Ditching Your Gas-Guzzling SUV Could Be More Expensive Than You Think

SUVs are worth so little that it could take 15 years for a more fuel efficient vehicle to pay for itself in gas savings. Before rushing to trade-in your gas-guzzler, do the math and make sure it isn’t economical to hold onto your unfashionable behemoth. Here are three questions to consider…

  • What’s The True Cost Of A Trade-In? Use Edmonds’ calculator to price-out the cost of a trade-in. The results may be surprising: trading a 2005 Ford Expedition for a 2008 Toyota Highlander hybrid won’t produce savings for almost 15 years.
  • Is A Small Car Practical? You bought a SUV for a reason, right? RIGHT?! Yeah, think about that for a moment before looking at a new Smart.
  • Are You Thinking With Your Brain Or Your Gut? Gas prices are rising, but the overall cost of ownership is stable. Your insurance bill is probably the same, and your mechanic isn’t raising prices. Now might seem like the right time to get a new car, but “if you’re selling an S.U.V. or trading it in, you’re selling an asset at the low ebb in its value and trying to buy an asset that’s been bid up in value,” says Mr. Nerad of Kelley Blue Book. “In stock market terms, this wouldn’t be a propitious time to make that kind of trade.”

Is it worth trading in your gas guzzler? [Edmunds]
Ditch the Gas Guzzler? Well, Maybe Not Yet [The New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. jamesdenver says:

    Also SUVs are far more spacious to live in when your house gets foreclosed on.

  2. narf says:

    15 years? Me going to a new Prius at only MSRP would take 28 years at $5/gallon.

    Even going to an affordable used car might not make sense for everyone. Bottom line … do the math.

  3. ptkdude says:

    I’m curious to know how much you’d get for selling it for scrap. I know steel foundries and such will buy cars for the scrap metal.

  4. JennQPublic says:

    I would prefer it if you sold your SUV to a dealer where it could sit on the lot for the next couple of years. I will be able to see around your new, smaller car in traffic, the smoig won’t be quite as thick, and (most importantly) when you hit me with your Camry, I’m not near as likely to die. Thanks!

  5. mgy says:

    Homer: “Oh, no, they’ve entered the freeway!”
    Marge: “We’ll never catch them now, with all these SUVs!”
    Homer: “Don’t worry, there’s a gentle curve up ahead!”

  6. battra92 says:

    There is also the option of keeping the SUV and having an efficient used car as a second vehicle. It may take a while to gain savings, of course, but it also means your Truck or SUV won’t be getting as hard hit and you can save it for the real jobs as opposed to the trips to Starbucks.

  7. forgottenpassword says:

    Best sugestion… if its paid off. Ride it into the ground (until its not worth it anymore to have it repaired) Then get what you can for it & buy your new Gas-sipping nancyboy car.

  8. wellfleet says:

    How about that regardless of gas prices, a vehicle that consumes less fossil fuels is a better choice for the planet? You may not get it to pay for itself, but the difference in air quality and the environment is surely worth it if everyone who could make the switch did so…

  9. balthisar says:

    @battra92: Exactly. I’m in the market for an Expedition to this very fact. I’ll still use my every day for commuting, but with the resale value of the big SUV’s right now, it’s a time to buy if you have a real use for one.

    Sure, if you see me on the freeway during the week from 6 am to 7 am, or 4 pm to 6 pm, feel free to flip me off. But if it’s the weekend, you can be sure it’s being used for a real purpose.

  10. raleel says:

    I have a friend who rides a motorcycle to work most days. He has a ~30mpg convertible that he drives in when he needs to carry a person or two, and has an explorer (paid off, 10 years old, only like 60k miles) that he drives for camping and such.

  11. MelL says:

    @wellfleet: It’s all well and good to talk about clean air for everyone, because who doesn’t like clean air to breathe? But we have to be realistic about how we spend our money and how a knee-jerk reaction to gas prices can damage people’s finances.

  12. Hawk07 says:

    @wellfleet:

    Because doing things that make financial sense might have adverted the current economic downtown and mortgage crisis.

    Rather than buying/selling on hype, make sure the numbers work out.

    Another thing, Americans can do the better thing for the planet all day long, but third world countries will more than make up for whatever slack we give up.

  13. P41 says:

    There was a recent story on running vehicles on compressed natural gas. They said in Utah the price of a gallon-of-gas-equivalent (GGE) is $0.86. Yep, that’s like paying 86 cents a gallon. That would pay off a conversion real quick, on top of that you could buy a cheap SUV big enough to still have lots of ‘trunk’ space after the tanks are installed. Oh and gas is a regulated utility, prices don’t change based on today’s international news. Plus in Utah more likely to go offroad than downtown NYC or SF.

