Hybrids – Buy a Cheapster!
really serious about saving money on transportation, the very last
thing you should do is buy a new car. Particularly a new hybrid
car. Its as counterproductive as trying to lose weight by
ordering a diet Coke with your triple Angus Thickburger.
The car companies
like the fast-food places dont want you to realize
this, of course. Their business model depends on you losing
money (or gaining weight or both).
not yet forced to buy new cars or eat Thickburgers.
We still have
the option to do something better something smarter.
And when it comes to cutting transportation costs, buying a cheapster
is much smarter, money-wise, than buying a new hybrid.
a cheapster? Its a car like they ought to be making now but
arent for a variety of reasons, including government
regulations that heavily compromise fuel efficiency for the sake
of making them every more crashworthy (which typically means making
them ever-more-heavy). Cars like the old Geo/Chevy Metro
made from circa 1989 through 2001. This car never had an engine
bigger than 1.3 liters (many had a 1 liter engine) because
it never weighed more than about 1,800 lbs. (early models weighed
as little as 1,600 lbs.). As a result, it got 42 MPG nearly
as good as a new Toyota Prius (which weighs a beefy 3,042 lbs.).
quick search of Auto Trader online ginned up two Metros for sale.
The first, a 97 with AC and only 45,000 miles, listed for
$3,700 (see here)
or about $20,000 less than the base price of a new Prius ($23,015).
I found another
a 96 with 67k miles for $2,495 (see here).
this a minute. These cars cost almost nothing to buy many
people will be able to stroke a check for the whole amount, thereby
eliminating the monthly payment. Meanwhile, had you bought a new
Prius, youd be paying about $400 a month for the next five
years and thats assuming you bought one for sticker
and pay zero interest. How much gas would you have to save to make
up for what you just spent? Probably, youd never reach break
even. The difference in cost between the used Metros and a new Prius
about $20,000 would buy roughly 5,000 gallons of unleaded
regular at $4 per gallon. At an average 40 MPG, this is enough to
keep the car going for 200,000 miles. Only then would a new Prius
begin saving you money assuming, of course, its
still running by then.
used Metro cost you zip per month. Your only fixed cost is
fuel and the Metros gas mileage is nearly as good as
the real-world mileage of the Prius. (Doubters should check out
a comparison test Car and Driver magazine did in 2008. A
98 Metro hatchback was stacked up against a Honda Insight
hybrid and a Toyota Prius. The Metro registered 42 MPG right
on the tailpipe of the then-new 08 Prius 48 city, 45
highway.) The non-hybrid Metro is also a simple car no battery
packs or electric motors to sweat once the warranty expires. Even
if the engine eventually requires work including a complete
rebuild the work will not be cost-prohibitive. A new/rebuilt
Metro engine and transmission would probably cost you around $4,000
for everything, done by a pro and youd be good
to go for another 100,000-plus miles of 42 MPG.
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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