Buying Guide Toyota Prius Second Generation XW20 2003-2009

The Toyota Prius has built an enviable reputation for reliability and technology while returning excellent economy and that ‘green’ image which has become a fashion statement in certain circles, particularly popular with celebrities and politicians alike.

When the first Prius entered production in 1997, the world didn’t take too much notice, much to Toyota’s annoyance and sales were resultingly slow.

However, Toyota stuck at it and produced the second generation which we see here – the Prius that people recognise as being a Prius.

So, does it make a good second hand purchase? Are those batteries going to be a problem now early versions are ten years old and out of warranty? Aren’t hybrids a complicated machine requiring specialist mechanics and extravagant materials to repair? These are the sorts of question that spring to mind with many potential buyers and are part of the reason why for under £5000 you can buy one of the world’s most recognisable vehicles.

The truth is they’re actually quite simple underneath their technical image. The petrol engine is as solid as Toyota’s finest. The electric motor isn’t complex either. As you’ll have likely heard many times before, it only has one moving part.

As Toyota will be quick to tell you, maintenance charges for their hybrid range of vehicles does not cost any extra than it does for any of their non-hybrid vehicles.

At around £5000, you can pick up an average mileage, near mint condition 2006 car which will have a huge amount of life left in it. These cars often get up to well over 150,000 miles so the reassurance that it will last is already in place. As for natural concerns over batteries, buying a car that is still within the original eight year battery warranty is wise but we’ve seen older cars that still have a lot of life left in them. As is usual with all 2nd hand cars, checking over the basics and making sure servicing has been carried out by a professional is essential.

Prius’ are sturdy machines that defy the general concensus of new technology being bound to go wrong. That being said, a couple of recalls took place including a fix to corroding brake light switches and another fix to parts of the steering column that became loose. Check with the seller if their car was affected by any of the recall issues or alternatively you can check with a dealer if in any doubt. Recalls did not apply to every Prius, so don’t be alarmed should the car you’re looking at not have any information on the subject.

Prius’ came well specified to begin with, the T4 came with fog lights, a CD multi-changer and an upgraded stereo over the base model T3, which came with electric windows both front & rear, eight airbags, alloy wheels, climate control and a CD player. The T Spirit was the best, adding satellite navigation into the mix. Some original purchasers will have had optional leather and bluetooth connectivity, so expect to pay a premium for these options over cars without.

Ten years on, the Prius still feels futuristic and makes a great 2nd hand purchase plus a fantastic introduction into the world of hybrids. For Prius’ over ten years old, our bet is the batteries are still OK but a test drive is essential to find out.


Generally the interior is hard wearing without being cheap. Make sure all buttons work as they should as the car relies on electronics for most functions including steering.


Owners praise the Prius’ touch screen display although some have been known to fail but Toyota will have replaced some under warranty, so check service history.


Boot space is very good considering beneath the carpet lurks the hybrid system. Seats fold flat allowing for larger items. Check the roller cover as replacements can be pricey.

EURO NCAP Vehicle Safety

The Prius was the first hybrid car tested by Euro NCAP and it didn’t dissappoint, with comments such as, “a very strong and stable passenger safety cage”. Child protection was equally impressive too. However, pedestrian safety was only average.

Adult Occupant  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Child Protection ★ ★ ★ ★

Pedestrian Test ★ ★


Value for money hybrid.

 Solid and proven reliability.

 Ideal for commuting but capable of longer trips too.

Beware, out of warranty un-loved examples.

 Don’t buy if you’re after an exciting drive.

 Uneconomical if driven hard, understandably.


 Green credentials and image.

  Relaxing to drive in near silence at low speeds.

  Excellent economy & reliable.

Cruise control useful but uneconomical.

Seats unsupportive on longer trips.

Not capable of adding a tow-bar for trailer/ caravan.

Prices for the second generation Prius start from as low as sub £2,000 for an early example with high mileage. As this will be out of battery warranty, it’s worth spending extra to buy a newer model.

1.5 VVTi T3 Hybrid 5d CVT Auto 657 104 B
1.5 VVTi T4 Hybrid 5d CVT Auto 657 104 B
1.5 VVTi T SPIRIT Hybrid 5d CVT Auto 657 104 B

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