  14. TPS Reporter says:

    My wife and I didn’t trade in an SUV last year, but we traded in a minivan. Got a Corolla. Doesn’t pay for itself with the difference in gas, but we like it alot better. It is our only car, as was the minivan. Also the 1st new car we have ever had.

  15. jamesdenver says:

    @wellfleet:

    of course. But no family in their right mind should go ditch a car that’s paid for and go invest in a 20k + highbred.

    If you have an SUV just be smart about its use and drive it sparingly.

    I actually share a car with my other half and bike to work, and we have three bikes for errands around town, (and an extra bike for guests.)

    We only use the car in bad weather or weekend road trips — but I’ll still rent a truck or SUV a few times a year for camping or a big big Home Depot run.

  16. Hawk07 says:

    @P41:

    More than likely, your 86 cents a gallon figure while technically true, is because demand is so low for compressed natural gas for vehicles at this moment.

    If everyone dumped gas vehicles overnight in favor of a 100% electric vehicle, gas prices would surely drop as there would be an infinite amount more supply than demand.

  17. wagnerism says:

    Both the environmental and economic impacts of operating any vehicle spans the purchase, operation and disposal of the vehicle. The impact of daily operation is only part of the picture.

    Environmentally, the manufacturing and disposal of a car are large expenditures. Running your current car, efficiently, into the ground is a significant way to lessen the environmental impact of your vehicle use.

    The current life of all those plastics and metals are used to the greatest extent, delaying the next round of plastic and metals necessary for the next car. Cue the stories about how the Prius batteries are worse than running a H2 for 20 years on premium at full throttle with flat tires, delivering pizzas with AC running and windows down. :)

    Economically, the depreciation of the first year or two is huge. Until everybody buys up all the used cars available, I find it hard to make financial sense in buying a new car. Check out the [www.cartalk.com] about buying new versus used. They boldly say it always costs much less in the long run to get a used car.

    Somehow, there seems to be some kind of generally accepted concept that the only way to replace an SUV is with a brand new car. Turn in your “man card” (hehe) and get a 2005 Civic/Corolla/Accent that just came off of a three year lease that still has a factory warranty of some kind (original or extended). You avoid the bulk of depreciation, you start off at a better price in the formula, they didn’t manufacture a car for you, you get a reliable guaranteed car and great gas mileage. Run that sucker into the ground! :) If there is any resale value left, it’ll probably be better than the going rates for SUVs.

    Has anybody looked lately? Are used car lots overflowing with SUVs?

  18. fuzzycuffs says:

    Isn’t that picture of a Subaru? Maybe a Forester.

    if so, it gets decent mileage (for a small SUV at least).

  19. ogman says:

    “You bought a SUV for a reason, right? RIGHT?! Yeah, think about that for a moment before looking at a new Smart.”

    Yep, I bought that there gas-guzzlin’ behemoth as an extension of my…

  20. benh57 says:

    The clean air cost is a real one.

    According to the web, in california ALONE, 24,000 people die each year from air pollution. It’s hidden, but that’s got to have a REAL per capita cost.

    10 9-11’s each year. In california alone. Yet because it’s difficult to see, the media and public ignores it.

  21. Hawk07 says:

    @benh57:

    I suggest posting those links so that they can be properly debunked.

  22. @MelL: @wellfleet: It’s all well and good to talk about clean air for everyone, because who doesn’t like clean air to breathe?

    A certain breed of free-market libertarian would argue that dirty air is just a cosmetic issue and that maximizing shareholder profit should be the only concern of a corporation. If clean air were truly a problem, then fixing it would be monetizable and the free market would come to the rescue.

    (They’d continue to describe The Consumerist as a hotbed of consumer vigilante scum. Having failed to get the government to do our bidding, they’d say, we turned to guerilla tactics such as leveraging the Internet to shame a corporation into doing what we want. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for attempting to influence a free enterprise.)

  23. Snarkysnake says:

    Or….How about prying yourself loose from peeking up Britney Spears dress and learning a little history. Like the last time that a paradigm shift occurred in the energy markets and all of a sudden,drivers were stuck with their dreadnought- class Impalas,LTD’s and New Yorkers . Did they take the hint and drive the market to smaller,more sensible cars ? Yes- for about a year. Until the price of gas went back down (in response to their changed behavior). Then, they went back to their old gas guzzling ways and started buying the most impractical vehicle that could be imagined – the full size SUV. I would wager that 98% of these things never go any further off the highway than to the mall. Their off road capability is totally wasted and useless for the average owner.But they drink gas like there is no tomorrow.
    Now. Fast forward to 2008. Another fuel squeeze is upon us.The big three are bankrupt in all but a technical sense.Will we have the will,the political courage, to tell cynical,selfish politicians (like Newt Gingrich and his ilk) to go piss up a tree when they tell us that we need just one more hit of the dope that has got us here (cheaper oil) ?
    I’m not advocating voting for or against anybody here. I’m saying that we can stop this stupid cycle by being more intelligent when we pick our cars (and political leaders).

