When Does It Make Financial Sense To Downsize Your Car?

Over at Consumer Reports they’ve been running the numbers, trying to figure out when it makes financial sense to downsize into a more fuel efficient car.

The big takeaway is that the more of your car you currently own, the more you stand to gain by switching:

If you are midway through a vehicle loan, as in the scenarios explored in this blog series, you may not have much equity (especially as you chase accelerating depreciation) in your vehicle, and it may make sense to stick it out for another year or two. The tipping point comes sooner depending on how much of the vehicle you truly own, versus the bank, and how great a sacrifice you are willing to make when downsizing.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but they have shared some helpful advice for those of you who are thinking of getting that Prius.

  • Don’t rush into downsizing without considering all the owner costs of your current vehicle, including depreciation and finance charges.

  • Understand your goals with downsizing (environmental concern, fuel savings, cost savings), and be sure your strategy will meet these goals…
  • In northern regions, consider using your SUV as a winter-only vehicle, especially if it enables you to buy an efficient, front-wheel drive car, rather than an all-wheel drive model. Be sure to adjust your insurance accordingly.

More info over at Consumer Reports.

Downsizing to the extreme [CR]
(Photo: geognerd )

Comments

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  1. Heyref says:

    Consider too that if you own your car outright with no loan, replacement will involve a new auto loan with monthly payments added on to your fuel bill. My advice is to buy a decent car, pay it off, and drive it until you can’t get parts. My step-son is driving a 1988 Ford Tempo that I bought new. My TCO for that car, excluding fuel, oil, and insurance, but including tires and everything else, is still well under $15,000. That works out to less than $750 per year plus gas, oil, and insurance. Three teenagers have learned to drive in that car, and yes, it is a 5-speed stick.

  2. Sudonum says:

    We paid cash for a full size SUV 2 years ago. We recently looked at trading it in for a Highlander Hybrid. We would have had to write a check for $30k, you can buy a lot of gas for $30k.

  3. Trai_Dep says:

    I wonder how long it would take to chase the accelerating depreciation on your Escalade or Hummer.

    Related question: how much would Jupiter weigh if it stood on a Black Hole?

    I’d add, in seriousness, however, if you’re already driving a car that gets reasonable gas mileage, you’d probably do better waiting until when you’d normally sell your car, rather than feeling pressured to by a hybrid. I’d think that throwing out a decent-mileage car would make the polar bears cry more than switching to a hybrid.

  4. chevychic55 says:

    Ok, I own my 2007 Camry free and clear (I know my screen name is odd, but I miss my Silverado). I got the Camry to be more practical since I had a regular cab (no back seat) truck. The Camry is supposed to get 24 mpg city, but that is far from the case. My 4-cylinder is lucky to get 20 mpg and it is perfectly maintained on schedule. Here is the deal, I have really crappy credit. I have student loans and zero credit history, so my score sucks. Would it be better to just keep the car I hate and avoid getting slammed with interest on a hybrid? I usually go through one tank a week (15 gallons). Oh and before anyone asks, my mom bought the car for me cash from the dealer.

  5. freshyill says:

    @Sudonum: And you wouldn’t sell your current SUV? If it’s only two years old, you can still get quite a bit for it. I’m not saying that makes it worth it to trade it in right now, but you certainly wouldn’t have to put up $30,000 to get something new.

  6. freshyill says:

    @chevychic55: Do you spend $416/month on gas? If not, that would be silly. That’s what a $25,000 Prius would cost (estimated) spread out over a five-year loan.

    On the other hand, you’ll certainly get something for an ’07 Camry. Let’s say you get $15,000 for it (probably optimistic).

    That would leave $10,000 that you’d need to sink into that Prius. Over five years, that’s $166/month. Would buying that Prius cut your gas costs by that much every month?

    If that’s the case, you might want to go for it. If you’re taking out a loan, it could be an opportunity to help build your credit score.

    Only you know the exact numbers for sure. I suspect it’s not worth it for you, but it might be worth investigating since your current car is so new, and you owe nothing on it.

  7. dimodica1 says:

    I gave up a 2004 Chev 2500 Crew Cab that got at best 15 mpg for a 2007 Toyota Prius. I have already put on 22,500 miles. The last time I got gas I averaged 53.6 mpg. Best deal I ever made

  8. Sudonum says:

    @freshyill:
    We paid $38k, and were offered $16k, they wanted $46k for a similarly equipped Highlander. We feel we could sell it ourselves for considerably more but we’d still have to write a hefty check for the Hybrid, that’s even if we could find one right now. Local dealers can’t lay their hands on one for love nor money.

