auto

Worry about a used hybrid car battery?

Tara Baukus MelloDear Driving for Dollars,
My older car isn't so great on gas and my frequent fill-ups are killing me financially. I'd like to buy a hybrid car to reduce my gas costs, but I can only afford a used one.

I'm worried about the costs of replacing the batteries if they fail. Am I being realistic?
-- Jesse

Dear Jesse,
Replacing the battery in a hybrid car is an expensive repair, but it isn't nearly as expensive as it used to be. Plus, it is unlikely that it will fail unless you plan to put a lot of miles on the car.

It's typical for a hybrid car battery to be covered by the original warranty for 10 years from the original in-service date or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first, but typically automakers design all powertrain components to far exceed their warranty. As a result, it's likely that any used hybrid car you buy will remain in good operating condition for a long time.

Should the battery in a used hybrid car fail, you'll find that the cost is far less than in past years. According to CarMD's 2013 Vehicle Health Index, the average cost to replace the hybrid inverter assembly is $3,927, down from $7,391 in 2010. While a repair bill approaching $4,000 is certainly a pricey one, it's cheaper than replacing the transmission in many cars, which can run as much as $5,474.

In general, buying a used hybrid car is most likely a great financial choice, especially when you are driving a gas guzzler. That said, do your homework in advance to make sure you are getting a fair price, and be sure to have the car you are considering fully inspected by a mechanic who understands hybrid technology before you buy.

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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