  24. mythago says:

    Not following #2. “You bought one for a reason”? Unless your reason is that you live halfway up a mountain or regularly go to off-road areas, it’s probably something like “wanted a minivan but thought that would make me look like a pussy”, or “gas is cheap so why not”.

  25. howie_in_az says:

    I’m waiting for the next step in the ‘credit crisis’ wherein SUV owners are upside down on their loans and simply walk away from them, especially after seeing $5/gallon gas prices. If they can do it for a house why not a hulking monstrosity like a SUV?

  26. TechnoDestructo says:

    For anyone living paycheck-to-paycheck, particularly in areas with long commutes and no public transportation, halving one’s fuel expenditures could be significant enough that the long-term loss taken on the truck is less important than the short term savings on gas.

    @wagnerism:

    Take your economy car off-roading. Man-card restored.

    Also, yes, used car lots are overflowing with trucks. I mean 2 years ago they were already moving pretty slow, but now a lot of them are just choked with the things.

    @balthisar:

    While I agree, if you’ve got the space for it, that’s a good idea…a pickup or full-size van is just so much easier to justify than an SUV. They’re just as depressed right now. Of course, if you’re willing to get the interior of your expedition just as filthy as you would the bed of an F150, hey, more power to you.

  27. If you replace “corporation” with “individual” in my previous comment, you get the argument presented by some here, that maximizing your cash flow should be an individual’s only concern.

    I say make your own decision based on your personal values. If you’re willing to spend money to reduce your impact on the environment, so be it. Get that Prius even if it’ll cost you more. Go ahead pay extra for solar panels on the roof of your house or a more energy-efficient air conditioner. If money is your only concern (and I wish it wasn’t), spend more time making sure the economic math works out.

    @forgottenpassword, @wagnerism: I’m not so sure that running your car into the ground is the most environmentally friendly solution for all automobiles.

    Each new generation of car has environmental benefits beyond just fuel consumption. The vast majority of a car’s environmental impact comes during use, not during production or recovery. It all depends on the automobile, but as a blanket strategy it sounds more like something to prevent people from changing than to actually protect the environment.

  28. Invective says:

    This article misses the point. Our economy is not yet done with the bad, by a long shot. Nobody knows just exactly how many ‘bad bets banks’ made. The insurance companies who wrote the contracts are starting to fall. We have already started to see loans of all kinds be affected by this disaster. Corporate folks who borrowed money from banks for corporate equity are going to be affected. So IF whether, or not your SUV is a gas problem is the least of your worries, then you probably really are a fortune 500 CEO.
    Anyway purchasing a whole lot of gas when you don’t have the money is not really realistic either, not to mention not so practical. One must cut their losses and get practical when there be no alternative.
    You’ll also notice that Gas companies like Exxon are lowering prices. This boys and girls is to avoid a second round of stimulus payments. Exxon and the others are betting that you all will be satisfied with the gas prices dropping slightly, but not so much as to hurt their new found booty. Yes, prices *could* go all the way back to the 1950s and beyond, since it is after all, a completely false market. I wouldn’t hold on to my SUV waiting however. What I’m curious about is why corporate types from the other venues aren’t complaining about it. If I were Ford, I’d be crying foul and educating the public in a real hurry. Since CEOs are covered pretty much no matter what, I’m guessing they’re just ready to point fingers when the bad hits. Great for them, bad for us.

  29. sven.kirk says:

    I sold my 95 Jeep Cherokee that got about 19 MPG and went to a 98 Neon, in great condition, and I can get about 35 MPG. Insurance is cut in half.

    Yes, I do miss the size sometimes. But not when I fill up.

    Repeat
    [jalopnik.com]

  30. GearheadGeek says:

    @Michael Belisle: Just to nitpick a little, the real goal is to maximize the value you receive for your efforts. For some people, that’s saving the most money or getting the cheapest toys. For others, it’s having the most organic stuff in their pantry and super-all-natural patchouli-laced cosmetics. For still others, it’s having a big flashy expensive vehicle to show off to the neighbors. Concepts of value are in many ways unique to the individual. While there are certainly ways to measure part of the value equation (this car costs $x/mile over its useful life, while that car costs $y/mile) there are so many little factors that are emotional and/or personal that figure into the overall “personal value” equation it’s hard to fully quantify. That’s what leaves us scratching our heads trying to figure out why the single guy who lives in an apartment, works a white-collar job and never goes camping bought an H2.