  9. itmustbeken says:

    If we could all just stay calm… Funny, when the news that Americans were actually buying less gas reached the Saudi’s, their production increased. hmmm…that is a coincidence…

    I’m not taking any hits of the hybrid bong for awhile.

    A neighbor called about buying one a month ago and went in this month to find the price had climbed by $5,000 for no reason other than greed.

    Thankfully my bike gets great gas mileage and my fat butt likes it too. Sort of.

  10. stopshopping says:

    Why are we asking this question? Bad substitutes for bad products are not a solution. Move, drive less, take a bike, a bus, train, etc. Forget replacing a vehicle with a vehicle! We need to talk RADICAL transformation here…

  11. freshyill says:

    @imdgonz: Clearly we need better train service, but the fact remains that they’ll never work for everyone. I go weeks without getting in a car, but I travel every few weeks, and renting a car is really the only option for me.

  12. Bladefist says:

    If you are doing this for the global warming nonsense, fine whatever. But if you are doing this for the financial benefits, I urge you not too.

    As the dollar climbs back where it should be, gas will go back down.

    Do your research on the hybrids and the Ethanol vehicles, as they can cost more then gasoline. For instance ethanol is 20% cheaper, but 20% less efficient then gas.

  13. We got rid of our Subaru Forester right after Katrina. The better half got my Accord, and I got a Scion xA. Say what you want about my car, but it’s a blast to drive, and it pushes 40 MPG when driven carefully. The good news was, we were able to sell the Forester privately for a decent price to somebody who lives in the Adirondacks and really needs it. I doubt we’d be as fortunate now.

  14. @imdgonz: Move? You gotta be kidding. You want to talk about expenses? Moving is right up there with buying a new car, especially if you have to employ a Realtor to (hopefully) get your house sold in a timely fashion for a decent price. Lots of luck with that in today’s housing market.

  15. Lance Uppercut says:

    @Steaming Pile: That’s what I think of every time someone talks about moving. The amount I’d have to pay in closing costs and commissions would buy my gas for 10 years.

  16. geoffhazel says:

    my wife is on the prius bandwagon now. we have a 3 yr old Kia Sedona that gets 15 mpg around town and a 17 gal tank that costs over 75 bucks to fill.

    Anyway, I told her she should settle for a 30 mpg car vs 40 mpg. I figured at 6.00 gas , 30mpg is 20c /mile and 40 mpg is 15c/mi, 5c mile difference. She drives 20k mi a year, so that’s 1000.00. The 30 mpg car costs 20,000, the prius 30-35000. That’s a lot of gas!

  17. WraithSama says:

    @Steaming Pile: I want to point this out for the people that suggest moving: I just bought a house for $113,000. According to the finalized contract I signed, the sellers only got about $50,000 of that after taxes and fees (including Realtor comission). LESS than 50% of the actual selling price.

  18. balthisar says:

    I’m probably going to get flamed, but this is making me consider another Expedition. No, not as a daily driver… that’s just wasteful. But they’re so cheap now, I could buy one outright (no payment, and not brand new).

    Plus as I’ve learned from my current, paid-for car, $4 gas is downright cheap when you don’t have a car payment. At every cheap, high-mileage option I look at, I can’t beat staying in my current car. It’s also encouraging that it’s on the Consumer Reports best used cars to own list.

    I’m already considering my next new car when it’s out in 2010, but even with the 43 mpg it will get, that’s still the equivilent of $2 gas with my current car, and isn’t it at $2 when we all started griping?

  19. BlueTraveler says:

    I just bought a 1995 Honda Del Sol to commute in. I am going from commuting in my Tundra @ 16mpg to now commuting in the Del Sol @40mpg. I paid cash for the Del Sol for $2000 with only 147,000 miles on it. I did this solely for the gas savings and nothing to do with the environment. This decision will start paying dividends in 8 months. I did not get rid of the Tundra as it is still needed.

  20. unpolloloco says:

    It would take me 460000 miles for a switch to a Prius to be economically feasible for me. I think I might hold off for a bit (especially since I drive maybe 5000 mi a year)

  21. Gas prices are obnoxious ….. but why panic and trade in your car?

    Look at the issue from the point of $ increase per year. Remember a year ago the gas price and mileage for your vehicle was acceptable.

