2008 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
"Sure, but what do the batteries cost to replace?" is a question frequently posed to hybrid and electric vehicle owners.
It's true that batteries aren't cheap, and at some point down the line they'll have expended their useful life and require replacement. But what do these packs actually cost, if and when that replacement date comes?
We've previously looked at the cost of replacing battery packs in the first-generation 2001-2003 Toyota Prius, but with several other hybrids on the market from Toyota alone, we wanted to investigate further.
Replacement is rare
The first, and most reassuring thing you should know about these battery packs, is that replacement is a rare occurrence.
Toyota told us that the engineers consider the NiMH batteries in Prius and other Toyota hybrids to be a life-of-the-car component. It could be several owners and hundreds of thousands of miles down the line before the pack requires replacement, at which point the car itself may well be past its prime.
That's backed up by stories like the 300,000-mile Ford Escape hybrid taxis, and Consumer Reports recently tested a 215,000-mile 2003 Prius and found its performance had barely diminished. In the latter, the only component that had needed replacement was a fan belt, at 127,000 miles.
Warranties are long
Toyota clearly has confidence in its battery packs, and offers an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty in most states. In states that adopt California's emissions regulations, that rises to 10-years/150,000-miles.
So in a worst-case scenario, any battery failure or significant performance drop-off will be covered by the warranty for up to a decade.
2004-2009 Toyota Prius battery pack, second generationCore credit
2004-2009 Toyota Prius battery pack, second generationEnlarge Photo
Should worst come to worst and your battery need replacement, there's one final silver lining from Toyota, known as "core credit".
This is a sum deducted from the new battery pack MSRP for returning the old battery to be recycled. That's not only better for the environment than the battery being thrown away when it gets replaced, but in a car like the Prius, it reduces the cost of a new battery by around a third.
The only additional cost is that of labor, which varies between cars, and labor rates which vary depending on where you live.
Toyota hybrid battery replacement costs
Below is a list of MSRP battery cost details for the three generations of Prius model, as well as those for the Camry Hybrid sedan and Highlander Hybrid SUV.
Toyota didn't specify labor rates for the Camry or Highlander, but a pack in the 2nd-generation Prius takes 1.7 hours to replace (given its similarity to the first-generation Prius, we'd assume a similar time for that vehicle too) and a 3rd-generation Prius battery pack has labor of 1.6 hours. Once again, these rates vary depending on your location.
Any battery that needs replacement within the warranty period will be replaced at no cost.
It's worth noting that there are a select few third-parties that will replace the batteries, often at a slightly lower cost, but these won't have the fully-warranted backup of work carried out at a Toyota dealer, nor technicians fully trained to handle Toyota hybrid technology.
Little to worry about
Whatever you think of the prices above, it's worth reiterating that replacement batteries are the exception rather than the norm, and the vast majority of owners will never incur the cost of a replacement unit.
For the few that do, the prices above give you an indication of what to expect--and the reality isn't quite as dramatic as many people suspect.