Q: There is a 2005 toyota prius with 56000 for $5k. it has salavge title due to the back bumper being replaced. Should I buy it?

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There is a 2005 Toyota prius with 56000 for $5k. it has a prior salvage title due to the back bumper being replaced. Should I buy it? If so what questions should I ask the private seller when buying it? It is a hybrid by the way.

Thank you, Zach

My car has 56000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

After reviewing transaction histories and used car prices for the 2005 Prius, if the vehicle you are looking at does have a salvage title I would make a generous offer of $2,500. A salvage title is essentially an unmarketable title and is a clear indication of problems. Of particular relevance, used Prius’s at the moment, without salvage titles, are a dime a dozen, particularly as you go back 10 years. Of additional concern, model year 2005 has 6 recalls and I see approximately 1,000 consumer complaints in the NHTSA database which is an extremely large number for an individual model and year and I look at dozens upon dozens of such files. Generally, if a car is "reasonably good", you’ll see anywhere from 20 to a couple hundred complaints in the NHTSA database. One-thousand complaints for a model year is an outlier. At $2,500, all of the recalls would had to have been addressed (all repairs made), otherwise you can continue deducting if you now have to repair the car on the side, at your expense, to address any recall issues that the past owners(s) did not follow up on (simply input the vehicle’s VIN at the referenced NHTSA database to see if all 6 recalls apply to the subject vehicle). Among the bigger issues in your circumstance will be the extent of the collision damage to the vehicle. The reference to a salvage title makes me skeptical. If the frame of the car was damaged (and repaired) AT ALL, make a generous offer of $1,500. You might be able to get some details from CarFax but be skeptical at what you are looking at. There are uncounted used cars to choose from. Due to the age of the vehicle you may need to replace the battery pack, if it hasn’t already been replaced. If the battery pack has never been replaced you can assume a cost to replace starting at around $2,000 if you do it yourself.

A good way to PROTECT yourself in a used car transaction is to request a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. That inspection, carried out by a certified Mechanic, dispatched to your location, will give you very specific data regarding any current problems that the car has. You have additional opportunities, too, in evaluating particular used car models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a database of consumer complaints, official recalls and factory service bulletins for all makes and models, by year. I encourage you to go to the NHTSA website and enter the vehicle’s year, make and model and review the existing reports which will give you an excellent idea of what has been experienced by other owners insofar as faults in the particular make, model and year you are interested in. In addition, "Consumer Reports" publishes system by system vehicle reliability data for all years, makes, and models. This data is available free in the library or on-line if you are a paid subscriber. That reliability data will give you an excellent indication of the relative likelihood that key systems on the model (and year) of interest will fail at greater, or lesser, frequency compared to those rates reported for other vehicles. Obviously, what you want to be looking for in that database is an indication that the vehicle "make and model year" is not a "lemon" insofar as reliability. If you are unable to access any of these resources, or desire data of a different type, please do not hesitate for a moment to re-contact YourMechanic and we will assist you further in your attempts to make a wise used vehicle purchase.

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