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Key issue to investigate here, and what would keep me from buying a used hybrid (though I do plan to buy a new one for my next car), is expected battery life and replacement cost.

My understanding (from an engineer friend) is that the battery that runs the electric motor has an expected life of about 8 years and costs a few thousand dollars to replace when needed.

I don't think hybrids have been out long enough for there to be good data on expected battery life, so you just have to take someone's word for it. I would try to find a good mechanic, or barring that ask a dealer, about expected life and replacement cost.

You could also try posting on the discussion boards at edmunds.com, which get more activity than here. There are boards for each model of car, and I could swear there is a generalized hybrid discussion board as well though I wasn't able to locate it just now.
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