Value of used Toyota Prius hybrids goes up due to rising gasoline prices

Article by Anita Panait, on March 13, 2012

With gasoline prices continuing to rise, more and more people are now looking for vehicles that do not consume much petrol. Following the law of supply and demand with regards to prices, it is only logical that due to the high demand of hybrid cars and other low-fuel-consuming vehicles, their prices are also bound to increase.

That is recently proven true by the price of the late-model used Toyota Prius hybrids. Because of the rising gasoline prices, the demand for used Toyota Prius hybrids went up, also taking their prices up. According to Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights at Kelley Blue Book, the prices of used 2009-11 Priuses jumped $500 to $750 in the past month or so.

As an example, he said that a 2010 Prius had an average price of about $17,200 in late February, an increase of $700 from $16,500 in late January.  Gutierrez added that the 2010 Prius price would have increased only about $100 or had been flat if fuel prices were stable and it is now priced at around $3.15 a gallon.

“I would say that fuel prices have already increased the value of the Prius," Gutierrez said. The effect of rising gasoline prices is expected to affect the prices of other vehicles, particularly small cars and large trucks, although the situation calls for another scenario.

According to NADA Used Car Guide, if gasoline prices jump to $4-$5 a gallon, prices of small used cars are bound to increase.

The NADA Used Car Guide had recorded Prius models jumping an average of $450 a week for four weeks in a row. However, with gasoline prices hovering around $3.73 a gallon, there had been no movement yet on the prices of either the compact cars or full-sized pickups

Dave Wagner, senior manager of analytics at NADA Used Car Guide, agrees but expects prices of other used vehicles to follow Prius’ tracks sooner.

“Depending on how swiftly gasoline prices rise and the amount of media attention the rise gets, the impact on used-vehicle prices spreads out over the course of a month,” Wagner said, remarking that reaction is based on consumer expectation of the cost of fuel in the future. Wagner noted that consumer expectation takes a while to change.

What makes the Prius unique among many of Toyota’s models is that it is the only one so far that has undergone the most number of hours being tested in the wind tunnel. Thus, the Prius has the cleanest aerodynamic profile not just among Toyota models but even among the mass-produced cars worldwide. By focusing on how the body and the wheels have been shaped plus paying attention to the wheelhouse liner and underfloor, the new Prius gets a coefficient of drag at 0.25.

The previous version had Cd of 0.26. Excellent aerodynamics was achieved after carefully studying how the air flowed under the vehicle. Engineers at Toyota also improved the linear stability of the Prius by putting in a fin at the floor cover in the rear and making changes not only to the underfloor’s front surface but also to how the fender line is shaped.

In order to ensure that power consumption was lowered, Toyota made use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) not only for the low beams but even for the stop lamps and the tail lamps. In many vehicles, it is the air conditioning that typically uses the most power. In order to mitigate this issue, the air conditioning in the Prius was re-engineered to increase the cool-down performance and improve the efficiency.

Helping improve the performance is the addition of the exhaust recirculation system which helps cut the heat lost that happens when the engine coolant is warmed during a cold startup. This system also helps efficiently heat the passenger cabin.

A new ventilation system has been installed in the Prius that is powered by solar panels. The solar panels are placed on the sliding glass moonroof and positioned just above the seating area in the rear. What the ventilation system does is utilize an air circulation fan, which despite being powered with electricity, does not need any help from the engine. Using this system, the air temperature on the inside is prevented from going up especially when the vehicle is currently parked.

The advantage is that by the time the driver goes back, the cool-down time is in fact shorter. This means that the use of air conditioning is reduced as well. Though there are vehicles that allow for the air-conditioning system to be controlled, the one equipped in the Prius is the first one that is not just battery-powered but is operated remotely too. Thus the driver can make the needed changes to the temperature on the inside before actually going in.

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