Considering to buy a fuel efficient used car

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Fellow BITOGr’s. My wife and I are currently evaluating the addition of a very fuel efficient used car to our stable to reduce gas costs. We are only thinking about it now, running the numbers to see if it makes sense. Here is the scenario. Currently the wife drives the Subaru Forester that does about 15k miles per year of mixed driving into Portland that results in average mpg of 23 over the year. She likes it, the awd does great in the incremental weather we have around here. I drive a 2500 GMC Sierra with 6.0 which is mostly for towing a travel trailer during the summer and short trips around town. The non-towing is only ~5k miles per year and average mpg is right now let’s say 12mpg. Lot’s of short trips. We are considering adding something very fuel efficient to reduce our gas cost paying from cash no more than $5-8k. My wife would drive it most of the year except during the winter when she would go back to driving the Subaru. I would drive either the Subaru or the new car around town sometimes. Running the numbers I have compared a Prius, Corolla, Camry, Civic in the 2008 or so vintage. With the Prius we would save about $1200/year at current gas price. The others would be less (maybe $700). My thinking is that it isn't worth it to add an additional car unless saving over $1k. License, insurance, maintenance will add up (license is cheap here and hopefully insurance wouldn't be much for such a used car). We are not going to get rid of our current vehicles and saving $500/year is a waste of my time. But current gas prices are low and buying a fuel efficient car now could make sense if gas prices increase in the coming years. Gas prices increasing in a few years would make the savings more and help our long term budget but I'm not going to buy now in the hopes that gas prices will increase down the road, especially if the savings are minimal right now. The car must be reliable and safe. My wife isn't going to drive a beater that isn't absolutely reliable. So what are the pros/cons of such an idea? Right now the idea of a 2008ish Prius could be interesting.
 
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With gas prices so low now, I would think that the effort would not be worth it IMO. My wife and I agreed on a diesel truck for the long trips and hauling as I could get 17.5 mpg empty and 13 towing compared to less than 10 for a gasser. To me that was justified over the life of a truck. But with gas prices under $2 here in the midwest going from a 23mpg vehicle to a 30mpg vehicle that is less safe in bad weather and snow would not be worth it. Seems that the smaller vehicle would not be as suitable.
 
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with the ever-tightening grip on the NHTSA testings on new cars, I'd say that anything past 1995 and newer shall come with the additional weight penalty due to structural safety enforcements, additional airbags, traction/stability control,etc. No to mention about tightening on exhaust emissions. With those extra weight and emissions penalties, most vehicles past 2K and younger are not that "efficient", even when you talk about smaller cars. The choice is yours: you can either go deliberately find a used 90s beater car for the sake of better fuel economy, or get a newer (technically more complicated) car with reduced fuel economy, but safer in general. Q.
 
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An average mpg of 23 for the Forester is not too bad. You know what you are doing; just remember to allow for about $600-1,000 for repairs to anything you pick up (and twice that if the prius battery goes). I find the Prius to be very uncomfortable so spend some time with it before deciding. It may not be worth it unless you are having to commute a lot in the truck.
 
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Originally Posted By: CT8
Maintenance, license and insurance adds up quick.
Agreed. I would suspect that if you do some realistic math on these costs, they will negate any fuel savings. Also, don't forget about the cost of depreciation on the Subaru. You're paying it every day whether you park it or drive it, so you might as well take advantage of the safety and other comforts.
 
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Hmm, I'm not sure I'd bother. In your situation, I'd probably leave the wife's vehicle alone--unless if she wants to drive something different, I'd probably leave it as-is. Since your miles are so low, you don't really need a beater either. I'd just save the cash and buy your wife another car when it hits 150k or whatever. Or, wait until it hits 150k, THEN buy some high mpg car, and keep the Subie as a backup winter beater that she already trusts.
 
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Originally Posted By: Nate1979
Running the numbers I have compared a Prius, Corolla, Camry, Civic in the 2008 or so vintage. With the Prius we would save about $1200/year at current gas price. The others would be less (maybe $700).
I'm not exactly sure what your gas prices are but taking a conservative $2.5/gal, the Subaru should be costing you about %1630 a year. How is Prius going to save you $1200? Assuming the Prius will get you 45mpg (highly doubtful on a 2008 model with unknown maintenance history) I'm showing savings of around $800 a year. And this assumes that your wife would drive the Prius all year round. I bet your insurance on the Prius will be in the neighborhood of $800. There is no savings here. You have to go into $4/gal gas in order to get $1200 annual gas savings.
 
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The Prius Hybrid battery is warrantied for 8 years and 100k miles. We had a prius from 2006 until 2013 and put over 182,000 miles on it. The only problem we had was the water pump going out at 130k, and I was able to replace it for under $100 within 30 minutes in the driveway.
 
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I'll keep an eye out. As of right now all I got is a early 90's tercel with a reman engine. Wanted it for myself, and scrap the beretta, but not willing to sell a bike for cash to buyu it smile
 
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Not worth it unless gas jumps to $4/gal again. If you're not willing to get rid of the Subie, just don't worry and try and drive for mpg. Even swapping out a used car for a used Prius, many times will not net a real mpg savings (assuming cars are worth equal-ish values). Acquisition and sale costs eat into gas savings and take a long time to make up.
 
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Your forester is getting bad gas mileage. Its a light car, My wife gets over 31MPG with our 2015. Sell the forester and get a 2014 or newer STICK forester. I guess you picked the wrong cars.
 
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Originally Posted By: ARCOgraphite
Sell the forester and get a 2014 or newer STICK forester.
How many years and miles of driving will it take him to break even when you factor in the additional cost of buying the 2014 Forester?
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My wife gets over 31MPG with our 2015.
But are your wife's driving patterns the same as OP's wife? 2015 Forester manual is EPA rated at 22/25/29 mpg. 2010 Forester auto is EPA rated at 20/22/26 mpg. This difference is hardly large enough to make a switch, IMO.
 

Nate1979

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Thanks for all the comments. A few details based on your comments: The mpg of our Forester isn't wonderful but not bad. It is between 22-25 depending on the season. The traffic is horrible here in Portland so it sees a lot of stop and go driving and almost no nice long highway trips. I'm sure the new ones get better mpg but to get a few more for thousands of dollars by selling our 2010 which isn't losing much value each year isn't too smart. My wife was surprise that the savings would be so small. But just a couple of years ago gas was double around here and savings would be much more. Everything I have read about 2008ish Prius seems positive. They seem to be reliable especially the more you drive them. The battery could die but so could the AT or motor of the Subaru (though it has been perfectly reliable now with 72k miles - absolutely no issues). At the age of a 2008 Prius I don't think depreciates a whole lot every year. The moral of the story is that you don't save much when going from a decent mpg to a high mpg at today's gas price and reasonable miles (15-20k miles). I'm not sure there will be much added cost for maintenance as we are going to drive the same # of miles, just spread to 3 cars, not 2. Maybe some additional oil change but that is minor. The depreciation, insurance, and licensing cost is one I have to dig into a little more. Licensing is cheap here in Oregon but I have to check the exact cost.
 
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Love my '08 Hyundai Accent. Would buy another if I could find one. No maintenance issues to speak of but a leaky axle seal fixed under warranty; over 120k and 40mpg easy.
 
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That year subaru is very reliable, more so than the newer 2.0 based oil burners. One car you may get lucky and find a good example of, 2003 Jetta TDI 5 speed manual, you can get 40-60 mpg and they are very dependable. Can't recommend any newer than 2003 or an A/T model. Just get one for a 3rd car for the fun of high MPG. Or soldier on with that excellent Forester.
 
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