Reader Question

I am a “practical” car owner. I have bought two used cars in the last 15 years and have been 100% satisfied. Both cars were Japanese makers. Izuzu Trooper and 1995 Toyota Camry. I love my Camry – it drives well and I have had zero problems other than regular maintenance. I have had the Camry 9 yrs and am looking to get an SUV again. For the first time in my life I am considering an American auto maker. I am looking at a Ford Escape Hybrid 2006. I love the fact that it is a hybrid and it fits my budget, but I am very hesitant to buy the car because of several negative reports I have read on line regarding break failure and drivetrain problems with this model. I need a car that will be trouble free for 9-10yrs. The vehicle has 72,000mi on it. I really don’t want to buy another sedan, but I LOVE the reliablility of the Toyota. Is the Ford a good choice or should I keep looking? I am looking at used cars under $15,000.00 Thanks for your help. Do you have any SUV that you would suggest (in my budget) that are reliable and fuel efficient.


Thanks for reading, and for writing. Any car is going to break down eventually. It’s really all in how you take care of it. So, the first thing you should do with any used car is have it inspected by a technician whom you trust. You may also want to ask the dealer for a report on the vehicle from a reliable source like Carfax or the like.

As for the 2006 Escape Hybrid, it’s actually a relatively new technology since it was the first model to utilize a full hybrid system. The braking system of a hybrid is complex in the fact that it actually produces energy to recharge the hybrid batteries. As such, there is more risk that it will eventually break down. The more complex any machinery is, the higher risk there is of failure. The 2006 model is also not quite as fuel efficient as other hybrids on the market. A lot of that has to do with it being an SUV. The heavier a vehicle is, the harder the electric motor has to work, which reduces fuel efficiency. The added cost you’ll pay for a used hybrid may not be made up at the fuel pump over time. Especially if you want to keep the vehicle for 9-10 years. A hybrid is going to be much more expensive to repair if it does break down. The batteries have an 8-year warranty from the production date, but that only covers the batteries, not the wiring, connections, fuses, transformers, motors, or terminals. However, the Escape Hybrid is one of the most reliable hybrid SUVs available. It received a refresh in 2008, but that was mostly design changes, meaning Ford kept much of the mechanical status unchanged. Obviously, that was a case of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

The Toyota is not a bad choice either, but you’ll face many of the same issues with a hybrid. If you choose a hybrid, either one will provide the same reliability. Both companies are making very good vehicles at this time. If you decided to switch over to a regular fuel vehicle, Hyundai is also making some very good vehicles for very affordable prices. They also offer one of the best manufacturer’s warranties available at 5 years/60,000 miles. That could come in very handy if you find a 2008 or 2009 model in your price range. Make sure you shop around because they are out there.

I hope this helps and I wish you luck in your purchase. Just remember, anything mechanical will eventually break if it’s not taken care of; but both Ford and Toyota are on the same scale of reliability right now. It’s really just a matter of which you’re more comfortable with.

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