    My gas bill is up $339 per year based upon 7000 miles annual at 20.6 mpg, assuming $1 per gallon increase in the past year.

  22. raleel says:

    My wife and I are just not in the market. She drives a 35mpg 2002 civic ex, and I drive a 45+mpg 1992 civic vx. both paid off.

    However, I have relatives that are driving 25mpg vehicles every day, single passenger. They are seriously looking at 50cc scooters, since most of their driving every day is city streets. for them, moving from 25mpg to 110 mpg is really a substantial move, particularly when you consider our scooter driving season (like 9 months) and the price (under $2k). When you are looking at $15+ dollars a week in savings, it makes a lot more sense.

  23. madanthony says:

    I’ve got a paid off 2006 Ford Ranger pickup (4wd extended cab with the biggest available engine, the 4.0L V6). I bought it new, it now has 27k miles on it. I do mostly local driving and have a lead foot, so I usually get 15-18 mpg.

    I have no plans on dumping in it, but I keep debating if it’s worth buying a second vehicle with better mileage for commuting. So far, I can’t really make the numbers work – by the time I pay for another car, plus tags, insurance, registration, and maintenance on an older car, I can’t imagine the gas savings would make up for it. I was planning on eventually buying a second car – probably a sports car – and I think I probably will still do this, but I’ll probably focus more on mileage than fun when I do.

  24. Me - now with more humidity says:

    @chevychic55: You’re only paying $160/mo for gas, plus another $100/mo or so for insurance? No new car is gonna beat that. Drive it ’till the wheels fall off.

  25. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Sorry, make that $240 for gas. Numbers still work to keep it.

  26. S3CT says:

    Nobody is buying SUVs. Nobody. You can try and sell your slightly used one but you will take a huge hit. Even dealers aren’t taking them on trades much. SUV owners and large pickup owners are 169% owned, boned and dethroned.

  27. samson says:

    Can’t afford to ” downsize ” a car. I can go with the bus option with monthly payments for unlimited mileage.

  28. S3CT says:

    I especially love the giant SUV owners that are 10,000 dollars upside down on their loans when they try to trade them in. Not only do they have to keep the 600 dollar a month payments but it costs them over 100 a week to fill the things. Pure comedy at the gas stations these days.

  29. DH405 says:

    I say wait a few years. With the research being put into alternative-fuel vehicles due to oil prices, we’re bound to have more advances in this area. Hell, look at the XP Vehicles electric car. (myxpcar.com)

  30. Syrenia says:

    @chevychic55:

    Random thought… Last summer my Miata started getting crap mileage (it’s usually 28-30, more on pure highway tanks — I managed 40 on one road trip last month). Anyway, it was getting about 20 over several tanks. I took it in to Mazda and it turned out that only one of the spark plugs had been attached correctly after a tune-up several months before. I hadn’t noticed because I take the light rail to work and only drive once or twice a week. (I go through about one tank per month.)

    Maybe the people who are maintaining your car aren’t doing a good job. After the spark plug incident, I changed mechanics, and everything’s been great since.

    I’d have someone else do the next service and see if that changes anything. My 2000 Camry with a V6 got a pretty consistent 28 the four years that I had it.

  31. thinwhiteduke says:

    @Sudonum: What. I cannot seriously believe people are paying 46k for a Toyota SUV. The choices for cars in that bracket are virtually endless. Hell, you might as well get the Lexus hybrid for that kinda coin!

    What did you buy for 36 that’s worth 16? That’s nose bleed inducing depreciation.

  32. Sudonum says:

    @thinwhiteduke:
    We looked at the Lexus, it’s $50k and not as big as the Highlander (Highlander has 3rd row seating), and the Highlander has better mileage rating.

    We got a certified used Escalade with 3000 miles on it. 100,000 mile guarantee. Any full size SUV is sucking wind in resale value now. Edmunds is stating a trade value of $23k and a private party sale price of $28k, certified used at $30k. The Toyota dealer was trying to hose us.

    We got it for my wife to haul clients, family vacations, and towing a trailer. It’s not that the gas is hurting us financially, we just hate giving any more money than we have to to the oil companies.