    While I try to be pragmatic in my financial decisions, the gearhead part of my being takes over from time to time. I could’ve bought a Camry or a Focus, either would get me from Point A to Point B (though it would be less convenient that my Legacy wagon when taking the 54-lb bully bitch places.) I bought a car that uses a little more fuel but is WAY more rewarding to drive, and I’m happy with it. YMMV. I fail to understand the appeal of SUVs to people who don’t need their special capabilities, but I have to assume they have some of those same personal motivations that I do.

  31. bbb111 says:

    @howie_in_az posted: “I’m waiting for the next step in the ‘credit crisis’ wherein SUV owners are upside down on their loans and simply walk away from them, especially after seeing $5/gallon gas prices. If they can do it for a house why not a hulking monstrosity like a SUV?”

    You would still owe the money and the aggressive collections would commence. With a house (in many states) the lender required by law to consider taking the house as payment in full for the loan – but this is only for houses.

    This is why car dealers will take your upside down trade in and pay off the old loan; they just include the difference in the new loan so your new car loan is actually for much more than the price of the new car (just spread it out over more years so they can offer a lower payment.)

  32. Trai_Dep says:

    @Hawk07: “Another thing, Americans can do the better thing for the planet all day long, but third world countries will more than make up for whatever slack we give up.”
    True. And since Romania still treats their orphans like crap, we should let that child-molesting NY lawyer go back to buggering thirteen-year-old girls with an apology.
    Ah heck, since we can’t get crime down to zero, let’s leave our front doors unlocked from now on.
    Great logic, there, cowboy. Just great.

  33. therosiandoom says:

    Well, as an owner of a Ford Explorer that’s paid off, I can live with the dirty looks I get for driving it. Since my only operating costs for it are fuel, insurance, and routine maintenance, driving it until it dies is far, far more economical than purchasing a Smart or a Prius.

    I’m sure when it’s finally dead I’ll purchase something smaller, but for a vehicle that I purchased used for about $6000, and given my finances, keeping it is the smartest thing to do right now.

    Sure, it only gets 18 MPG, but think of it this way; without a car payment, you will be able to afford to fuel that beast without as much financial strain. You may not like the prices at the pumps, but you _will_ have more money in your pocket than someone with a $400 a month payment on a Prius.

  34. @GearheadGeek: Just to nitpick a little, the real goal is to maximize the value you receive for your efforts.

    I think that’s what I was getting at when I said “make your own decision based on your personal values,” but you said it like more of an economist than I am.

    That’s what leaves us scratching our heads trying to figure out why the single guy who lives in an apartment, works a white-collar job and never goes camping bought an H2.

    I think you have to remember that not everybody makes decisions that optimize value or even have any economic sense. Even if you can figure out someone’s value equation to the letter, that doesn’t mean the person knows what he wants. He may still go and pay $55.71 for a $50 gift card.

    @Trai_Dep: Ah heck, since we can’t get crime down to zero, let’s leave our front doors unlocked from now on.

    Although I agree with your overall point, leaving your front door unlocked is probably fine. How often does someone try to open your door? (And if they’re intent on robbing your place, how often does the lock stop them?)

  35. Jevia says:

    the main thing I miss about not having a mini-van is not having enough room to transport everyone in one vehicle when family comes to visit. we have to take two cars when we go anywhere.

  36. ChimpWithACar says:

    @p41: The $0.86/gallon equivalent price for CNG is subsidized in Utah. It is about $2.50 unsubsidized (still better than $4.00 gasoline).

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  37. synergy says:

    That’s unfortunate, but the way I see it is that it’s sort of like paying for poor judgement long before the current spike in fuel costs.

  38. TVarmy says:

    @wagnerism: Yeah, the fuel inefficient cars are really cheap used now, because they don’t sell well and everyone’s dumping them for something with better mileage. If you don’t drive much, it could be the way to go. It’s how I got a 2007 PT Cruiser for $8000. It’s not the best car ever, but I could afford it and it was fairly new. I wanted a Japanese compact, but they’re currently priced in the stratosphere and hard to find.

  39. chiieddy says:

    We have two cars. One is a fuel efficient Grand Am, the other is a PZEV, not terribly horrid 26 mpg average Subaru Outback. I get the storage I need when I need it and I didn’t spend a fortune (ala hybrid) and I don’t spend $80/week to fill it up.

    When we vacationed we had a small Ford Escape Hybrid SUV (yes, we off-roaded while vacationing in Wyoming). It didn’t have the best ride (I’ll chalk that up to being a Ford) but we did go 400 miles before filling up the 16 gal tank.

  40. Hawk07 says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    Ok, so are you arguing America should be acting as the world police?

