Friday, May 12, 2006

Car fever!

It's time for us to replace one of our two cars, a 1995 T-Bird. Wife's brother wants to buy it, so we have an opportunity to get a more economical car. The T-bird gets 18 mpg and uses premium gas.

We're looking at small cars like the Toyota Corolla

or the Honda Civic.

either of which would save us $1100 a year in gas at the current cost of $2.89 per gallon.

That's because I now drive my 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager minivan 26,000 miles a year. Most of those miles get driven on my 46-mile round trip to work, plus our 60-mile round trip to church.

The van is the best car I've ever owned; I can easily get all my keyboard equipment in it, along with four passengers if need be. In 1998, a few months after buying it, my wife Nancy and I drove it on a 14,000 mile, 3-month driving trip through the northwestern US and southwestern Canada. It' s a great road car with excellent visibility, smooth and quiet ride with plenty of power. But it's got almost 200,000 miles on it and even though it's still running like new, I know that one day we'll have to replace it. And it'll be better if we don't have two car payments at once.

We looked at the new hybrids, like the Toyota Prius that get an average of 44 mpg,

but they're in such demand now that a buyer has no leverage, meaning that you pay a premium of $3000 to $5000 more than you'd pay for a comparable gas-powered car. I calculated that a Prius would save us about $500 per year in gas over a Corolla/Civic, so it would take ten years to recoup the difference in price ($17,000 for a low-mileage used Corolla compared with $22,000 for a used Prius).

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