Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Car-nundrum, Redux...

So, I'm still thinking about a new vehicle. Even though gas is under $3/gallon here in VA, it's still expensive running the Earthf**ker every day back and forth in traffic. I'm getting under 14 MPG and going through a tank of gas a week, and while it's costing less to fill that tank, it's still way more money that I would like.

Not to mention, the truck is 8 years old and has almost 100K on the clock. While it's running great now, it won't be long before time takes its course and things start needing to be replaced. On top of that, it's got the archetypal rust starting to poke through on the fenders (which pisses me off to no extent, mind you. For 7 out of the last 8 years this truck has been garaged all winter long. The wife's Accord lasted 10 years with ZERO rust).

Yes, fixing the rust and dealing with problems as they come up is undoubtedly less expensive than a new car payment. I totally get that. I'm going to try to run the Dodge for at least a couple more years - I'm thinking that around 125K or so it's going to be due for new tires and brakes, and that gives 2 years for the rust situation to shake out, as well. I may reassess and decide it's worth dropping money into new tires/brakes/etc., or it may be time to trade the Earthf**ker in.

At some point next year, we should see the Elio hit the market. If - and this is the kicker - the price of $6,800 is correct (plus or minus a little bit; I'm willing to pay extra for an automatic transmission, frex) *and* the mileage is even close to what they're claiming (84 MPG highway seems very optimistic, although 49 MPG city seems possible), I will bring one of the little Elios home. At $7K give-or-take it can be financed painlessly over a couple years, three max, and having the Dodge relegated to once-a-month and bad-weather driving will significantly extend the life.

But we're all about planning, y'see. If for whatever reason the Elio doesn't make it to market or deviates substantially from the claims, I want to be ready for that possibility. As much as I dearly love the idea of a three-wheeled enclosed motorcycle (YAY HOV LANE!), I'm not going to pay Polaris Slingshot money for one. And that's without a cover that would enable me to drive the Slingshot year-round or even in the rain.

So, what does it boil down to? Sadly, the days of owning a pickup will be over should the Elio not happen. There are just too many good small cars out there to take the gas mileage hit - the last time I put money down on a big truck, gas shot up to $4 a gallon. I figure if I pick up a fuel efficient car, we'll see gas prices plummet below $2 a gallon for sure... While I really like the Toyota Tacoma crew cab, it's both more expensive than I need and the mileage isn't there. No truck comes even vaguely close to what I'd be looking for.

What then? Well, it would be a small car, like the Nissan Versa or the Toyota Yaris. The Yaris doesn't have a sedan version (strike one) and is considerably more expensive (like $2K, not counting the automatic - strike two). Other options are the Mazda 2, which is the same price as the Versa, but doesn't have a sedan and gets considerably worse gas mileage (28/34 city/highway compared to the Versa's 31/40). There's the Honda Fit, which again doesn't have a sedan version and is slightly more ($800) but offers slightly better gas mileage (33/41). The Civic brings the sedan, and the HF version gets the same gas mileage, but the price veers over $20K.

Again, a lot can change in two years. If gas prices take a sharp uptick, fuel-efficient cars start to become a premium, and gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs are harder to move. That makes selling a 10-year old Earthf**ker harder and finding a reasonably priced econobox harder as well. If gas prices stay low (under $3/gallon), then the reverse should hold true - small, fuel efficient cars look less attractive when gas isn't terrifically expensive. Two years can change a lot of things...

The really hard part comes if I get offered  a lowball figure for the Dodge. I'm willing to walk - heck, the Dodge is a result of me walking out of a Toyota dealership because they out-and-out lied to me about what they would give me for my Durango - but if the third place makes the same lowball offer, there's gotta be a reckoning. Is it worth holding onto the Earthf**ker and maybe getting a stripped Kia rather than trading the Dodge in and getting a Civic?

Now, I really do hope the Elio comes out on schedule and close to as promised. I can live with a few MPG off estimate, especially highway - my commute, while 90+ highway, is city mileage with all the stop-and-go. If the city is close - and the 1990s Geo Metro XFI got something like 45 MPG in city driving - that's a *HUGE* boost for me. Going from 14 MPG on a good day to 45 would cut my fuel bill by 1/3.

Do the math time: 200 miles a week by 50 weeks is 10K miles a year. At 14 MPG, that's 714.3 gallons. At 45 MPG, it's 222.2. Even at $3 a gallon, that's a savings of nearly $1,500 a year in gas alone, just from the daily commute. If I kept the Elio for 5 years, I would break even just on the gas used to commute at $3/gallon. Yes, it doesn't cover the cost of insurance or taxes, but those would break even just on the reduced wear on the truck (or close enough to it). Not to mention that sweet, sweet HOV lane...