    We shouldn’t economically screw ourselves even more by making kneejerk reactions because something feels good. Wake up. We as a country can be environmentally righteous and make all sorts of mandates and demands, but the rest of the world isn’t obligated, nor should they be, to follow us along. Did you miss the well publicized reports of Beijing cleaning up its air?

    If you’re too dense to understand that, I suggest you go back to the Huffington Post, Daily Kos or wherever you choose to get your news and talking points from.

  41. Trai_Dep says:

    @Hawk07: The argument that the world isn’t perfect, so why bother trying to correct wrongs in our control is bone-headed. That is all.

    Have a friend that is a graphics director for a very large auto-trading magazine/website. He sees a LOT of reselled cars. He says the current average price for a Hummer ($70,000 a year ago) is now around $14K-16K. That’s “beater” territory. Or worse.

    Ouuuuch!

  42. @Hawk07: Are you arguing America should be acting as the world police?

    Where did that come from? Who said anything about policing?

    We shouldn’t economically screw ourselves even more by making kneejerk reactions because something feels good.

    How does this relate to ditching your SUV? If getting rid of your SUV makes you feel good, I see every reason to do it. It’s not like the future of the American economy hangs in the balance everytime someone trades in an SUV for a Ford Focus.

    (If you’re too dense to understand that, I suggest you go back to Cato, the American Enterprise Institute, Penn & Teller or wherever you get your talking points from.)

  43. RichasB says:

    I’m tired of these retarded “SUV Exchanging May Cost You More” articles. Clean up your SUV and then sell it for as much as you can and then buy a USED CAR!

    Do Not trade it in, everyone knows they’re ripping you off anyways. Sell your 16 MPG Ford vehicle from 4K-20K and get a 28 MPG Honda or Toyota from around 2K-18K.

    I drive a 94 Civic Hatchback and get around 34 MPG! On a bad week, I spend only 25 dollars and I only put Premium Gas!

  44. Hawk07 says:

    @Trai_Dep:

    Alright, I understand where you’re coming from better now.

    However, some people (include commenters above) believe that we should fix our sins regarding fossil fuels and carbon footprints regardless of the cost.

    As this article properly points out, making a kneejerk reaction to buy a Prius or (insert hybrid here) because it’s easier on the wallet at the pump can be financially dumb. No, it probably won’t put you in the poor house if you do make an emotional decision to trade the SUV in for a hybrid that’s going to take 15 years to pay off, but a culmination of bad financial decisions has led to the credit crunch that we now face.

  45. @Hawk07: However, some people (include commenters above) believe that we should fix our sins regarding fossil fuels and carbon footprints regardless of the cost.

    Who said that?

    At best, a commenter (singular) said “How about that regardless of gas prices, a vehicle that consumes less fossil fuels is a better choice for the planet?” which is not the same as saying “we should fix our sins regarding fossil fuels and carbon footprints regardless of the cost.”

  46. wagnerism says:

    We’ll never be able to figure out what us wacky Americans will choose for cars. My personal experience is a good example of how you can’t figure out the reasoning behind my decision.

    I got an ’05 Prius so I could drive the HOV lanes alone going from Northern Virginia into DC for my commute. I also liked the integrated NAV (new to town) and bluetooth (DC hands-free law). It is fugly, but looks obviously didn’t play much into my decision.

    The Prius replaced a ’95 Saturn with 120K+ miles that passed emissions by exactly 1ppm. Test was good for two years, I drove it one more year before selling it.

    I’m being honest. I could say I replaced the nearly-polluting Saturn with something with emissions so low that it is exempt from smog testing. I’m today’s environmentalist. I could say I replaced it for great mileage in the face of increasing gasoline prices. I’m today’s economist.

    Getting a SUV was not on my list for completely different reasons. Better lucky than good! I dodged a bullet that I didn’t know was coming. I feel bad for people stuck with SUVs with high gas prices and long commutes. A few fickle different choices and I’d be one of them. Don’t call them stupid because they didn’t see it coming, it could be you next.

    @snarkysnake: I will call the Detroit big three stupid for not keeping pace with imports. Didn’t the little Japanese cars kick ass in the ’70’s against the “dreadnought-class” (LOL!) cars? Here we go again. ’77 Honda Civic 1.2L was my first car. w00t!

    I still own an ’02 Dodge V8 truck for moving stuff around on weekends. It is really handy for weekend runs to get stuff off of Craigslist and Freecycle. I got that years before we had kids and it is a four-door quad-cab and both kids fit in fine – another bullet dodged else I would be driving an SUV.

