Thursday, December 19, 2013

Carnundrum...

The Earthf**ker is averaging ~ 12-14 MPG on the daily commute. Some days are better than others; some days I breeze into work in 40 minutes; other days it's closer to an hour. It's not the commute that's the issue; I knew what I was getting myself into, and honestly, with books on tape and other coping mechanisms (*g*) it's really not that bad. What's at issue is running through a tank of gas every week. Even with the lower gas prices in VA compared to MA, I'm still dropping a good hunk of change at the pump every week.

The hybrid looks very appealing given the around-town gas mileage (50 MPG? Sign me up!), however the price tag is just a little more than I want to spend. I might hold onto the truck another year or two and then see if I can't find a used model at a more reasonable price - that way, I also avoid the "new car" hit on taxes and insurance. I'm nowhere near as concerned about buying a used hybrid as I am a used light duty truck for hauling.

Another option is finding a teeny tiny commuter car, something along the lines of the Toyota Yaris or the Nissan Versa. These are about half the cost of the hybrids, don't have the batteries to contend with, and also have the same reliability. With the truck to trade in, a new econobox is quite within budget, and the upkeep on a small car is a lot better than a full size truck. The advantage to this option is that with the truck as a trade-in and some cash, I might be able to get into something new with no payments.

The last option is something in the mid-sized range, either the Altima, the Civic, or even the Mazda 3. These are still in my price range, albeit with a monthly payment (which, after two years free and clear, I'm a little reluctant to get back into). The advantages are more room inside, meaning that if we're heading up to MA for a long weekend, we can take the more economical car rather than the wife's SUV. Having something that's comfortable for road trips is appealing, and this is the range that has more creature comforts - certainly a consideration when I'll be spending ~ 2 hours a day in the vehicle.

I really don't want to get rid of the truck. It's paid off; still in good shape; low miles given that it's 7 years old. I like being able to haul stuff in the back; I like having the cap for things like camping; I like having 4WD for the occasional snowstorm. What I don't like, though, is seeing the gas pump roll over and over and over when I have to fill it up, and given the commute I have and the time I spend in traffic, is pretty much every week. If I could keep the truck and have a commuter car, too, that would be ideal; however from a practical standpoint, it's just not economically sensible.

Plus, if I still have the Dodge in three years, there's a good chance TheBoy is going to want it for his first car, and that *ain't* gonna happen...

That is all.


20 comments:

Brad_in_MA said...

Jay,
You ever consider a 'clean' diesel? Just tossing out an idea ... yeah, I'm a tosser.

ZerCool said...

A minor point...
The Civic is still Honda's "compact" sedan. If you're looking for something mid-size, the three Japanese imports are the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. I have driven all three extensively, and here's the Cliff's Notes:

I owned a 2004(2005?) Accord LE 4-cylinder manual. It had plenty of power with the stick, handled beautifully, got decent fuel economy (high 20s/low 30s), had a wonderful sound system, and rode a little rough (17"/45-series wheels/tires). I traded it in after about fifteen months when I acquired my truck.

On my three trips to Missouri for interviews (driving round-trip from NY, 1,100 miles each way plus incidental while here), I drove an Altima, a Camry, and a Dodge Avenger.

You could not PAY me to buy an Avenger. That thing was the buzziest, loudest, mushiest-handling, under-powered piece of crap I have ever driven. And it got lousy fuel economy - mid-20s max, running at 3-5mph over the limit with cruise on.

The Altima (2013, with S trim, I think) was typical Nissan - damn near perfect but missing a lot of the fit'n'finish you can expect in a Toyota or Honda. They now have a CVT, which takes some getting used to but had enough power for the highway. Comfortable ride, decent handling, and averaged around 34mph over 2400ish miles. Sound system had buzz at high volumes. Road noise was a bit more noticeable than ...

The Camry. 2013, LE trim. Honestly, THIS is the car I want right now. 6-speed auto, magnificent ride, good handling (not super sporty, but predictable). The 4-cylinder (2.4L, I believe) had plenty of power on tap even when running at 75-80mph, and it averaged 36mpg on that same trip. My ONLY gripe about the thing was how much of a pain in the ass it was to figure out the touchscreen audio/phone/trip computer thingy in the dash. Seriously, this is damn near a perfect daily-driver/family car. And for a family, it'd be not-bad for a full-day trip.

Check to see if Enterprise has any dealers near you - they sell their off-fleet vehicles at pretty reasonable prices. Alternatively, a Toyota-certified preowned is a very safe bet.

nguyenhm16 said...

Used car prices are so high now you might also consider a new car.

That said if you can stomach owning a VW, the Jetta Sportwagen TDI is a great car. Very good mileage, good resale, has a very useful back end (I have a MkV GTI and it is so useful and fun to drive I can't bring myself to get rid of it even with 2 other cars in a 2 person family), and is based on the older MkV platform so it should be fairly reliable (other than the high pressure fuel pump, but that seems to be common to clean diesels and VW seems to be taking care of it).

Mopar said...

First, you need to seriously run some numbers. Gas MPG, miles driven, price of gas. Work out your cost per week to drive the truck vs whatever econobox you're considering. To be really fair, you should really figure your cost per week now, vs your cost per week when you lived in MA. You then need to compare that to the costs (payments, higher insurance, possibly higher taxes) of a new car. If it works out that in the end you're saving $1000-1500 more a year in gas, and the new car costs you $2500-3000 a year, you might want to reconsider keeping the truck. You can also factor in the reduced cost if you start riding the H-D to work when the weather is nice. Last, don't overlook the safety. While small cars are safer then ever, in an accident bigger is almost always better. Your family's safety should be worth a few bucks a week.
Just my 2 cents from a fellow Earth-F'er driver living in the state with the highest priced gas in the country.

