Car Talk: Hybrid’s battery should long outlast its warranty

Dear Car Talk:

You’ve got the most fun column in the paper.

In 2014, I bought a new Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned. It’s got about 72,000 miles on it. Everything is working great. But the 10-year warranty on the “big” hybrid battery will expire next year.

Replacing that battery costs between $3,000 and $5,000 at a shop. Is this a DIY job? If not, do I wait until the battery “dies” or just bite the bullet and replace it now before it wears out? Thank you. — Eric

No, and no.

If you like the idea of 200 volts of electricity coursing through your most sensitive body parts, then, sure, Eric. Go ahead and replace the hybrid battery yourself.

On the plus side, you’ll also get a free, Bob Ross-style perm. Those battery packs are labeled “high-voltage” as a warning to people like us to not mess with them. So, I’d definitely let a well-trained shop handle the hybrid battery replacement.

The good news is that you may never need to have that battery replaced. Your battery warranty “only” runs for 10 years. But that doesn’t mean the battery won’t last longer than that. Sometimes much longer.

We’ve had more experience in the shop with Toyota Priuses than with Camry Hybrids, since they’ve been around a lot longer. But the hybrid systems are very similar.

We have some customers with 250,000 or more miles on their hybrid Priuses, and they’re still on the original battery. There are even some that are used as taxis, so they’ve arguably been subjected to the toughest stop-and-go conditions imaginable, and many of those have their original batteries, too. That doesn’t mean yours will necessarily last that long, but it could.

So, under no circumstances should you replace your hybrid battery proactively. It’d be like replacing a car’s gasoline engine at 72,000 miles just because the warranty was about to run out. That doesn’t make any economic sense, does it?

My advice is to start putting $10 a week in a jar. And by the time your battery fails, if it ever does, you’ll have the money to replace it. And if the battery never fails, you’ll have a down payment on your next Camry Hybrid.

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