  47. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    I’ve a 2006 Tribeca, and I’ll tell you, as a first-time Subee owner, the AWD is outstanding (and proved itself during a really bad NE’ster). However, the Tribeca is leased and it gets 18-19mpg average. Moving to a Rabbit/GTi or A3 will get me the same monthly payment (less for the Rabbit/GTi) and 2x the gas mileage. How can that not be saving? And the SUV value (trade-in/resale) is less now (dealership wants to bargain months before lease is up). Just wait and see that prices will go up. Dealerships are going to raise price on 2009 Prius, Corolla and Civics already. rates aren’t immediate, but we’ll see the domino effect on high fuel next year.
    (lawn care contracts, tax re-assessments…)

  48. FairMarkets says:

    Maybe we wouldn’t need SUVs if the government didn’t force us to keep our children in huge car seats way past their effectiveness.

    I also don’t really believe that humans have that much control over climate change. Sure everyone wants to believe they control their own destiny but the reality is that you are on a big spinning sphere in a huge vacuum and have very little control at all.

  49. FrankReality says:

    If you (e.g. you’re a farmer or tradesman or contractor, etc.) really need an SUV, a truck or a van, this is the time to buy it. New prices are at their bottom, used prices have bottomed out as well. Manufacturers are shifting from truck production to small car production.

    It’s also not a bad time to pick up a used RV for occasional use. If you don’t put a lot of miles on it, the mileage doesn’t matter all that much.

    We have a third vehicle – a small pickup which gets in the mid-20s for fuel mileage. We have occasional hauling to do, and it’s very helpful when one of our primary vehicles or one of the kids’ cars need some repair/maintenance work done.

    BTW, my primary vehicle is a 99 Saturn SL2 – this summer I’ve been getting 42.6 MPG, mainly through very conservative driving habits.

  50. AD8BC says:

    I love my F-150.

    It gets 15 MPG. But it’s paid for. Filling it up doesn’t hurt so much, I just budget for it. Luckily I do a lot of business travel so I don’t drive it as much as I could. But, since the company is buying, I mostly choose nice big SUVs from the car rental place.

    My wife drives the econo-box PZEV Ford Focus. She cancels me out :-)

    No, I rarely haul anything. But I’m glad I have it when I need it.

    Yes, it’s usually only me at the wheel going to work or the airport.

    Yes, I like to top off the tank so I can watch the gas evaporate from the pavement. (OK, I don’t do that).

    My carbon footprint is approximately the size of Cincinnati. But I attribute that to the fact that I leave my computer on all day and don’t unplug my chargers when I am not using them.

    And yes. I just worked two 18 hour days and just came back from the hotel bar after having two margaritas. Hence my not-so-funny commentary.

    Good night.

  51. milqtost says:

    @wellfleet: I’m sure buying a new car is much better for the environment. Never mind the impact from building a new car (all that plastic and metal and computer parts and chemicals) and transporting it to you (either across the country or across the globe) – not to mention dumping the old one in a landfill somewhere to rot.

    Seriously, I’ve not done the enviro-math. You could be right or it may be “better for the planet” to drive the older car that burns more gas. MPG isn’t the only variable here. Saving the planet isn’t nearly as clear cut as people would like to think it is.

  52. Jthmeffy says:

    @wellfleet: just as long as you aren’t going on about hybrids… Cause the process used to make the batteries for ONE Prius is more dirty for the planet than a Land Rover for its entire life

  53. weave says:

    @wagnerism: Regarding the depreciation of new cars being huge in the first two years. The market now is so screwy that the retail price for my one-year old Honda Fit is now two thousand more than what I paid for it new. The dealer trade-in price is only $200 less than what I paid.

    I got my Fit when gas was in it’s now-annual Fall decline. There were a few on the lot and I actually got it for $200 under retail. Gas is starting to drop again. Everyone should just wait a few months to buy a small car. I am already hearing how people are now referring to the current $3.50 a gallon price around here as cheap again. By October it might actually drop under $3.00 and people will be partying in the streets and buying SUVs again!

  54. TouchMyMonkey says:

    I’m not sure about the math, but I saw an blurb in Saturday’s Syracuse Post-Standard that said increased insurance costs can eat up ALL your gas savings when you trade your SUV. Sounds dodgy as hell to me, but I guess if you’re trading in a 1998 Ford Expedition that’s been paid for for years for a new Prius, which has got to be on the top ten list for auto theft, I suppose there might be something to it.

    The real point, which was not included in the Post-Standard blurb, was that a paid-off but mechanically-sound vehicle that eats gas and only requires basic liability insurance is still cheaper than a gas sipper on which you are still making payments. True, but if you were planning to trade the thing in anyway, it still makes sense to reconsider your vehicular needs (how many times a year do you actually go camping/boating/snowmobiling, anyway, and is it worth spending fifteen bucks a day going to work?) before deciding on which new one to get.

