Should You Buy a 2012 Prius?

The 2012 Toyota Prius has excellent fuel economy and reliability ratings, but engine and brake issues make it a questionable purchase.
Written by Melanie Johnson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
The 2012
offers excellent fuel economy and a long list of standard features, but this particular model year has more recalls than others, making it a questionable purchase.
The Toyota Prius has been a mainstay of the hybrid vehicle market for decades. It was a pioneering vehicle in terms of fuel efficiency and remains a popular, affordable choice for those wanting to drive green. 
However, if you’re shopping for a used Prius, you should be aware that some model years are better than others. So, should you buy a 2012 Prius?
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, the
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comparison shopper and
super app
, wants to help you make an educated choice when buying a used car. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide all about the 2012 Prius. We’ll go over the specs and performance, cost and customer complaints, and pros and cons of buying used.

Is the 2012 Prius worth it?

The 2012 Prius gets good marks for safety and reliability, fueleconomy (of course), and pricepoint. It also has the lowest depreciation of any other
green vehicle
, meaning it retains its value well over time. 
An approachable MSRP and slow to depreciate? Sounds like a double win to us. Let’s explore the cost of a 2012 model compared to a brand new Prius.


A 2022 Prius has a starting MSRP of $25,650. Given its long list of standard features and exceptional fuel economy, this is reasonable—but you can get a used one even cheaper. 
Below is a chart of the 2012 Prius’ five trim levels, along with Kelley Blue Book’s predicted fair market price range, the typical dealership price, and the average private seller price. 
Trim level
Fair market range (dealership)
Typical dealership listing
Private party
2012 Prius Five Hatchback 4D
2012 Prius Four Hatchback 4D
2012 Prius Three Hatchback 4D
2012 Prius Two Hatchback 4D
2012 ​​Prius One Hatchback 4D
As you can see, Prius vehicles do indeed hold value well. The 2012 model is 10 years old and still fetches a price that’s nearly half the cost of a brand new Prius

Specs and performance

The 2012 model is part of the third generation of Prius vehicles. 
In 2010, the Prius was completely redesigned for improved aerodynamics and boasted never-before-seen fuel efficiency. The 2012 Prius has a combined city/highway fuel economy of 50 mpg. This was a standout rating for its time—and is still impressive today.
Okay, its fuel economy is great, but how is the power and performance of the 2012 Prius? 
The 2012’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine andits duo of electric motors create 98 to 121 horsepower—admittedly, this is pretty puny. In terms of speed, the Prius goes from 0 to 60 in 9.8 seconds. It’s no racecar, but its speed is comparable to other vehicles in its class.
The Prius also has a long list of standard features, including:
  • Push-button start
  • Automatic climate control
  • Infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth connectivity, music streaming, and USB port
Optional features include:
  • Navigation
  • Satellite radio
  • Lane departure warning and forward collision warning
  • Moonroof
  • Solar-powered air conditioning system (how cool!) 
Key Takeaway Drivers craving a little more get up and go will be disappointed by the Prius’ lackluster acceleration, but if fuel economy and affordability are what you’re after, you’ll be happy as a clam.
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The 2012 Prius has a lot going for it, but here’s where things get a little dicey. According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
, there have been a total of eightrecalls for the 2012 Prius. This is two more than the 2011 model and five more than the 2013. 
One of the recalls states “excessive voltage in the Intelligent Power Module (IPM) within the inverter may cause the hybrid system to shut down,” which could cause the vehicle to stall. Not ideal!
Additionally, there are 421 complaints filed on
. Of the reports filed, brakeissues and engineproblems stand out as the most common. That said, there are not as many complaints filed for the 2012 compared to the 2010 model year, which has a whopping 3,000 complaints.

The bottom line: proceed with caution or buy new

While you’ll pay about half as much as you would buying one new, opting for a 2012 model should be approached with caution. Recalls, engine and brake issues, as well as complaints, make it a riskier buy. 
If you can afford to buy new, it might be worth your while.
If you don’t want to buy new, you might opt for a newer model like the 2014 or the 2017, both of which have fewer engine and brake issues reported than the 2012.

Is it better to buy a used Prius or a new Prius?

That depends on your budget and your priorities! Let’s dig into that.
If you’re on a budget, buying used is the way to go. You’ll save thousands of dollars on a used Prius versus buying one brand new. You may be able to find a used 2012 for as low as $9,000, as compared to the MSRP of a 2022 model, which starts at $25,000.
If you can afford to splurge, buying new might be worth it. You’ll get upgraded safety features, like Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, lane tracking, and more. 
If you want to customize your ride, the simplest way to do so is to buy new. Though if that’s not in your price range, there are several
cheap and easy hacks
to make an older ride new to you.
If your main goal is to save money on gas, you can’t go wrong buying new or used. The 2012 model has a combined 50 mpg fuel rating, while the 2022 model has thesame efficiency. Whatever year you decide to go with, you’ll save money at the pump with your Prius!

Pros and cons of owning a Prius


There are many pros to driving a Prius—the number one is, obviously, fuel efficiency. You’ll save a lot of money on gas with the Prius’ excellentfueleconomy
Toyotas are also known for being
reliable vehicles
. Reliability ratings for the 2012 model are particularly high. In fact,
J.D. Power
named it the No. 1 vehicle in the compact car segment. 


The cons of driving a Prius are mostly aesthetic and performance-based. The Prius’ exterior doesn’t appeal to everyone, and its interior might be perceived as lackluster, as well. 
Performance-wise, the Prius isn’t particularly quick or nimble. As stated, its 0-to-60 speed is 9.8 seconds, and its engine cranks out a max of 121 horsepower. If you’re looking for a fast and agile ride, look elsewhere—maybe at the
Honda Insight

How to find the best Prius insurance

Whether you buy new or used, insure your new (to you) ride with the right car insurance policy. 
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