Dave H said...

I'll echo ZerCool's thoughts on the Avenger. I'm driving a rental right now, and the only thing I like about it is the driver's seat is more comfortable than my Subaru's.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

The extra mass around you plus the bigger, tougher crush zones will bring you home to your family if the truck gets crunched on your commutes. When the time comes for a new car, look at year-old lease cars with 20-30,000 miles. You will save all your gas money back right then, and you won't worry so much about the first scratch.

Anonymous said...

I just traded my older Civic in on a 2013 Civic. My worst mileage in the two months I've owned it is 32mpg but the temperature was -29F with headwinds which really sucks the gas out of the tank. I was averaging 40mpg on the highway in October.

I tried the Versa, it is a cheaply built car, very noisy and rough riding. The Civic is a much quieter car on the highway and the EX has a great sound system.

Al_in_Ottawa

My two cents - buy a used 2006 or newer Civic and keep the truck if you can afford it. Now that I'm truckless I find myself paying for deliveries of building supplies, lawn supplies, etc.

Pam said...

Love my 35 mpg Toyota Corolla. No upkeep other than oil changes at 100,000.

Jay Ater said...

You might also take a look at the Fiat 500. We got one a little over a year ago and its a great little car, 40 mpg, and was just over 15 grand new.

Added bonus if it does break down you can toss it in the bed of the truck and take it to the dealership.

Geodkyt said...

My sister has a VW Jetta TDI diesel. Starts and runs like a "gas" car (no glow plug delay, push teh pedal down and it moves right now, etc.), but she gets over 40mpg, and close to 50mpg when it's mostly highway driving. (That's actual mileage, not estimated. . . but she doesn't drive like a damned fool.)

Geodkyt said...

Of course, her husband has a ginormous Earthf*cker pickup that's diesel, and he gets 23mpg or so. . .

Rob said...

How much money will commuting @ 40mpg save you in a year? Does that amount of money justify a different commute car?
You are just driving to work & back.
Do you have room to keep your truck for driving when you're not commuting? Why not have both?

Maybe the extra money you spend everyday (13mpg vs 40mpg) is worth it because sitting in that truck is who you are.

Decisions decisions... but you knew that when you wrote this...

KevinC said...

Ford Fiesta ST: Great gas mileage, and it goes like a BOH.

Rifleman762 said...

I was a dedicated Honda Civic/Subaru Outback driver for years and last year I purchased a 2006 Honda Element. I can't recommend the Element enough. It's shorter than a Civic in overall length (easy to park!), gets decent gas mileage, is affordable and has more space for rifles than you would believe (back seats fold up into the windows!).

I would also recommend a Toyota RAV4. Nothing bad can be said about that vehicle.

Douglas2 said...

We've went the small hatchback route, hatchback being much more practical than a sedan when "stuff" needs to be moved. The mini-wagon has a hatch just wide enough that I can carry sheets of stuff sticking out with the hatch left open, and I can pull up to 1000 lbs of trailer+stuff.

But I have a neighbor who did the trade-down to a compact when fuel prices were astronomical in '07, and they ended up trading right back up within a year because they just didn't like driving the small car.

I think it might be worth spending $40 on a special-offer Enterprise weekend deal or Hertz/AAA offer, or Zipcar or Relayrides, just to try a day or two of commuting in a small car.

In the UK, people who want to keep big-engined cars but also commute in them typically do LPG conversions.

Wandering Neurons said...

I drive 130 miles every day for work and have been very happy with my 2008 MINI Cooper S. Turbocharged sporty small car and still get 32 MPG flogging it every day.
Then again, I've got the diesel-powered ZERV (Zombie Emergency Response Vehicle) as a backup...
But absolutely, do the hard math. I'm guessing you're driving 30 miles each way, figure two gallons in the Cooper, 12 gallons to fill up once a week or so, $45 each week times 50 work weeks each year. About $2200 in fuel each year for the Cooper. Your EarthF*cker is probably costing you twice that. So you could save about $2000 each year by getting a better-milage vehicle. But now you have another vehicle to tax, tag, insure, repair, tires, oil, make payments, etc.
Not such a big savings after all...

Mopar said...

To take WN's math a bit further....

You mentioned riding a motorcycle to work when the weather is nice. Even using the one you already own, there's 45mpg for maybe 1/4 to 1/3 (or more) of your commute year, so that means right there you could save $500-$700 off WN's numbers.

Also, you appeared to be ok with what you spent on fuel for your MA commute. So what's the actual fuel cost difference between MA(ok) and VA(too much)? That's the real amount of money you seem concerned about. So subtract your old commuting costs from the $1300-$2000 number and that's the amount of money you're really talking about trading for the new car payments, insurance, taxes and safety.

The Displaced Louisiana Guy said...

Bought a 08 versa hatchback early this year. It had 43k miles, and I paid 8 grand out the door. If you have a coupla grand in your pocket, it's amazing what kind of deal you can get. Then, you may not have to divest yourself of the truck.

acairfearann.com said...

Despite preferring my farm truck (20 yr old, 2500, heavy duty towing Chevy), I generally drive two Civics. One is a '04 hybrid, the other a '98. Both get excellent mileage (30 mph +) and are excellent long distance cars.
But, the Hybrid in particular has a Major issue, which I didn't really understand till I was commuting into NYC/Boston. Their ability to accelerate to highway speeds is non-existent despite what it says on paper. You're from eastern Mass right? Think the Pike, or 128, or Storro at rush hour.
If you go with any econobox, and you still have that sort of commute, check the acceleration in person at rush hour.

Lance R. Peak said...

The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid will be out in a few months..