    Seems to me, from the other SUV-releated threads on which I post, that most SUV drivers “need” their dinosaurs for some recreational activity. I would crunch the numbers with my insurance company on the additional cost of hanging onto the SUV for that purpose while buying the compact car for my ridiculously long daily commute that’s eating me alive. A second vehicle that is only used for recreation can’t cost that much extra, right? Has anyone actually done this? Your thoughts?

  55. brockmjd says:

    OK, I don’t think I’ve seen this in the comments yet, so…

    First, a little math to prove a point: If you have a gas-guzzling SUV, you don’t need to replace it with a Prius to realize savings. In fact, as the fuel economy of your replacement vehicle increases, the savings per increase in MPG decreases. Let me explain.

    Let’s say you’re starting with an ’05 Ford Explorer. Edmunds gives it an MPG of 16. Furthermore, we’ll say you drive 700 miles a month, and gas is $4.25 a gallon. With these numbers, you’re paying about $186 a month for gas.

    Now let’s say you replace that gas-guzzler with an ’05 Subaru Forester wagon. The Forester has AWD and a decent amount of storage space. But you’re not getting a huge MPG improvement – it only gets 24 MPG. But that 8 MPG increase means a monthly gas bill of about $124 — you save over $60 a month!

    OK, so you say if that’s good, why not go whole-hog and get a Prius? Great! 47 MPG is a HUGE improvement. You’ve made an increase of 23 MPG over the Forester, and 31 MPG over the explorer! Your gas bill is $64 a month. You saved another $60.

    In other words, if you have an Explorer, you can save $60 a month by getting something that gets just 8 MPG better mileage. But to save another $60, you need to find a way to make a 23 MPG improvement.

    Bottom line? If you have a gas-guzzler and want to replace it with something efficient, realize that a small change (like going from an SUV to a minivan or station wagon) may give you the cost and gas savings you want.

    OK, and here’s point #2. I have to admit, I’m biased — I drive a VW Golf diesel. But look at this: The “new” EPA estimated mileage (according to the Edmunds link) for my car – a 2001 Golf GLS TDI – is 39 MPG. Realistically, around town, I get in the low 40s. On a recent road trip, I got 52 mpg. Sure, diesel is a little more expensive these days. But when I’m consistently getting over 45 MPG with mixed driving… the price of gas isn’t such a concern. I can go over 700 miles before I need a fill-up.

    It’s strange — almost every time you hear a discussion of fuel-efficient vehicles, the Hummers and Expeditions are at one end, and the Prius and other hybrids are at the other. In the US at least, diesels rarely get mentioned as a fuel-efficient alternative.

  56. wellfleet says:

    @milqtost: There is no need to buy a NEW car. But how about a smaller, used car? I guess it doesn’t matter if you think I’m wrong, because I am looking for a car right now and the lots are full of trucks and SUVs at bargain prices but a ’91 Civic is $6000… I’m certainly not advocating everyone letting their old vehicles linger in a landfill for all eternity, but there must be a better way than literally wasting gas in an enormous vehicle when a smaller one would do fine.

  57. I certainly agree with a lot of you guys that this article is sort of off base. If you can’t afford to put gas in your truck/suv/whathaveyou, chances are good you can’t afford a new car. As long as I can remember, there have been small japanese cars, hondas, mazdas, toyotas, that get great gas mileage out there. My first car was a 5 year old Mazda 626 that I bought for 3500 dollars with 60k on the ticker. I ran it for 2 years and put 80k on it, averaging in the mid 30s (42 on a cross country trip).

    At that point I certainly would have enjoyed having a pickup truck, but I just plain couldn’t afford it. Couldn’t afford to put the gas in it, couldn’t afford to change 8 (or 10) spark plugs instead of 4, couldn’t afford 8 quarts of oil instead of 4 (anyone see the price of Mobil 1 these days? sheesh.), couldn’t afford the cost of 33 inch tires (200) vs 215s (50). I made a lot of considerations when I bought that car, and I bought it solely because I knew I’d get about 100k out of it maintenance free. Hell, at 150k I was still on the original clutch, and my driving style is quite spirited.

    I’m not sure where this rambling is really going, all I know is that if you wanna dump your big SUV, you should buy a used japanese car for cheap.

    Or get a job with a company car, and keep your pickup or SUV for weekend trips to home depot.

  58. DallasPath says:

    @brockmjd:

    Diesels are rarely mentioned as a fuel efficient vehicle because people see the per-gallon cost of diesel and are instantly scared off. Diesels are also less polluting than gasoline engines, but no one ever talks about that either. (There’s all that yucky black smoke…it MUST be pollution/sarcasm)

  59. ckaught78 says:

    @wellfleet: Not sure if you are aware, but while a hybrid such as the Prius may get great gas mileages and cause less harm to the environments once it hits the road, the production aspect of these vehicles causes more harm to the environmentthan any suv on the road.

