Monday, August 17, 2015

The Benefits of Hindsight: 2000 Honda Insight

by K2 Mystery Car --

Blanche placed the plate down in front of her husband with a flourish.
“I made you your favorite meal dear; ribeye steak with a side of shoestring fries. I hope you like it!”
Nodding his head enthusiastically, Frank picked up his knife and fork and gave her a huge smile.
“You’re the best, Blanche. Thanks for this.”
She winked and said, “Let’s dig in before it gets cold.”
They were both quiet for a while as they enjoyed the food she had prepared until Frank inhaled deeply
and put his fork down slowly next to his plate.
“So I’ve been thinking.”
“Yes dear? About what?”
“I’m getting a little tired of the crazy gas mileage I’m getting in the F-150. It’s only getting about 14 miles
per gallon around town and it seems a little crazy. Maybe I should get something a bit more
economical.”
A fork full of cooked steak halfway to her mouth, Blanche stared at Frank, “Uh-huh…”
“Yeah, what I really need is a two-seater hybrid with less than 70 horsepower. I’m thinking that’ll fit the
bill.”


Blanche blanched blatantly and she dropped her fork with a clang. With stiff, robotic motions, she
whisked the unfinished plate out from in front of Frank and disappeared into the kitchen.
Seconds later, she returned with another plate piled high with a mountain of cooked broccoli, which she
unceremoniously thumped in front of him.
Frank stared at it and said, “Son of a b….”

It’s been a while since we’ve focused on the Honda Insight here on DT. Is it time to buy a good, used example of this fuel-sipping alternative to the dreaded Toyota Prius for bargain hunters, cheapskates and
skinflints? Here’s a market update.


The first generation Honda Insight was produced between 1999 (sold as 2000) and 2006 and beat the
Prius to market by half a year, thrilling fans with CRX-like styling. Powering this under two thousand pound
hatchback was a 3-cylinder one-liter engine pushing out a mighty 67 horsepower and 91 foot pounds
of torque, aided by a electric motor that added 13 blazing horses and 36 pound-feet of torque
when the need arose.


Performance wasn’t anything to write home about (in fact, doing so would be faster) but that wasn’t
why anybody bought one; the 49 city and 61 highway EPA fuel economy rating being the primary concern and motivator. Interestingly, mileage was expected to be even higher but Car and Driver reported lower than expected mileage. This appears to have been corrected; reflected in the numbers you read here. Their other complaints included poor directional stability and an erratic automatic shut-off. A touchy throttle tip-in and less than quiet interior levels seem to also be part of the package.


But none of those are of particular concern for the potential used Insight buyer; the technology is, specifically the hybrid battery pack. Is it okay long-term and if not, what’s the cost to replace it? Batteries only last so long and it’s most likely not covered by a warranty from the factory any longer. Honda’s battery replacement cost is relatively less than other manufacturers but roughly $3,000 is a proposition that only turbo Subaru owners would be comfortable with.


Battery pack conditioning is another, more cost-effective solution. There are more than two dozen
shops that can perform this service nationwide. While still not cheap at roughly under $2,000, this could
be a bargaining chip used to lower the asking price on an otherwise good used Insight. The truly bad
news is that the Insight seems to require new or reconditioned battery packs at a surprising rate, with
some reports of up to three times within the factory warranty period.

But there’s good news on the horizon. With the proliferation of the technology, companies like Dorman
Products have identified a need in the marketplace and are now offering even less expensive
replacement battery packs. This reporter is too lazy to actually do the research to find out what they
cost but feels sure that they would be even cheaper and thus reward a savvy, well-researched buyer.
According to the NHTSA, recalls, investigations, complaints and service bulletins have been relatively
few, with the small exception of trouble with the headlights in the earliest cars. Online user reviews indicate an extremely trouble-free experience; one owner claimed online that Honda covers the battery pack for
nine years but again, I’m too lazy to look it up and I doubt it. Reports of easily attained high mileage and
an extremely high resistance to the rust worm are two big checkmarks in the positive column.
In 2001, a CVT became available and this unit, while sapping even more fun out of the car, seems to be
also relatively trouble free.


The original 2000 MSRP started at $19,515 and the current KBB for a good Insight from a private party
price is $1,879. In 2006, the MSRP was $19,330(!) and the KBB value is $3,942. While far from the cheapest offering on eBay and unfortunately in line with most Honda owners’ belief that their car is worth more than the KBB value, this 2000 Insight with only 73,000 miles on it is appealing. As a bonus, the seller reports a “noise coming from the clutch or transmission at lower speeds, possibly clutch or input shaft” and what appears to be either a coffee or urine stain on the passenger seat; conceivably both liquids.


