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Wizard
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Wizard
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December 20th, 2010 at 8:00:51 PM permalink
I'm in the market for a new car. I'm leaning towards a Toyota Highlander, because I'm a loyal Toyota man, and we rented one in Alaska, and I liked it. I was mentioning this to a friend earlier today and he asked, "Are you going to get a hybrid?" It was my understanding the government subsidy was over, so I wasn't planning to, but his question prompted me to take a closer look.

I had to dig around lots of sources to get the facts I need.

Price of gas: ' rel='nofollow' target='_blank'>http://www.eia.doe.gov/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html] http://www.eia.doe.gov/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html, which is currently about $3.00 a gallon in Vegas.

Fuel economy of hybrid: ' rel='nofollow' target='_blank'>http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybrid_sbs.shtml] http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybrid_sbs.shtml = 28/28 (city/highway) for 4WD.

Fuel economy of non-hybrid: ' rel='nofollow' target='_blank'>http://www.toyota.com/highlander/specs.html] http://www.toyota.com/highlander/specs.html=17/22 (city/highway) for 4WD.

Cost of hybrid: http://www.nadaguides.com/Cars/2011/Toyota/Highlander-Hybrid = $37,490 for 4WD 4dr.

Cost of non-hybrid: http://www.nadaguides.com/Cars/2011/Toyota/Highlander = $29,995

So, the hybrid costs an extra $7,495. Let's solve for the number of miles you would need to drive to break even at various costs of gas to recoup that. For the mileage of the non-hybrid I'm taking the average of 17 and 22, which is 19.5.

The formula for the number of miles to break even is (h/g)/((1/mr)-(1/mh)), where

h = Additional cost of the hybrid.
g = The cost of a gallon of gas.
mr = Miles per gallon for non-hybrid (the r is for a "regular" car).
mh = Miles per gallon for the hybrid.

The following table shows the breakeven number of miles for various prices of gas from $2 to $5 per gallon.

Gas price Miles to break even
$ 2.00 240,722
$ 2.25 213,975
$ 2.50 192,577
$ 2.75 175,070
$ 3.00 160,481
$ 3.25 148,136
$ 3.50 137,555
$ 3.75 128,385
$ 4.00 120,361
$ 4.25 113,281
$ 4.50 106,987
$ 4.75 101,357
$ 5.00 96,289


So, at the current price of $3 per gallon I would need to drive the thing 160,481 miles. I doubt I'm going to get that many miles out of it, so I think I'm better off getting the regular model.

I welcome all comments.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
DJTeddyBear
DJTeddyBear
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December 20th, 2010 at 8:13:51 PM permalink
There are several factors you haven't considered.

1 - Despite your negative belief, it's likely that the car will reach the break-even point or further. With regular maintenance, cars last longer these days.

2 - Resale value.

3 - Cost of maintenance.

The biggie:
4 - Value of the "feel good factor", knowing you're doing something for the environment.
Superstitions are silly, childish, irrational rituals, born out of fear of the unknown. But how much does it cost to knock on wood? 😁
Wizard
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Wizard
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December 20th, 2010 at 9:15:45 PM permalink
Quote: DJTeddyBear

There are several factors you haven't considered.

1 - Despite your negative belief, it's likely that the car will reach the break-even point or further. With regular maintenance, cars last longer these days.

2 - Resale value.

3 - Cost of maintenance.

The biggie:
4 - Value of the "feel good factor", knowing you're doing something for the environment.



1. If I were stuck with it then I'd concede the point. However, Mrs. Wizard is big on appearances, and doesn't like to drive around old cars with lots of mileage. Otherwise, I'd just keep using my current minivan.
2. I'll probably sell this car at around 100K. Then as a regular car it will be worth about 5K. With old cars you don't get much bargaining power for extras. I roughly guess a hybrid might bring in an extra $1,000.
3. Wouldn't the extra electric engine just increase the cost of maintenance?
4. I already drive only about 5,000 miles a year. I'm usually riding my bike short distances and drive only when I have an important reason to. So that is my bit for the environment. I think the focus on saving the environment should be mainly on consuming less.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
EvenBob
EvenBob
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December 20th, 2010 at 9:26:50 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

Quote: DJTeddyBear

Mrs. Wizard is big on appearances,



My wifes Jeep is 10 years old but looks brand new. She gets anything wrong fixed right away. The interior is flawless. The interior of my car, well, isn't....
"It's not enough to succeed, your friends must fail." Gore Vidal
kracker21
kracker21
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December 20th, 2010 at 9:32:02 PM permalink
I think I've read you have children, maybe the car will be around after your wife would like a new one.
MathExtremist
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December 20th, 2010 at 9:54:32 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

1. If I were stuck with it then I'd concede the point. However, Mrs. Wizard is big on appearances, and doesn't like to drive around old cars with lots of mileage. Otherwise, I'd just keep using my current minivan.
2. I'll probably sell this car at around 100K.


