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Why I Won’t Trade in My Gas Guzzler for a Gas Miser Car

By , October 24th, 2007 | 27 Comments »

gas guzzlersBy Wixx, special contributing writer

I have a gas guzzler (a Chrysler Pacifica) and so most people would recommend that I trade it in for a car that gets better gas mileage to help save money. Since this is the only car I own, I use to to commute back and forth to work which at first glance would make it appear to be a perfect candidate for replacement, but after running the numbers and taking in other transportation considerations, I do not see replacing the Pacifica as an option.

One of the biggest problems is that I have a family that includes 3 small children still using booster or car seats. In addition to my commute, the car is used for a number of long distance trips we take each year meaning that at least one car must accommodate all of us. Again, the logical solution would be to get another car to use for the commute and use the Pacifica for longer trips. Here are my calculations:

If I were to replace my gas guzzler, I would do it with a gas miserly Hybrid to use for the daily commute and to save the Family car for family trips only. So the Pacifica would hit the road on Sundays and Wednesdays, and for those trips to visit family. The Mac Daddy of gas misers appears to be the Toyota Prius Hybrid with a suggested retail price of $22,175. I currently pay about $175 per month on gas, so even if the Prius ran on air and Toyota gave me a 0% APR loan, it would take me ten and a half years to save the value of the second car in gas savings.

This of course changes for the worse when you consider that the Prius actually gets roughly three to four times better gas mileage than the Pacifica and not infinitely better. This means that I would pay more than $40 a month for gas. This increases the time it would take to pay for itself to 13 years and 7 months. The Prius has not been around for thirteen years yet, so no one knows what type of maintenance costs I would pay on a hybrid engine after thirteen years and the 300,000 plus miles that it would have on it at that time.

Figuring on a modest 5% loan for 48 months and the interest (with $0 down) would amount to just about $2400. This add just about 18 months to the time required to pay for the cost of the car. I am currently at fifteen years and one month, and I have made these calculations assuming that 100% of my current gas budget would be reduced by using the miser car. Obviously this would not be the case.

A trip to Church, followed by the usual Sunday drive to visit family and go to the library and back home is 50 miles that would have to go on the Pacifica. That is $6 a month at the current gas price. Short trips to the local park and the pond would add maybe another $1. Three trips up the East Coast, which has been our average over the last five years, would be another 3000 miles that can not benefit by the addition of the Prius. This works out to 150 gallons of gas or $400 at the price that I paid yesterday for gas. This would be $33 a month. The total monthly fuel cost that would remain on the Pacifica would therefore be $40. This takes the Prius savings on the gas budget down to $95.

To pay off the $24575 that the Prius would cost on a 5% loan for 48 months, at $95 a month would take 258.68 months. That is 21.55 years. I am pretty sure that as bad as it sounds to say, I am better off driving the Pacifica to work. They list the Prius as a 5 passenger car, but there is no way three children, two in booster seats and one in a car seat fit across the back seat.

This goes to show that you should never take a money saving tip as gospel. You need to run the numbers and see if it really makes sense for you.

Image courtesy of Malingering

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  • Cortni says:

    Of course it wouldn’t be worth it if you bought a brand new fuel effecient car… I bet the price difference would change a lot if you figured the price of buying an older gas saving car for a few thousand dollars. My husband has a 1991 Nissan Sentra that we got for free that gets over 40 miles to the gallon and runs great. That thing saves us a load of money!
    However, we do not have 3 children so I could see why you would need a bigger vehicle.

  • Anthony M.Liscio says:

    If you drive such a great s.u.v.
    why will Chrysler stop production of your station wagon? Driving a vehicle is not all numbers. If it where we
    would be driving bicycles! Buying a car should be about type of vehicle a person/family need for transportation. The header of your article said Honda Prius? Honda never had the intelligent engineers to make anything close to the real TOYOTA Prius.
    And then there is the case are you for or against clean air?
    There are better built cars that can safely transport 7 humans everywhere they need to go for a lot less than any CHrysler. I am a Prius Pioneer
    and I have driven vehicles of all types since Iwas honored to receive my drivers license LEGALY ih the year of the Lord,1957.

  • Spokane Al says:

    As some of the other commenters alluded, I don’t think the decision should be simply between buying a new car and keeping the old.

    I suggest that you consider a small used car in perhaps the $5 thousand and under range. If you keep a sharp eye out for a good deal you can snag yourself a good one. This car would get better gas mileage than your primary vehicle, and also allow you to avoid the day to day driving that causes wear and tear and piles on the mileage of that first car.