  33. buyer5 says:

    @chevychic55: Less than 20 mpg? Thats sad, but not unheard of, the 4 cylinder Accord is like 19 city. My old 89 Mustang with a 302 V8 Automatic got 22 on average… Its amazing (and a weebit shameful) that these modern midsize cars have such low city figures.

  34. Jesse says:

    Scion isn’t a bad car brand to look at. You can get a Scion tC (a.k.a. Toyota Celcia) for $17k. They aren’t priced much above invoice. The trick is not to buy any accessories.

  35. quiksilver says:

    I have a Subaru STI that gets around 22 MPG. It’s half way paid off and really doesn’t make much sense to switch to a different car. Instead, I downtuned the engine and am getting around 28 MPG, but I also bought a $3000 motorcycle that easily gets 75 MPG, so I don’t have to worry about wear and tear on my car. Works for me

  36. @Trai_Dep: And generally the rule of thumb (rule of thumb, not God’s own law!) for environmental friendliness has been to drive your car for 10 years, then get a new one (new new); that’s the point at which technology has typically advanced that you’ll do more good in terms of emissions and gas use than you’ll do harm by “disposing” of a vehicle and demanding extraction of raw materials to get a new one.

    I’m sure this number has shifted somewhat with the introduction of hybrids, but if you’re driving a reasonably fuel-efficient sedan, you might look at that 10-year mark as the guideline for when a new car becomes financially and environmentally a good idea.

    —-

    “In northern regions, consider using your SUV as a winter-only vehicle”

    How about NOT? I mean, really, higher center of gravity = more SUVs in ditches. If the snow is THAT BAD that you need an SUV for clearance and traction, why are you driving in it to begin with? And for the TWO of you who actually know how to drive trucks in snow, shut up. You know I’m talking about the 99 million Americans who think an SUV is a car and drive accordingly.

  37. Jesse says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I agree on the SUV comment. If the roads are that bad which a 4×4 is needed, then they should stay off the road until it can be plowed.

    I’ve lived in northern climates all my life and got by fine with my RWD Ford Ranger and subsequently my FWD Pontiac.

  38. iMike says:

    If you know how to drive in the snow, you don’t need an SUV. I, however, both know how to drive in the snow and have a big ass SUV with which I enjoy helping the idiots who don’t know how to drive in the snow.

    That said, the big ass SUV is all but parked 7-8 months of the year, and I ride a motorcycle instead.

    So my blended average fuel economy is something like 30-32 mpg, which I can live with.

  39. . says:

    @WraithSama: They undoubtedly had an existing mortgage or two to pay off, in addition to fees, taxes, sales commissions.

  40. Amy Alkon000 says:

    I drive a hybrid Honda Insight, which weighs 1900 lbs, and gets amazing mileage, but a number of my neighbors drive modified diesel Mercedes that run on used vegetable oil. I believe there’s a guy in Silverlake (in Los Angeles) that does the mods. There was a piece about it in the LA Times a while ago.

    Whatever car you get, I think it’s important to get one that has a working airbag. It was something that made me really nervous — not having one, that is — when I could only afford an old junker.

    Also, for those who think they need a huge vehicle to haul stuff…if you only haul stuff a couple times a year, maybe it’s cheaper just to rent a large vehicle then? Or borrow a friend’s vehicle and take them out for a really nice dinner.

  41. thinwhiteduke says:

    @Trai_Dep: Ha according to the never reliable KBB, it’s saying trade in on my SUV is 2 grand more than the retail price I paid in March. KBB is so worthless.

  42. Trai_Dep says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: What a helpful rule of thumb. Thanks!
    Although, cheap bast*rd that I am, I’ll do a 10+2 years, since I’d sooner commit seppuku than take the hit to the wallet that new car drivers experience rolling it off the lot. :)

  43. Trai_Dep says:

    @thinwhiteduke: It must be hard for the KBB to keep up, and the car lots too.
    I have a friend shopping for cars tracking Hummer prices in the car mags the past few months out of perverse curiosity. They retailed for around $60-70,000 in their glory days? Were going for $30K, trending towards $23-ish thou now. That’s gotta sting.
    The small or mid-sized ones are different, of course. Or larger ones for those that really need them. But around my parts, they’re fashion statements. Like mood rings or super-baggy jeans were. Just as dated, but more embarrassing.