Price also factors into the equation. The Elio is a dream at under $8K. At $14K, not so much - it doesn't have the creature comforts nor the  carrying capacity to justify the price of a new Versa sedan. I don't see taking the Elio up North for a bloggershoot, that's for certain. They're pitching it, smartly, as an "and" car - as in, I have a [regular vehicle] *and* I commute in an Elio. They bring the Elio to market at ~ $7,500 (figure a little extra for the auto transmission) and it gets 60/45 (highway/city), I will snap one up so fast it'll leave a vapor trail out of the dealership.

If I can pick up the Elio for close to what's been proposed, I'll do it in a heartbeat and keep the Ram for weekends and bad winter driving. Having a pickup is awesome for all sorts of reasons - taking TheBoy camping, hauling a trailer, making large item purchases, etc. It's paid for; by the time the Elio is out it will have been paid for nearly four years. It won't owe me a thing. If I can drastically reduce the wear and tear on it, it should last another five years without breaking a sweat.

The hardest part will be not giving it to TheBoy when he gets his license - and believe me, there is no way on G-d's Green Earth I am handing the keys to a 350HP, Hemi-V8-powered truck with a cap on the back to a teenaged boy...

That is all.


Anonymous said...

Jay, Jay, Jay...

Go Ford. Specifically, old diesel Ford.

1996 F-350 with the 7.3L diesel engine, 4x4 transmission, long bed AND quad cab, and over 244k on the odometer... ... and I'm getting 18.5+ mpg without doing any of the upgrades or mods available to increase fuel efficiency.

It's bigger than the Dodge, more fuel efficient, more powerful, lasts longer, carries more, tows more, and in another 100k miles will have lost precious little of it's value.

You need a truck, one big and powerful enough to compensate for the snubbies you always brag about carrying (still have that 242Ti, tw?). Old Ford 7.3 diesels will run you about the same as the optimistic cost projections of the Elio, last longer, and do more. Plus, you can load an Elio in the bed, along with a couple ramps, and the truck, being a diesel, won't accelerate hard enough to make it "cool" for a teen, while still possessing more than enough torque to spin the rear wheels in a "Jay Rage Burnout."

Go F-350 diesel or go home.

libertyman said...

I wouldn't pin my hopes on an Elio. Remember Bricklins? DeLoreans? And those guys had money. The Elio will debut when the flying car passes overhead.
A used economy car would make sense for the awful commute you have.
Keep the truck for the times you need a truck, and live with the terrible DC traffic with a smaller, safer real car that is nimble and cheap.

Whoever thought we would say gas is "only" $3.00 a gallon?

Anonymous said...

Mazda 2, Kia, Yaris? Jay, have you measured yourself lately? I'm only 6', and have a 30 mile commute. Getting a car that fits my body has done wonders for my outlook.

I picked up an Altima about a year ago. $19.2k out the door. 32mpg commuting, 44mpg road trips. And dang comfy.

Keep the truck in the driveway. Mine is a paid off Ram with 100k. It now only gets about 3000 miles a year, but those are some fun miles.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend has a 2012 Yaris - 4 door sedan.

I don't know if they still make the sedan or not, but they did then.

BTW - She loves the car.

abnormalist said...

I have a Scion XD. Its based on the same platform as the yaris, but has the 1.8L plant. It fits me well enough at 6', but it can be a bit tight width wise with two large guys in the front.

I can fit myself, the wife, and three kids in the back (one baby seat, one booster and a very uncomfortable 10yo stuck between those) for short trips, or me and all three kids (10yo up front) for longer trips without issue.

Right now I can do all of that with my hunting stuff (summit viper SD climbing stand, camo, bow, day pack, field dressing/tracking pack) all in the trunk at the same time.

If I respect the speed limit I can get 40 on the highway (5spd manual) or average above 30 doing only city commute stuff (tank average when I filled up yesterday was 32 calculated at the pump) its very nearly the perfect small car right now.

Fold the back seats and you can fit an amazing amount back there...

libertyman said...

Jeez, the Scion Xd looks good -- if you could lease it for the $159.00 a month as they say in the ad, you would be ahead of the game tomorrow. Keep it for three years and then lease something else.
Real car, really practical.

I saw the video of the Elio guy in the empty GM plant, and I just don't see that happening. They want to borrow $185 million to get going from the taxpayers to get started. Lots of forlorn (and old) looking robots doing nothing in the background. How long will $185 million last with payroll,benefits, inventory and equipment? Not long and not enough.

zeeke42 said...

