2009 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
That warranty, by the way, protects you against complete failure of the battery pack, which costs $2,500 to $3,000 to replace.
It doesn't protect against a slow decline in battery capacity, meaning over time any Prius may use slightly more gasoline as its pack stores marginally less energy.
But don't worry overly about battery life; the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack in a Prius is one of the car's least-frequently replaced parts.
Our 2004 Prius owner has put 100,000 miles on the car, and its gas mileage (41 to 42 mpg) has remained constant over 10 years.
2010 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
(5) Decide what options you want, and which you need
Options are a matter of personal taste, but for the current generation (2010-now), the Prius Three is the most common trim level.
The Prius Two is the base model, and the Four and Five are high-tech and high-luxe, respectively, so they will probably come with a premium.
Should you happen to find any truly basic Prius One models sold used by fleets, avoid them--they're missing a LOT of otherwise standard equipment, including cruise control, the EV electric-only mode, and a rear-window wiper.
Pearl Jam Syndrome?
We'll leave it to High Gear Media editorial director Marty Padgett to give us the last word on Prius ownership.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production modelEnlarge Photo
"Collectively, new Prius owners may now feel like Nineties alt-rock bands," he mused. "We had our day, but there's definitely cooler stuff out there now. It's Pearl Jam Syndrome."
Wait, cooler than a Prius? Whatever could he mean?
HINT: It comes with a plug.