  44. Rusted says:

    My 2003 Subaru Baja gets 28 highway, 20 in town, can carry just about anything and is paid off. I’m driving it until the wheels fall off. That being said, gasoline is never going down again. Four dollars this year, five the next, six after that and so on. In five years, think ten dollars a gallon, and that is a low estimate.

    My car is the last direct internal combustion powered vehicle I’ll ever own. By the time it dies (10 – 15 years) most present day vehicles will be cycled out of the national fleet from wear and tear and the odd accident.

    True hybrids will be the way to go. They will store electricity for short trips and use chemical energy for long trips.

    @Eyebrows McGee: How I can relate. I had a one wheel drive ancient F-250 that still got places one day while some SUVs were sitting on their door handles in the ditches. Black ice…..

    Like my AWD for now, its full time and limited slip ALL the way around, side to side and front to back. So spoiled.

    @balthisar: I’ve thought of getting one of those used for my business. Not for people but for tools and materials. Rip out the seats and the plush and it’s a nice big truck for construction. But the way fuel costs are going, perhaps just a trailer for wood and paying for deliveries of large items.

  45. theysaidwhat says:

    I’m keeping my small SUV, thanks. It’s rarely driven (24,000 miles in 3 years) and nearly paid off. But when I need the car, I need the car, which is primarily used to transport several people and a dog, with attendant luggage, on trips exceeding 3 hours in all varieties of weather. Commute is public transportation.

    And to the guy who said that if you know how to drive in snow–I’m partially with you. I drove a two-seater toyota in upstate NY for several years. But this car is much easier in the snow. MUCH! And when some idiot who doesn’t know how to drive in snow hits me, there is a much higher probability that I will walk away in my current car…

  46. dazzlezak says:

    I agree you don’t need a SUV for winters. I drove an FWD (front wheel drive, for non car geeks) Dodge shadow in Rochester NY, for 5 years, slow down, have good tires, use common sense (this is the most important tip in ALL driving), you’ll be ok in all but the worst snowstorms.

    At which point, if your job dosen’t involve saving people’s lives, stay inside. No one wants to come pull your SUV out of the snowbank.

    BTW my 1999 Mazda Protoge LX 4cyl 1.6l (smaller engine) gets 25mpg in everyday driving with a K&N air filter ($50), with the A/C on in the city. If I make HWY trips I get about 32mpg.

    You would have to give me a new car for it to make financial sense to switch to ANY new car as long as it keeps running reliably, it’s paid for. What a great car it’s been for 110K miles.

  47. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Crunch the numbers, people. I put everything into an Excel spreadsheet…how many miles I drive per year, current and projected gas prices, and my monthly/yearly fuel consumption.

    My current car is paid for and gets about 26 city/30 hwy MPG. Turns out that I’d save $33 a month moving to a Honda Fit (35 MPG), and $60 a month moving to a Prius (50 MPG). Hardly worth a $400 a month car payment and the $3000 I’d instantly lose driving a new car off the lot. Since I only drive 10,000 miles a year, there’s very little payoff in fuel savings moving to a smaller car.

    Now if I were going to sell the present car *anyway*, then I’d probably buy the Fit. Although not as fuel efficient as the Prius, the price tag is $10,000 less. If I were going to have car payments anyway, the fuel savings would certainly help and might be a good hedge against gasoline prices going even higher.

    So, unless you’re in the market for the car, and unless you drive enough miles such that your gas bill starts to become a significant percentage of your car payment, don’t bother running out and spending $26,000 on a new Prius. That’s purely from a financial standpoint. If it makes you feel good, by all means…have at it…but running out and buying a new car isn’t necessarily going to save you a wad of cash….quite the opposite.

  48. @Trai_Dep: Oh, ditto. The other option is to figure “I’m buying used, those resources have already been extracted, so I can cut a couple years off waiting.” (But then you miss some technology benefits.) But I’m so cheap about cars I’ll wait the couple extra years too, just to not have to buy a new car! :D

  49. @Jesse: “I’ve lived in northern climates all my life and got by fine with my RWD Ford Ranger and subsequently my FWD Pontiac.”

    I know, my husband’s from the south and he TOTALLY INSISTS we require 4WD and large urban assault vehicles to drive in snow. I’m like, “Butthead, I learned in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and we’re a lot safer in our little low Focuses than in giant, flip-prone SUVs. Especially you, since you seem to have yet to have grasped the concept of “go slower when slippery.”” He makes me extremely nervous in snow and tornado weather (“I can totally beat that tornado home!”).