In the meantime, if Frank decides to buy a used first generation Insight, he better get used to broccoli
and sleeping on the couch. Additionally, Blanche would surely continue to blanch blatantly if that came
to fruition.

See a better used two-seater hybrid hatchback two-door that includes the famous Honda name for
under $5,000? tips@dailyturismo.com

Big thanks to K2 Mystery Car for writing up this fine piece of journalism.  

53 comments:

  1. Quality piece. The words, less so the car.

    I'd rock one of these. I like a basic, low end car. You can race 250cc scooters (and lose) but no cop will ever know you're racing. The rear end is a lot narrower than the front. I think there's 9 inches between them. With eco-friendly LRR tires, the handling is cart like. Not go kart, not golf cart, but shopping cart. That's a recipe for legal-speed f̶u̶n̶ hooliganism if I've ever heard one.

    Rockauto lists reman battery packs well under 2 grand, but they carry about the same price for a core charge. Guess that means you're going to eat an expensive shipping charge in two directions, but after they credit your visa, that should make for a very economical fix. I've heard of people fixing individual battery cells in Prius batteries, but those never came with a 3rd pedal, so I'd sooner eat one than drive it.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You drive to their terminal towing a U-Haul full of tools, swap the pack outside their dock, then stick the return label on the core.

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  2. K2, my thoughts exactly.
    Got rid of the Prius in search of one of these first-gen Insights. With the 5-speed, they have a lean-burn feature and can achieve a realistic 75-80 miles per gallon hwy. I like how the instrumentation is reminiscent of an S2000 with the digital bars in the tach and the digital speed readouts. I have heard, and will provide citation of, $900 reman. battery packs for these. You are correct in that the failures far outnumber Toyota hybrid battery pack failures, however the battery pack failures in the Honda IMA system don't immobilize the car. It will, however, accelerate at an alarmingly, dangerously slow rate without the electric assist- to the point where air-cooled, fully-loaded westfalia buses, diesel rabbits,a Pinzgauer, and MB 240D's will honk for you to get out of their way.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You a ME? There seems to be a bunch of guys out there who, obsessing over mechanical efficiency (and absolutely not wanting to be seen as a Prius-greenie) run around in these things, and they all seem to be MSMEs.

      The driving experience isn't bad, though I haven't lived with one to know the battery foibles.

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    4. Not a ME. Maybe I just feel guilty and want to offset the fact that I am a huge fan of two-strokes and drive a carburetted 22R most of the week. The Prius just sort of fell into my lap. Once I learned a little about the technology and got bored with my "new toy" (happens all the time), I figured it had overstayed its welcome. A little further digging pointed me in the direction of the 1st gen Honda, as a car that can do all this plus more. Likely would be a 6-month long love affair, and much like the abusive love/hate relationship of Chris Brown and Rihanna, will find me propelling a pre-smog Big Block Chevy afterwards to seek the "balance" in my vehicular life.

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  3. Sorry, but if it's a urine stain then it's someone's kid or grandma, the Insight may be useful enough but its performance isn't going to void anyone's bladder.

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    1. I'd bet it was the alarming lack of performance is what caused the voiding of that bladder. Getting passed like you're going backwards by an 18 wheeler in something smaller than a Miata is enough to make anyone wet themselves I reckon.

      Either that, or the amount of time it took to get between rest stops.

      Whatever the cause, this one checks all the boxes for me: vehicle made dangerously slow because efficiency? Manual transmission? Hilariously ugly in the name of drag coefficient? Count me IN.

      Can you imagine one of these with a Hayabusa swap?

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    4. "Sorry, but if it's a urine stain then it's someone's kid or grandma, the Insight may be useful enough but its performance isn't going to void anyone's bladder."
      +1 I laughed so loudly that others in the room turned and stared at me....

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  4. I love these, but they are so expensive. Way more than the fuel saved would justify over the lifetime of the car in most cases vs a used gas-only econobox.

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  5. " what appears to be either a coffee or urine stain on the passenger seat; conceivably both liquids."...........I just spit out one or bother of these liquids.........hahahahah.........guys are killin me!

    On the semi serious side, thanks for doing this review. I have a perverse desire to n one.........but I have resisted a) because of the batteries b) Owner attitude c) everyone I find out here so far is beat to death.

    Revisit this AGAIN when I find the pennies from heaven to blow

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  6. K2, thanks for writing up this insightful piece. I had no idea these were getting to be so cheap. Apparently these are the RX8s of Hybrids now; great chassis, critical drivetrain failure mode causes sharp decline in value, fix is cheaper/easier than many would assume.

    I enjoyed the M-B W211 diesel analysis as well. Valuable contributions to the site!

    (ahem, we won't mention the Mr. Slim AC What Am I again...oh wait, I just did...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Mr Slim was and most likely will be my only moment in the sun.

