to that a low-volume, discontinued hybrid system that BMW will never use again, and the risk of pricey repairs and unavailable parts could get high a few years down the road. (See more used BMW X6's).

2008-2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

One of two hybrid systems launched by GM a few years ago, the mild-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system was used on several compact and mid-size models, mostly from Saturn (see below).

The Chevy Malibu was offered with the so-called BAS system for just two years, paired to a 164-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine. In 2009, the Malibu Hybrid was sold only to fleets.

The big challenge was that the Malibu Hybrid's EPA ratings--24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 27 mpg--were only slightly better than the same 2.4-liter engine when paired with a then-new six-speed automatic transmission.

That version of the Malibu offered a more familiar driving experience, equivalent highway mileage, and a combined rating of 25 mpg--for about $2,000 less. If the sticker didn't close the deal, the far smoother driving experience did.

The two years of Malibu Hybrid are low-volume models with an unpleasant shudder in the drivetrain as the electric motor switched from providing torque to regenerative battery charging. And their real-world fuel economy was sometimes lower than conventional models.

The Malibu Hybrid quietly went away after the 2009 model year and GM's bankruptcy and restructuring. For the record, the all-new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco uses a  thoroughly updated and smoother second generation of the same system.

One final warning: A number of Malibu Hybrids were used as New York City taxi cabs. If you see any yellow paint anywhere on one sitting on a used-car lot, run away. (See more used Chevy Malibus)

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid / 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid launch at 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid launch at 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Well, it must have sounded like a great idea in the heyday of sport-utility vehicles: a hybrid SUV that also had a Hemi!

That's exactly what the pre-bankruptcy Chrysler built, for a few short months in 2008 before it killed off its large SUV line and closed the Delaware assembly plant altogether.

Altogether, fewer than 1,000 Dodge Durango Hybrids--including its upmarket twin, the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid--were built.

And the hybrid-SUV pair are Chrysler's only products ever to use the Two-Mode Hybrid system, originally developed jointly by GM, the then-DaimlerChrysler, and BMW.

Just as on the 2010-2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, that system is low-volume and the components were remarkably expensive. Between the large battery pack and the complex two-motor hybrid transmission, it was rumored to cost $10,000 or more per vehicle.

So while the 345-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 paired with the hybrid system returned a decent 21 mpg combined--far better than the non-hybrid Hemi version, at 15 mpg--it is now very much an orphan for the post-bankruptcy Chrysler.

And that makes it one to consider steering clear of. 

Follow Us

Comments (15)
  1. MIA is the Chevy Volt.

  2. @Matt: I'm not entirely sure what you're suggesting here. Are you saying that the Chevrolet Volt, first sold only as a 2011 model, should be on a list of Hybrid Cars To Consider Steering Clear Of?

    We certainly wouldn't classify the Volt as a hybrid; it's a plug-in vehicle, or extended-range electric car. But please elucidate ...

  3. If a vehicle has a internal combustion engine and a battery pack in my book it's a hybrid. This link should remove all doubt:
    The Volt should be on the list of "Used Hybrids to steer clear of" because well......where shall I start.
    It's not a Hybrid for the faint of heart to own especially when it comes time for service save for maybe a simple oil chance. In fact this is my main beef with all EV's and Hybrids......the owner has very little recourse but to deal with the dealer when it comes to maintenance. I thought most people wanted to stay away from dealers for maintenance because of high shop rates and expensive parts replacement save for warranty work?

  4. Matt with this mindset I wonder why you migrate to "this" web site since the most "efficient" cars are going to be complicated beyond the owners abilities. In fact most any modern car is including diesels.
    May I suggest a model T.

  5. I have a 2004 Honda Accord w/110k miles and a Nissan 2006 Frontier w/26k miles and if I were to need service on them which I have on the 2004 Honda(had to have the transmission overhauled at 80k miles it was not done at the Honda dealer)I have no reservations to take to a non-dealer repair shop.
    The Nissan Frontier has been pretty much trouble free and at less than 10k miles a year it should outlive me :-)
    The Honda should be good for another 3-5 years. At least that is what the plan is.
    PS No model T because no room in the garage :-)

  6. I have had a hybrid for six years and had my regular mechanic do all the work, which has been oil and tires.

  7. "...In fact this is my main beef with all EV's and Hybrids......the owner has very little recourse but to deal with the dealer when it comes to maintenance."

    Let's not overgeneralize here. Not all hybrids are the same. The Toyota Prius for instance requires LESS maintenance than a normal car.

    The Prius transmission has all of 27 moving parts, no CVT belts, no clutches, no torque converter, no gear-shifting wear-and-tear. As long as the transaxle fluid is changed every 60K miles, the Prius transmission would last practically forever (unlike your Honda's transmission).

    And the Prius uses regen braking. It is not unusual to see a Prius with 150,000 miles on the odometers and still on its original set of brake pads.

  8. IF the Prius is a good as you say it is then why don't we see one in every garage even if it's a secondary vehicle? I think it's because there is still a good dose of skepticism out there with with EV's/ Hybrids.

  9. Matt: Don't take my word for it. Look at the New York City taxi cab fleet-- Plenty of Priuses in service as taxis, and those are some of the most abused cars on the planet. The Prius held up fine.

    Do some research and read up on how the Prius drivetrain works. It is truly a marvel of reliable simplicity (contrary to popular belief that it's "more complex than a normal car").

  10. I'm a little confused? Why should I be steering clear of the Accord Hybrid?

    Mechanically sound vehicle. Gas mileage on the highway is better than that of a 4-cyl., mixed driving matches the 4-cyl., performance of a 6-cyl., mbe smaller trunk space... Oh well. Maybe the article should say "if efficiency is not you primary goal of buying a vehicle then here are hybrids that efficiency is not their primary goal." Otherwise, I say go out and try out these rides, you'll be surprised.

    By the way. The official classification for the Volt is PH-EV, Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, thus making it officially Hybrid vehicle.

    By the way hybrid does not always refer to electricity and gasoline. Hybrid hydraulics vehicles, I g2g. Consider the above

  11. The 2007 Accord Hybrid has 3 years left on its 8-year / 100,000-mile hybrid components warranty.. 5 years left in states with California-standard emissions laws.

    While HV battery failure is few and far in-between, past warranty coverage the owner is on his own if something does happen. Personally, I wouldn't buy a used hybrid car with less than 3 years left on its warranty.

  12. Ya mealy parsing words here.
    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it's a duck. Like the AFLIC Duck rumor has it that it's a Hybrid ;-)

  13. @Matt Mann: You meant Aflac, I presume?

  14. Yep John.......I hit the "Enter Key" before I proof read my comment. Thanks for the Heads Up :-)

  15. Wish that 3.0V6 honda hybrid had been available in my 2006 Odyssey. More appropriate vehicle than accord.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.