    Also the odds of being able to push your compact sedan out of a stuck spot are a lot higher than of being able to push your SUV out. I can shove my Focus out of a stuck spot BY MYSELF and I’m pretty small.

  50. alfundo says:

    One doesn’t need to buy a hybrid to become more fuel efficient. I bought a 2008 Scion xB which was had mileage ratings of 22/28. It comes with the digital dash that allows you to monitor your MPGs on the go. This allows you to tweak your driving habits to maximize your MPGs. I’m currently averaging 32 MPG without really trying too hard. The sticker price for a Scion xB is around $16 – $18k.

  51. Joe_Bloe says:

    @BlueTraveler: That’s exactly what I did. Twice now. 18 months ago I was driving a V8 Lincoln (16mpg) 12K miles a year and my wife was driving an Explorer (15mpg) 12K miles a year. I sold the Linc for enough to buy a <30K mile PT Cruiser (26mpg), and wife kept driving the Explorer. Then a month ago I bought a ’94 Escort for pocket money. Wife is driving the PT–although she prefers automatic transmission, we can’t ignore the savings. I’m getting 34 mpg in the Escort. So, we went from 15.5 average mpg to 30. And we still have the Explorer for weekends and trips.

  52. anonairman says:

    Last year I changed out my vehicles for a 2004 Harley V-Rod and a 2007 Honda Fit Sport… I love getting 35+ MPG City all the time.

    Sadly, everytime my wife get’s the urge to fill up her 2007 Chevy Silverado Z-71, I cry… On the bright side, she uses my vehicle for everything except driving to work and we only have an 10 mile commute.

  53. ViperBorg says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: “‘In northern regions, consider using your SUV as a winter-only vehicle’

    How about NOT? I mean, really, higher center of gravity = more SUVs in ditches. If the snow is THAT BAD that you need an SUV for clearance and traction, why are you driving in it to begin with?”

    Oh, gee, I don’t know, how about because the ambulances here are RWD, and I have a sibling is prone to seizures and time is literally life or death for her? I guess your gonna start on the lights and siren in my SUV too, huh?

    Oh, and yes, I have the permits for those.

    Seriously, get off your high horse. Some people actually need something like that. Just because you don’t, doesn’t mean you get to trash talk them. You need to freakin’ chill, man.

  54. frari489 says:

    But I drive a Chevy Metro,

    What would be a downsize from that?

  55. nataku8_e30 says:

    Everyone please remember that you can have a pretty drastic effect on your gas mileage by driving less aggressively, especially in an SUV. Instead of going 80 on the highway, try 65. Instead of flooring it at green lights, or passing that guy in front of you so you can wait at the stop light longer, try accelerating gently and coasting up to stops.

    Also, if you live up north, you don’t need 4wd or AWD!! Buy a decent set of snow tires and maybe extra wheels so you can change them yourself (saves ~180 / year in mounting / balancing charges, steel wheels cost ~50 a piece for an up-front cost of ~200). I grew up with the lake effect snow in upstate NY. We never plowed our gravel driveway and never had a problem with fwd sedans.

  56. ppiddyp says:

    @ViperBorg:
    I’ve never seen snow on the ground that a good AWD car with snow tires couldn’t get through…and where my parents live, they get 130+ inches of snow per year. My old Audi 4000 could chug through stuff over the bumper.

    I don’t think that most people should be driving AWD vehicles. Everyone I know who has gone off the road in the winter, over the last 5 or 10 years, has been driving an AWD vehicle. Unless you know what you’re doing, you’ve got no sense of how slippery the road is when you’re in something that powers all four wheels. Then, of course, AWD doesn’t help you when it comes time to slow down or turn a corner. A FWD car with snow tires is fine for 95% of the US population.

    Not quite sure what any of this has to do with ambulances, though.

    @Rusted: “True hybrids will be the way to go. They will store electricity for short trips and use chemical energy for long trips.”

    Um, what do you call gasoline if not chemical energy? I think any predictions of the future we make should be based on the current status quo, then modified. I suspect dinosaur juice will be the fuel of choice for quite some time.

  57. radiochief says:

    @imdgonz: I agree. If a family (one of the other posters) could have written a check for a new SUV (hybrid Highlander); then they can certainly pick a more fuel efficient vehicle.

