mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Should madanthony get something a little more fuel-efficient?

There have been a host of articles lately about how the Geo Metro is the new Prius - the price of them has gone up, and people are seeking them out because they are cheap and easy on gas. People have been making money buying them, fixing them up, and reselling them on eBay. Other tiny shitboxes, like the Ford Fiesta, have also been on the rise.

I've been debating if it would be worth buying a second, cheap, fuel efficient vehicle. It sounds like a great idea - I mean, I like cars, and I love buying stuff, so buying a car is hella tempting. But as hard as I try, I can't figure out a way to make the numbers work to justify it.

My current vehicle is a paid off 2006 Ford Ranger XLT 4wd extended cab/ It's got the biggest available engine - a 207hp 4.0 V6. I get about 20 miles a gallon if I'm lucky - since I do a lot of stop-and-go driving, it's usually less. I seem to get gas about every 5 days, and usually have around 200 miles on the clock when I refill. So I guess I drive about 40 miles a day, or 280 miles a week. That means I use about 14 gallons of gas a week, which at $4 a gallon means I spend about $56 a week on gas.

So let's say that I bought something that got 40 miles a gallon. That would halve my gas spending, save me $28 a week in gas, or $1456 a year.

The problem is that I don't think that saving would make up for the extra cost. I have two options - I could either trade in the Ranger, or buy a second car.

To me, trading it in doesn't make sense. It's paid off, it's been reliable (so far, the only thing that's failed was the left turn signal), it's still got a year on the warranty, I've dumped some money into customizing it (tonneau cover, bedliner). It's not my dream vehicle, but I like it - it looks good, is unique, has lots of room when I need to haul crap, and 4wd for the occasional snowstorm. It's two years old, which means I'd take a huge depreciation hit if I traded it in, especially since the trade-in value for trucks is dropping.

So the other option is buy a second vehicle - a used, older, subcompact. I keep trying to think if there is some vehicle that was reliable and gas-efficient but that people have forgotten about. There are a host of small vehicles - the Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift, the Ford Fiesta, the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, the Subaru Justy, Toyota Tercel/Paseo/Echo, the Mazda 323 - but most are hard to find in decent shape and several have sketchy reliability. Besides, buying a used car means the chance of getting a lemon. Even if I get lucky and find one that's decent, I still have to pay to register it, insure it, and maintain it - and a vehicle of that age is going to need much more in repairs than my 2 year old truck. Registration alone is $60 a year, and insurance would probably run around $800 - several years ago, I was debating buying a used van as a second vehicle, and I was quoted $1200 a year. That was when I still lived in Baltimore City, and my insurance dropped when I moved to the county, so I adjusted it. But that's about $900 right there a year - over half of my gas savings per year - and doesn't include purchase cost or maintenance.

So I'm thinking my best bet is just stick with the Ranger and wince every time I fill her up - my most recent fillup almost broke the $50 mark. If I could go back in time, I probably would have bought something smaller - but if I could go back in time, there are a lot of things I would do in life, like hit on girls. There are vehicles that get much worse mileage than my truck, and it's not like I can't buy food because of the cost of gas - I just can't save as much.

Still, I'll probably keep an eye out for used metros while I'm driving. Especially if it's the rare convertible.


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