Worry less: PHEV battery replacements have been really rare outside of recalls

One of the first questions potential buyers ask about hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and EVs is, “How long will my battery last?” Naysayers always quote the steep battery replacement prices as a reason to steer clear of electrified vehicles, but a recent study from Recurrent and data compiled by the government shows that you might not have to worry. This week’s Fact of the Week noted that plug-in hybrid batteries have shown striking resilience after the 2015 model year, with a tiny number of replacements outside of recalls.

The data show that an average of only 1.5% of PHEVs have needed battery replacements due to failure between 2011 and 2023, and that number dropped to just 1% between 2016 and 2023. Features including thermal management and cooling systems have prolonged battery life, and newer internal chemistries have proven more robust than the early battery pack technologies.

To clarify, the number of PHEV battery replacements was definitely higher prior to the 2015 model year. Vehicles from the 2014 model year have a 3.9% replacement rate, while those from 2013 are at 4.4%. In 2011, that number was 7.5%, so it’s better to go as new as you can afford if you’re shopping on the used market.

It’s also important to note that we’re only looking at 12 years, here, and the average replacement rates might shift as more data becomes available. Additionally, this study doesn’t account for recall-related replacements, which can be annoying, even if you’re not on the hook to pay for it.

The good news out of all of this is that, with a solid pre-purchase inspection, you’ll probably be in good shape buying a used PHEV. Automakers have also started lengthening warranty coverage in recent years, so if you can afford a car from 2020 or later, you’ll likely see ten years or 100,000 miles of protection against battery failures. Though this data certainly suggests recent used buyers and new buyers are unlikely to need that warranty.

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