    This cost/benefit analysis is what kills any kind of change. Big companies amortize costs over generations to make expenditures ‘profitable’; borrowing at the expense of future generations. Consumers are faced with decisions that affect their day to day expenses, very different.

    So, if you have an SUV or whatever and you don’t want or can’t get into a more fuel efficient/less emissions vehicle, then don’t complain about gas in a public forum. We all as a society, make choices and clearly we have to pay for them. But just because we are free to make any choice, does not make our particular ‘bad’ choices any more right. Because when everyone thinks that nothing changes.

    In full disclosure: I drive a 11 year old SUV that I bought used 2 years ago when my subcompact was totalled. We had just had a child and I did not want to spend the rest of our free money for a loan on a new subcompact. Subcompacts are all I ever bought and drove. Sure, that money I saved is now going into higher fill ups.

    But remember, the saying is “Reduce, reuse, recycle”. At least I am at reuse, so maybe the reuse will mitigate not reducing.

  58. @alfundo: I recently purchased a 2008 Scion xD, and I am really impressed with how well it drives and the money I’m saving on gas.

  59. @ViperBorg: How about you read the second half of my original comment about who it does and does not apply to, and then you take the pill for chill?

  60. RagingBoehner says:

    @S3CT: I just bought an SUV a few months ago. ’03 Hyundai Santa Fe. Just paid if off, and I love it. I would highly recommend it. I still get 25mpg on the highway. Though it’s pretty rare I get over 30mph since I rarely leave the District so I probably don’t get that around town.

  61. Corydon says:

    I own my 99 Dodge Ram 1500 free and clear. I have no interest in getting a new auto loan. I’d save up for a new vehicle so I could just pay cash, but right now I have other saving priorities.

    So I’ll just keep driving this truck into the ground until it just plain doesn’t work anymore. That’s going to take a long time (especially with my other half who enjoys picking through junkyards to find cheap replacement parts and doing the repairs himself), since I do almost all of my commuting and errands by public transit or bike. I only drive if I need to move a lot of stuff or if I need it to get out of town.

  62. CoffeeEater says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: Actually, the Prius might appreciate instead of depreciating $3k after driving it off the lot. The car-buying public seems to have overreacted to the gas prices and people are paying over MSRP for new Prii and new car prices for used Prii.

  63. my_imaginary_friends_bore_me says:

    This was the Bloomberg site yesterday
    June 17 (Bloomberg) — Kuwait followed Saudi Arabia in saying crude oil prices are too high as evidence mounts that energy costs are restraining growth and accelerating inflation.

    “I think it’s high,” Kuwait Finance Minister Mustafa Al- Shimali said in an interview in Isfahan, Iran, today. A reasonable oil price would be “more or less $100,” he said.

  64. Orv says:

    @ViperBorg: Congratulations, you’re one of the 1% or so of people who can actually justify owning one. :)

    The point is most (but not all) people who think they need an SUV really don’t. When I lived in northern Michigan I used to pass plenty of SUVs and pickups that had been driven into the ditch while I tooled safely but cautiously by in my 2WD VW Bus. The most popular car with the locals there was the Subaru Legacy station wagon. People think that the extra size and ground clearance of an SUV will compensate for a lack of winter driving skill, but it really doesn’t. I was still jealous of the SUV drivers, though, ’cause they had heaters that worked. ;)

    That was also the only place I’ve ever seen ambulances and city buses equipped with 4WD!

  65. I’ve downsized over half or more of my daily commutes per week to a $150 used Trek bike. Prius my ass. I’ve doubled my gas mileage on my Outback per week by just not driving it.

    $30,000 > 150$ = same mileage

  66. my_imaginary_friends_bore_me says:

    @Orv: Remember not all SUV and pickups are 4WD

  67. mzs says:

    Everybody always forgets about buying used. When you want to beat 15 MPG its not hard to find used cars that do that. You can get a great car from $4000-$7000 from a private party. It just takes some looking around. Twice I paid cash for cars like that. You can also get truly craptastic cars for $500-$1000. I bought a corolla for that much once, the others were big detroit iron that were gas guzzlers. The great thing about buying cars like that is that when they have problems that you don’t want to fix you just sell them for basically what you paid for them to begin with and insurance is basically nothing with a clean driving record.