    I’m curious to know what will happen with all these toxic batteries when hybrids start reaching the end of their lifecycles?

  60. P_Smith says:

    36 million SUVs in a decade? It makes you wonder how many of those vehicles were *really* needed. 1%? Half of one?

    And the obsession of the cars is annoying. Why no mention of the possibility of a scooter as a second vehicle? If a second or replacement car isn’t feasible, why not a cheap, light vehicle for individual travel to minimize operating the lump? Borrowing one to two thousand and saving thousands in gas makes more sense than the status quo.

  61. P_Smith says:

    @ckaught78: I’m curious to know what will happen with all these toxic batteries when hybrids start reaching the end of their lifecycles?

    This is yet another reason to hope the Air Car hits North American shores. That problem won’t exist.

  62. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @P_Smith: Anyone know how much a scooter costs to insure?

  63. Froggmann says:

    I sorta fell into this trap a little over a year ago. Went out and bought a “smaller” car to replace my Bronco as a DD. Yes I have actually saved a couple of bucks doing that. But, I recently have gotten into some situations where the car (An 02 Maxima) just isn’t big enough to do what I need. So now I’m having to look into a wagon. Only problem is all modern wagons are all too small for me (6’4″) so for the most part my knees are in the dash or if they aren’t the back seat ends up being useless. Not only that but most of the vehicles I tested were just basically useless when the skinny pedal was pressed. Except for one, one that had enough room, had enough power and had the right egronomics. The Toyota 4-Runner… Crap here we go again…

  64. my_imaginary_friends_bore_me says:

    It’s your money, buy and drive what ever the hell you want!

  65. corporatedrone says:

    @mythago: @ogman: If you can find a way to fit my two large dogs safely into a minivan/smaller car, then please enlighten me. Otherwise, I’ll keep the SUV, and my husband will continue to drive it for his 10 minute commute while I drive a camry for my 45 minute commute. And I won’t feel guilty about it at all.

  66. Orv says:

    @ckaught78: NiMH batteries, such as the ones in a Prius, are routinely recycled. I’m not too worried about that.

    @HurtsSoGood: Depends on the state, but in most states you aren’t required to carry any insurance on scooters under 50cc.

    @corporatedrone: The European solution to carrying dogs is a station wagon. Most wagons there even have a “dog gate” available to keep the dogs from coming to join you up front.

  67. MPHinPgh says:

    @battra92: A reasonable choice, if you have the room for the extra vehicle.

    I parked my 2000 Dakota V8 when I got a PT Cruiser in 2005. The Dakota only comes out when it’s time to haul firewood or pull the camper, and the PT can still fit a 3 or 4 big ole’ rackmount servers that I need to haul around for work sometimes.

    I’m using a lot less gas, and the Dakota will last indefinitely at this rate, it only gets about 1600 to 2000 miles a year. The tires will dry rot before they wear out. I still change the oil twice a year though, you don’t want a bunch of sludge building up in the oil pan…

  68. Orv says:

    @MPHinPgh: The problem with keeping another vehicle around is there are significant fixed costs — insurance and registration for each of my cars costs about $350/year, and that’s with only liability coverage.

  69. starbreiz says:

    JennQPublic: *applause*

    I hate being stuck behind SUVs where I can’t see. I also hate being in front of them at night because their headlights beam directly into my rearview and side mirrors. When stopped at a light, I try to creep up to stop being blind, and they creep up with me, not getting the picture.

  70. Orv says:

    @starbreiz: I also hate it when I’m trying to turn, and there’s an SUV next to me, so I can’t see oncoming traffic. When I try to creep up so I can see past their hood, they think I’m getting ahead of them and creep up as well. :P

    Part of the problem with SUV headlights is that the U.S. headlight aiming laws are all referenced to the height of the headlamp on the vehicle, not the height above the road, so low beams on taller vehicles end up with a longer throw.

  71. ORPat says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we will give up our paid for SUV when someone comes out with a car my 6″4″ husband can comfortably fit into.
    Every once in a while we go try. But all the efficient cars are built for 5’3 people.

  72. MrEvil says:

    @brockmjd: However, if that ’05 Explorer is paid off and you take out a loan on the Prius or Subie, all your gas savings are eaten by the mandatory comprehensive and collision coverage. Also, don’t forget the chunk of change you’ll pay in sales/use tax.

    I’m pretty sure comp and collision for even the greatest driver with the greatest credit is going to add more than $120 to your insurance bill every month.