    And the depreciation is already taken care of, you have much less sunk into the second car, and you will even save on insurance as well with you worries about collision and other insurance costs lower as well.

  • dan says:

    One issue he didn’t bring up was the added expense for insurance for a second car. It wouldn’t be much if it was an older model, but it would be something.

  • WC Snyder says:

    The biggest cost of owning a car is depreciation!! so whalueen you figuring out how long it take to “payback” the cost of the Prius, you have to figure in the resale value of the prius.After three yrs ,only loses 25% of it value and after one yr if can find a low mileaged used one you can almost see it for what you paid for it.

  • hank says:

    DITTO! I can’t afford to be without it with kids and animals! I guess I “could” but it would be inconvenient. The 2008 GMC Hybrid is supposed to be pretty slick and I’d be interested in that. I actually wrote my Blog Action Day post about this – linked to my name here –

  • baselle says:

    Good point – run the numbers for all the possibilities. Why use a car to commute at all? Is it possible that you could commute using public transportation, and would fare be cheaper than gas? My bus fare is subsidized by my workplace – I pay 10$/month for unlimited fares – basically .50/day. Again, you want to run the numbers on every possibility, not just the car ones.

    We have a huge Buick, but we drive it only on weekends.

  • Annie J says:

    I agree that buying a NEW gas-miser car is not the way to go if you want to save money. A good used economy car seems more practical, even with the added insurance costs. But what about carpooling? Is there anyone (or several anyones) who can commute with you, toss a few dollars your way, and keep their cars off the road? I know it’s difficult to carpool when you have kids (what if one gets sick and you have to leave?) but it might be worth considering.

  • Jo says:

    Did I miss something or perhaps it’s too early and I haven’t finished my second cup of coffee.

    I reread the original post and nowhere do I see it where Honda is mentioned. I read Toyota Prius throughout the post.

    I read last year in a Reader’s Digest that having a hybrid is not much of a money saver as far as out of pocket costs go. The cost of a new vehicle makes up for the savings one would get from gas consumption.

    The flipside of this means, of course, less gas consumption, which is good in regards to our dependence on oil.

    It’s whatever one wants to consider which is more important of the two. My personal preference would have to be the latter reasoning as the most logical. Better yet, when are they ever going to come out with vehicles that run on hydrogen alternatives?

  • pfadvice says:

    I changed the Honda / Toyota error – sorry about that…got sidetracked on other things and didn’t acknowledge the change.

  • Teri says:

    Yes – you don’t even need a hybrid to get gas economy. Our Ford Escort gets 40 mpg easy on the freeway.

    Just another point. Hybrid is not the only way to go.

  • qseep says:

    You have 3 small children in booster/car seats. Your calculations span 13 years, but your kids aren’t going to need car seats for 13 years. Once they all get out of the car seats, you can sell your car and buy a used, fuel-efficient sedan, like an old Honda Civic or Toyota Corrola. Sedans have 2 seats in the front and 3 in the back, which ought to be plenty of room, especially when the 3 in the back are just kids.

  • Craig says:

    I have run the same type calculations and come to the same conclusions. When you have a car that’s paid for and in good shape, it’s very difficult to financially justify replacing. I think it would be difficult to justify a second vehicle as well. The added cost of insurance, maintenance and (here in SC) taxes would quickly eat up in savings in fuel economy.

  • Fred H says:

    Good thing you didn’t caculate more carefully BEFORE you bought a Crysler Pacifier.
    Just be sure not to mention http://www.fueleconomy.gov ..oops.
    Apparently some other commenters here just don’t understand that cleaner air, less noise and less dependence on oil are worthless because they don’t save you money. Metallic paint, CD stereo systems, and fancy wheels, on the other hand, pay for themselves in no time at all.

  • Cindy M says:

    Interesting post. You guys make me real glad I work from home and live within walking/bus ride distance of most everything I need, church included. I’m sure not sorry now I bought my house where I did though I wasn’t sure at first it was the right move. My car’s a 1999 Suzuki Esteem and I’ve had excellent luck with it but I think my next car will be no car. I don’t have to think about hauling kids, either, which of course helps tremendously.

  • FinWhiz says:

    What is you just didn’t take out more debt and buy the car outright?
    It is not etched in stone to have car debt!