Why the sedan over the hatch on the economy cars? My Honda Fit has a shocking amount of cargo space with the seats down for how small it is. Hatches make a small car usable for more tasks. You can carry as much stuff as anything short of a minivan or pickup as long as you don't need to hav e more than 2 people in the car at the time. I can carry 20+ 2"x4"x8's if it's just me. Try that in a compact sedan.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Jay, I'm with zeeke42. You KNOW how big I am. Yet I've been using a 2007 Fit for, well, since we bought it new. We bought it so I could commute to Akron U, which is a 50 mile trip one way. Except for Tires, Oil, and Asshats hitting me, I've had ZERO problems with it. None, nada, bupkis, not a damn thing wrong with it. Heck, I'll probably drive it to Murph's because I'm still getting well over 35 mpg. If I bring it, I'll give you a test drive. It's one of the best cars I've EVER owned.


Geodkyt said...

If it's just a commute-o-box and medium shopping trip driver, go with a hatchback.

D. Hall said...

If you can find one, get a Subaru. Outback or forester - they are the best car for NOVA. Decent gas mileage (my 09 outback gets 22/29 mpg and my 03 Forester gets 18/25).

All wheel drive works for winters here from the 60 deg to the snowmegedon versions. Clearance? 8-9 inches will keep you out of all but the worst DC potholes and let you navigate the random dirt/gravel road out past Warrenton. Hauling.... 500 pounds of gravel or enough camping gear for the family. Need more space, get a basket for roof racks.

Also, it's a Subaru, so when it's gets its DC beauty marks, you really won't mind. Also, heated seats in winter while your stuck in traffic on 66, well that is just pure heaven.

ProudHillbilly said...

Drove a Yaris as a rental. Thought it had amazing zip for a teeny car. Engines have changed a lot since I bought my first car.

ZerCool said...

How am I the first one to point out that Dodge has already announced a diesel 1500 for next model year? There are credible reports that Nissan will be dieseling the Titan and *maybe* the Frontier ... and if those two do it, you KNOW Ford and Chevy aren't far behind.

abnormalist said...

Yeah I bought mine new, financed over 5 years its about $300 a month purchased (I put a little down, got a few up options). I put on too many miles a year to lease, so really its a winning deal.

Hatchbacks honestly are the only thing that makes small cars work so well. If they had to do with a trunk, you sacrifice too much flexibility to get away with the smaller size.

Any of the Fit/Versa/Yaris/Scion options are winners really. On that note the Ford Fiesta is a nice little box too. Only american small hatch I can claim that for.

Jay G said...

Ooh, Scion. Hadn't thought about that.

Still want a sedan, though - I like having a trunk area in which to put items more securely. As in, would need a warrant to open. That sort of thing.

And if I were going to get a used truck, why wouldn't I keep my existing truck?

Ditto getting a new truck. Ain't happening. Not now. Maybe later.

Even the Tacoma, which is long-lived and all, sucks on gas. And costs $30K. 16/21 with the 4.0L V6 (standard with the 4WD, and I won't own a 2WD pickup).

For that kind of mileage and price, I'll get another Earthf**ker. Except if I were going to get another Earthf**ker, I'd just keep the one I have...

It's going to be a small car. It's just a question of which small car...

Will said...

if you put a large bin behind the seats of a hatchback, that has a locking lid, you should be good to go as far as requiring a warrant to open it. Same as a trunk. Figure out how to set up some quick release pins in the bottom of it, so it can't be removed unless you have access to the inside of the bin/box, for better security.

I drove a friends year old Scion Box for a couple weeks recently. Seems really good on gas, even with the auto trans (4spd). Surprisingly peppy, but mileage does suffer if you push it hard in stop and go driving. Shifter is set up for manual control, if you want.
Decent sound system, good A/C, and reasonably quiet with windows up.

"there is no way on G-d's Green Earth I am handing the keys to a 350HP, Hemi-V8-powered truck with a cap on the back to a teenaged boy..."
It's been my observation that the biggest problem is how many kids can they stuff in the vehicle. The more of them in a group, the dumber they act. Get him something with two seats, perhaps. Or a small supercab pickup, so he and his buddy can squeeze their dates in the jump seats to go into town.

Snowdog said...

if you want a sedan that gets 40+mpg, I'd suggest what I'm driving. VW Jetta TDI. It's diesel, so in theory that alone would piss off hippies, I get about 42 around town and closer to 47 on road trips, and VW diesels have a rep for running forever if you keep up with maintenance. Downside is diesel is more pricey nowadays.