  68. Orv says:

    @wiretapstudios: I’ve been sometimes doing the bike + public transit thing, when the weather’s good. Unfortunately it’s not financially possible for me to live within direct biking distance of work.

    Unfortunately, I expect the high gas prices will only make urban housing more desirable, further worsening the problem of the middle class not being able to afford to live near work.

  69. Moonshadows says:

    When my employer moved from one side of our city to the other choose the move option.

    One thing to consider is that it’s not only the environmental savings and the financial savings but time savings too. Instead of spending 2 hours a day on the road (presuming no unusal traffic situations) we instead spend under 15 mins.

    As far as financial and environmental impacts, we’ve gone from filling up 2-3x per week to filling up 1-2 times per month. In addition we dropped $400 in toll charges off of the monthly budget. Well worth the cost of the move. Jury is still out on the hassle though.

  70. overbysara says:

    buy a scooter! 90 MPG!

  71. GoPadge says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    Based on my figures for my trade-in loses ($5 – 7K) for my Excursion, I’m better off keeping it even if gas goes to $7 a gallon, over trading for a new or low mileage used minivan.

  72. lawnmowerdeth says:

    I just sold my 350Z yesterday, and I’m debating buying a Toyota Yaris. Kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

    Guess I have to change my icon image now.

  73. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    @chevychic55:
    It might be worth it to build credit. With a 2007 Camry as a trade in they will consider you for financing as if you were using a large down payment.

    Finance from a credit union and you can probably get a decent rate. Don’t rule out the dealership, they can sometimes offer even promotional rates to customers with marginal credit if you have a large amount down.

  74. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @CoffeeEater: Yeah, you’ve got a point there.

    In regard to 4WD, I live in the frozen north, way out on a dirt road. Last winter I drove to work at least twice a week in a snowstorm and was glad to have my ’97 4WD S-10 truck. Most winters I’ve made it with a car and good set of studded tires and front-wheel drive, but last year was amazingly bad. Even with the S-10, I still managed to turn 17 to 20 MPG. But it’s an old second vehicle that I use when I need to get through abysmal conditions, not my primary transportation.

    Ambulances and fire trucks cheat..many of those are equiped with On-Spot chains that can be deployed by flipping a switch inside the cab. Wish I had those :>

  75. Ailu says:

    @geoffhazel: A Prius for $35K??? Maybe you need to shop around. We bought ours last month for $23,000

  76. OsiUmenyiora says:

    I have a Camry too but my daily commute is in a large silver electric-powered air-conditioned behemoth that goes ten times faster than traffic and seats 2000, at a cost to me of $3.40 round trip per day regardless of gas prices. It gives me lots of opportunities to get close to hot chicks or just close my eyes if I want. The biggest problem is that it stops every two minutes in all these places I don’t want it to. It says NYC Transit on the side.

  77. Saboth says:

    Kind of wrestling with this too… I have a 93 F150 that is paid for, and gets about 18 MPG combined. If I bought a car that gets 2x the as mileage (say 32 mpg), I would save about $80-$100 month in gas. On the downside, I would have a $200-$300 car payment, have full coverage insurance (another +40 per month), and property tax would go up about $20 a month. Just not worth it.

  78. hexychick says:

    I think it’s more important to pick a car that fits your lifestyle and work situation than to switch just because of gas prices or to talk smack about other vehicles. If you’re stupid enough to buy above your means, then yes, downsize.

    Being that I’m one of the jerks who bought an average sized SUV and it gets 17mpg city/20-something highway, I have to defend it a bit. I bought a used 2002 Explorer for 10k because it’s more practical for my situation: I live a few miles from work, I work on construction sites where my previous economical car was damaged many times from the terrain, I have 2 large dogs, and I have to frequently haul things around for other people/work. Unlike a lot of owners, I actually planned for high gas costs (and other higher costs like tires and oil changes) knowing full well what I was getting into. Even if gas goes above $5/gal, I’ll make it work. I also get almost 400 miles out of my gas tank and only have to fill up once, maybe twice a month.

    Now if I had a longer commute, stuck on the beltway everyday just wasting gas in traffic jams, had no dogs ro family, and/or worked in a different environment, I would consider switching to a smaller vehicle within the same monthly costs as this one. I’m not in a situation where I can buy outright and I have to pay monthly no matter what I do. That’s life. I looked at more economical cars and frankly, they cost more monthly than my SUV does because of the cost of the vehicle itself.