  • Realist says:

    What if gas prices continue to rise? I sense that they will rise until people are forced to conserve. Waiting for the economics to make sense could be very expensive later. T Boone Pickens predicts high prices due to supply shortages, so we may be seeing $6 gas within five years(like Europe). Your Pacifica will likely get much less use at those prices. Rent an SUV when you need it. Owning may not make sense in the future.

  • Fred H says:

    I apologize for my sarcastic comment no. 15 from October 25.
    You made an honest mistake buying a gas guzzler, and you made an honest effort to find a better solution. You should be commended for your open mindedness in considering alternatives, and sharing your thoughts with us. Sorry.

    However, you might consider redoing some of your calculations, because you have made some false assumptions.
    You assumed that it would have no resale value when you calculated how long it would take to pay for itself. But the Prius has a relatively high resale value, so you can subtract the resale value from your buying price to arrive at a faster pay back period.
    You assume that you would have to keep it at least thirteen years, but because of its high resale value, you could sell it sooner, and recover its residual value.
    You assume that nobody knows what type of maintenance costs you would pay on a hybrid after thirteen years and 300,000 plus miles. But the Prius has been around for ten years and there are quite a few with high miles, and yes, some over 300,000. So if there were any special problems, they would certainly have started to show up by now. The eight year guarantee and the good reliability statistics speak for themselves. The regular maintenance costs are not more than a typical comparable non-hybrid, and most probably less than your Pacifica.

  • Shadox says:

    We also own a minivan and there is no way around the gas guzzlers if you have three small kids.

    Our other car is an old Geo Prizm 1997, that gets about 30 miles to the gallon.

  • Heather says:

    qseep in post 13 makes a good point.

    Just because buying a fuel-efficient vehicle isn’t your favourite option for now, doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the future! Circumstances change, and hopefully you’ll be able to choose something that’s better for the environment and everyone’s health later on in life. Hopefully then it will be worth it even if you have to pay a little extra. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Fred H says:

    You could also consider trading in your gas guzzler for a different SUV that gets better milage. For example, the Ford Escape Hybrid, which has an EPA rating of 34 city, 30 highway. A good starting point for finding fuel efficient alternatives is http://www.fueleconomy.gov

  • xshanex says:

    to get in on this fairly late….

    I also agree that hybrids aren’t always the answer. I would buy a toyota yaris over a prius to save $10k and get similar gas mileage. I have a moderate gas guzzler in my toyota tacoma that gets about 19mpg in mixed driving. I’ll be driving it for several more years until I buy something more economical if I have a long commute. My reasoning is as following

    A. I needed a truck to haul my motorcycles, trailers, and to move cross-country

    B. I need to be able to drive in poor weather due to being on call and working a job that needs 24/7 coverage so if its snows or is flooded I still need to go to work. Most smaller AWD wagons and sedans aren’t exactly fuel misers. Realistically I could expect around 25 mpg in mixed driving

    C. I frankly don’t drive that much so my impact isn’t that heavy. A coworker of mine has a Prius which is a great choice but drives 80 miles round trip everyday just for work! He uses a lot more gas than me! I know I’m not the only one that isn’t putting 15-20k miles on their rides every year. I ride my motorcycles which get 40-55mpg part of the time the 7 miles to work and the rest of the time I drive my truck. I average between 8-10k miles a year at most including a few road trips.

    D. I will be buying a cheap lightly used honda civic or toyota yaris or similar car when/if I have a longer commute or just need to drive more. If I was already moved and was looking at vehicles I would be buying a new economy car and an older truck for the times when I would need it

  • Paul says:

    My 1991 Nissan Sentra gets 40 MPG and has been paid off for over 20 years. Yes, I’ve maintained it well for all of those years (tires, brakes, one radiator, axles, rear struts); however, it has almost 300k miles on it and is still running strong.

  • Paul says:

    Revised – paid off for 15 years.

  • David says:

    I’m not most people.The Pacifica gets pretty good gas mileage for its size and capabilities. You called it a gas guzzler. A gas guzzler would be a SUV or car that gets 10-12 mpg. To achieve better gas mileage do not press the pedal down hardly when acclerating. At a stop easy off the line. I can get 22 city and 25 hw. This only comes out to twice as suck as the Prius, if the Prius get 50mpg. Not 4 times the amount. Your exaggerating!

  • Mikkeli says:

    Paul is surely the freshest new oracle

  • Tyler W says:

    My 1989 Honda civic Hatchback gets about 40-50 MPG thank’s to the dual Point injection system, bought the car for 800$.


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