Those two don't really go well together. If you're (or she's) really happiest driving the latest and greatest, you should lease something every few years. The dramatic, immediate decline in value for a new car purchase doesn't seem to be worth it if you're only going to drive 5k miles/year. If that's all you're going to do, I recommend either (a) leasing something new every 3 years, or (b) buying a 3-4 year old car, planning on keeping it for 3 years, and then doing it again.

But if I were into the environmental side of things, and I still lived in Vegas, I'd do something with solar and electric. This company does solar panels for Priuses (is that Prii?), and at 30miles/day on solar, you might never have to spend money on gas.
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563
Kelmo
Kelmo
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December 20th, 2010 at 10:01:12 PM permalink
I heard that the manufacturing and disposal of the battery does more harm to the environment than most standard economy cards do in their lifetime. not sure if that's true, but makes me wonder if hybrids are more about selling cars than helping the environment.
Wizard
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Wizard
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December 20th, 2010 at 10:06:07 PM permalink
Quote: MathExtremist

Those two don't really go well together. If you're (or she's) really happiest driving the latest and greatest, you should lease something every few years. The dramatic, immediate decline in value for a new car purchase doesn't seem to be worth it if you're only going to drive 5k miles/year. If that's all you're going to do, I recommend either (a) leasing something new every 3 years, or (b) buying a 3-4 year old car, planning on keeping it for 3 years, and then doing it again.

But if I were into the environmental side of things, and I still lived in Vegas, I'd do something with solar and electric. This company does solar panels for Priuses (is that Prii?), and at 30miles/day on solar, you might never have to spend money on gas.



I drive only about 5K miles a year, but my wife drives more than that. It would seem to me that leasing would be the better option for some one who drives a lot.

While car shopping today I did indeed look at some used cars. By the way, I refuse to refer to them as "pre-owned." What a crock that is. Anyway, I very disappointed at how high they were priced. I think you can get a good value buying used from a private party, but the new car dealers seemed to not be eager to sell their used cars, judging by their high prices. As an example, I saw a Honda minivan with about 80K miles on it for about 20K. You can get a new one for around 30K.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
mkl654321
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December 20th, 2010 at 10:06:12 PM permalink
There are two factors that have made me decide not to get a hybrid, one weighing much more heavily than the other:

1. The drivetrain is necessarily going to be more esoteric to maintain and repair. You're pretty much going to be forced to use the local dealer(s) for that work, and dealers are almost always the most expensive (and crowded) for repairs. There just won't be that many independent shops who are able, or qualified, to work on hybrid drivetrains (and there may be warranty isuues). Plus, the batteries are extremely expensive to replace, and hybrids haven't been out there for sufficiently long or in sufficient numbers to give a good data set on battery life.

2. In an accident, the batteries could rupture and discharge, providing a potentially fatal shock to any rescuers. Many fire departments will not use the "jaws of life" on a hybrid to extract a passenger, for that reason. I have no idea how real this hazard is.

I also kind of resent the fact that hybrids are MORE expensive than conventional autos, when they should be much LESS. The hybrid engines are much simpler, lighter, and easier to manufacture than conventional internal combustion engines. You pay a premium for something less complex and easier to make. As you've noted, it takes several years to amortize the additional cost of a hybrid. This serves, along with the maintenance issues I've mentioned, as sufficient disincentive for me to buy one.
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.---George Bernard Shaw
thecesspit
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December 20th, 2010 at 10:06:15 PM permalink
Quote: Kelmo

I heard that the manufacturing and disposal of the battery does more harm to the environment than most standard economy cards do in their lifetime. not sure if that's true, but makes me wonder if hybrids are more about selling cars than helping the environment.



I think Hybrids and electrics in cars like a Taxi (incredibly popular) make sense for the taxi owners who have them on the road 24/7 by 365. For 5k a year... I'm pretty sure not so much.

Remember that electricity you put in... hows that generated? It may not be the clean and green energy you think it is. And certainly making the battery (and mining the metals that go into them) is not the nirvana it's supposed to be.

The electric car will be here long term, I just don't think it's time is now... like the Music Zen Player was not the answer the portable electronic music....
"Then you can admire the real gambler, who has neither eaten, slept, thought nor lived, he has so smarted under the scourge of his martingale, so suffered on the rack of his desire for a coup at trente-et-quarante" - Honore de Balzac, 1829

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