My New Car: What to Burn?

By my own calculations as demonstrated in last week’s post, I can rationalize a change of vehicle. Now comes the choice of what to buy.

Our 2009 Mazda 5 is a pretty hard act to follow: a snappy little crossover with plenty of interior space (6 passengers) at an original cost of $21,000 and an excellent gas economy of 7 litres/100 km. The main disadvantage is the inexpensive seats, which just don’t support the aging boomer body over long trips.

Added into the mix is the aging boomer mind. I am willing to admit that the older I get, the more help I can use in my driving. So I have been waiting and watching over the past few years as the safety and driving assist options grew.

Dratted Marketing

The big problem with all the great safety features like blind spot warning, lane wander warning, etc. is that the manufacturers use them as bait to up-sell you on trim choice. Those options have been available for many years now, but only on the highest level of trim, which usually hits about ten grand more expensive than the base model.

However, these features have been creeping down the economic scale.  Now we have backup cameras in all new cars. In 2018 Prius V moved their whole Technical Package into all trims. Unfortunately (I keep saying) and despite my wisdom from last week, the only way I am going to get the best in driver assist features is if I buy the latest model. This means a new car. (Sob, sob.)

First Attempt

Initially, I thought I would replace the old car. First choice: the Mazda CX5. A definite step up from the Mazda 5. Good visibility, good seats, more power. But to get the safety features? Sorry, only in the AWD model.

Four Wheel Drive?

I see no need to pay the extra original price, plus the added fuel cost of churning over all that extra machinery for the life of the car when I have no need of it. I lived in Prince George for 27 years and only had 4 wheel drive about a quarter of that time. I hardly noticed the difference. If I lived in North Van on a hill, then I would have reason. I live out on the flats of Delta. I won’t be forking out for AWD.

And so it went. Mitsubishi Outlander: AWD only for the full safety package. Nissan Rogue: AWD only. Subaru Outback; well, all Subaru crossovers are AWD so I reluctantly put that company out of my mind.

And then I realized that all these crossovers were catering to what yachties call “two-foot-itis.” You know; whatever you have now, the next one has to be just a bit bigger and better. If you look at a lot of these crossovers, especially the Toyota Rav 4, you will see that they are bigger, heavier, more powerful and have worse fuel economy than previous models. I’m not looking to move up. Financially, I’m toning down. And all the cars that would have been nice to own eat gas in the 8.5 – 10 l/100km range. An increase of 30% on my normal $1500/year gas bill over 10 years adds $4500 to my costs.

Get Modern

And that got me thinking. What about hybrids? Yes, they’re more expensive. There are new crossover hybrids coming out all the time, and the tried-and-true Toyota Prius V is the right size, though overly pricey. However, there’s a government rebate of $2500 for buying a hybrid, and if I could save only $250 a year in fuel bills over 10 years would give me $5,000 in hand.

And then I considered resale value. Up to this point, I have pretty much assumed my 10-year-old clunker wouldn’t be worth more than $2,000. But an upscale car like I was contemplating? What’s the market going to be like in 10 years? Well, since the only sure things in life are death, taxes and rising gas prices, you’ve got to figure these sporty gas guzzlers selling so well right now are going to be a dime a dozen by that time.

No, a hybrid was the way to go. If I could find one. The Prius V, the Kia Niro and the Mitsubishi Outlander looked like the best options, but…

Think of the Future

I know. Therefore I should be buying an electric car. Well, I’m afraid B.C. isn’t ready for that yet. I make a road trip or two around the province every year, and sorry, Mr. Musk, but a 300-km range electric isn’t going to cut it. However, both Kia and Prius were coming out with something called a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV. Electric range – about 40 km. After that, the gas kicks in. Used as a hybrid with both engines playing tag team, it still gets mileage in the 5 l/100km range.

And I live in Tsawwassen. Our average day is: dog to the beach – 6 km round trip; groceries – 4 km round trip. We do that 5 or 6 days a week. Only a run into Surrey or Richmond would fire up the gas engine. A PHEV is the logical choice.

The Final Choice

Unfortunately, Toyota only has the plug-in in the smaller, sedan-sized Prius, so that was out. And the Prius V, the big one, can only brag gas economy of 5.9 at the best. The Outlander weighs something like 2.5 tonnes, can only claim 9.5 fuel economy, and costs $50,000. So we went looking at the new Kia Niro PHEV.

And that’s a different story. Tune in next week for the conclusion of this saga, “At the Car Dealer.”

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