      Thank you, CFlo. Onward!

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    2. Nah Uh! What about when you "won" the forward-hinged hood Twister?

      Let me have your mailing address, in case the trophy was too large. That way I could overnight you a tub of vaseline

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    3. Eww...? I'm too nervous to laugh.

      But the fact remains, I've never received a prize so I've never won a Twister. Probably never will because I never really play. Sadly, I'm severely lacking in the enthusiasm department.

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    4. Lacking enthusiasm, are we?
      I am really taken aback, hearing you say that.

      Regarding the Twisters, that makes two of us, I guess. 'Twas fun while it lasted, though.

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    5. i've started seeing them everywhere

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/FtT9bra.png?1[/img]

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    6. Yes, it's very sad. I no longer go anywhere near the Twister. I is just 2 dum.

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    7. Aww K2. Lemme go find my violin. ;)

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    9. And we will find a better way on the twixters, I am sure.

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    10. I think the last one was about concept cars or something but I couldn't think of a single one so I didn't even bother.

      I drive a Smart car, tho.

      Not really.

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  7. My apologies to everyone regarding the formatting of this article. Somehow, it just went ape spit somewhere along the line. It looked good when I scratched on the cave wall before I sent it by Pterodactyl to El Hefe.

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  8. A Dorman Products replacement battery pack for a 2003 Insight costs $1591.20 plus shipping, from Summit Racing:

    http://www.summitracing.com/int/parts/rnb-587-005/overview/

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    1. Reman. battery pack for $999 incl. core return w/ 90 days guarantee (I think they're out of stock presently):

      http://hybridrevolt.com/catalog/Honda-Hybrids/2000-2006-Insight/Refurbished-IMA-Battery

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    2. Better and better! I was thinking how this could be a decent alternative to a scooter.

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  9. And here's one with a newish battery and 5-spd local to me for $3700. Truly a car designed for engineers.
    http://anchorage.craigslist.org/cto/5165200540.html

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  10. Theres alot of talk around the proverbial water cooler about how cool it would be to take one of these or a 1st gen prius, build a tube chassis/narrow and shorten an s10 frame, run a 4bt. The idea being that a hybrid rolling coal is funny. Alot of cash and fab to spend on a rolling joke, but im still considering finding a way to build this thing.

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  11. http://www.lhtperformance.net/documents/lht_k-sight.html

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  12. I just bought a clean 2000 Civic Gas Hatch with 73,000miles for less money than what you are talking about here. And I can put stuff in it. And it gets out of it's own way. And it gets great mileage and will run forever. I don't think I would ever buy a used Battery Pac car

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    1. if one is creative, they can fit plenty of stuff in an insight. I knew someone who could fit his double bass in one.

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    2. How much did you pay, carr9146?

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    3. A 2000 CX private party in good shape with 73K = $1,685 KBB (it might be a little difficult to replicate your purchase but I'm sure it can be done) and is rated 27 city, 33 highway by the EPA. An HX coupe is rated 30/39 mpg and has a current private party/good value of $2,225 KBB. But you said you had a hatch, so it has to be a CX or DX, I believe. So, the lesser EPA rated mpg and pretty far off the Insight. I think there are plenty of Insights out there at those prices that need a little help and an economic case could be made for the hybrid, in comparison.

      But it's a good point, carr9146. Were the Insight significantly worth more, it wouldn't make much sense to buy one over a good used, economical, gasoline-powered car. Which is why leasing something like the Insight or Prius doesn't make much sense to me. But then, leasing is pure insanity in my book unless there's some sort of special, hugely compelling, circumstances.

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    4. You answered as I was typing. Thanks, carr9146.

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    5. I sent you an email, carr9146. If you didn't get it, please contact me via DT. You can shoot a message to tips@dailyturismo.com. Thanks!

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  13. Thanks everyone, for your supportive comments. You da bomb.

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  14. Alternatively, you could ride in style in this 1984 Ford Escort Diesel for *cough cough*...NINE GRAND. Yowza. Another case of rare does not equal worth something.

    Imgur is acting up for me again, so I'm going to try an alternative. Let's see if it works.

    [img]http://www.ultraimg.com/images/00u0u_34VFzk8pnxl_600x450.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://www.ultraimg.com/images/01111_ahJ1YZ2Vs6f_600x450.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://www.ultraimg.com/images/00V0V_2OXEldiz56X_600x450.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://www.ultraimg.com/images/01111_i2Z4LDhMQ6W_600x450.jpg[/img]

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It worked! I'm not sure I should be all that thrilled about posting pics of a diesel Escort (she's expensive but she goes the distance!) but it's nice to know there's an alternative to Imgur. But it sucked; unlike Imgur, there's no editing capability that I could see. Maybe it requires logging in.

      Delete

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