When you buy a car, what is most important to you: purchase price, cost of ownership (regular maintenance, repairs, insurance, MPG, depreciation), utility, performance (how fast and how well it handles), safety, image or the green factor? Maybe you consider them all, but some prioritize the list differently. Strangely, many people do little research; they wander into a dealership and are talked into buying a car by a salesperson.
For those people very concerned about cost of ownership, miles per gallon makes up most of the annual costs. Kiplinger recently published its list of the most fuel efficient cars for 2012. Fuel efficiency is very important for many people’s budgets since gasoline can cost them several thousand dollars per year, so this article is worth checking out. However, in my opinion, Kiplinger’s list isn’t all that helpful, since it just rates them by class, but it serves as a useful reminder when a person is considering different car categories.
Kiplinger’s highest MPG rated cars for:
- Cars under $20,000: the Scion IQ: 36 city, highway 37. This is a tiny car, and there are bigger ones with close to the same MPG rating
- Cars $25,000 – $20,000: the Toyota Prius 2. city 51, highway 48
- Cars $25,000 – $30,000: the Mitsubishi i-MiEV ES, city 126, highway 99 all electric limited range
- Cars $30,000 – $40,000: the Nissan Leaf, city 106, highway 92, all electric limited range
- Cars $40,000 – $50,000: Audi 2.0T Premium, city 25, highway 33
- Cars $50,000 and up: Infinity M35h, city 27, highway 32
- Sport cars $50,000: BMW Z4 sDrive28i, city 22, highway 34
- Small Crossovers: $31,000 Ford Escape Hybrid, city 34, highway 31
- Midsize and large Crossovers:, $46,000 Lexus RX 450h, city 28, highway 32
- Truck Based SUVs: Cadillac Escalade, Hybrid (TE), $75,000, city 20, highway 23,
- Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and the GMC Yukon: rated the same as the Escalade, since they are are similar to it, but they cost $20,000+ less
- Minivans: Honda Odyssey LX, $29,000, city 18, highway 27
- Wagons: Toyota Prius V Two, $27,000, city 44, highway 40
When I have purchased new cars I relied on comparisons published by various automobile magazines, such as Road & Track and Motor-Trend. These two regularly compare models and you can see side-by-side price, utility (e.g., trunk size), performance, image and green factors. My local library has back issues, and I can easily find the comparisons by first doing a quick Internet search.
What do you do if you want to compare safety beyond braking ability, anti-lock brakes and number of airbags? Then you have to go the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS. You can also look at cars reviewed by U.S. Department of Transportation at SaferCar.org. Some rely on acceleration for accident avoidance, and some magazines publish lane change and cornering ability–good to check out for clues about how easy it might roll over or lose control when you have to react quickly.
What about the other factors of cost of ownership besides miles per gallon, and regular maintenance costs? Consumer Reports magazine is the only place I know to check out those costs. For that you will need to subscribe to their magazine, or go online and get access to their records, but it might be worth the cost. Also, be sure to call your insurance agent to get an estimate for the car you are considering.
Those are the logical reasons; however, humans are not very logical Spock-like creatures. We are very emotional and image driven, so a lot of people are attracted by the brand image that shows they are frugal, well-off or classy. Many men buy a car for the sporty image, or the tough look of masculinity. Sometimes we bypass looking at these things, and we buy a particular brand we like, one that we feel offers the things we want, or a brand that has been good to us in the past. Brand loyalty has always been important to car manufacturers. Avoid emotional decisions, as they can be costly sometimes. I’ve written about used cars to avoid in prior articles. To get the best deal, do your research first.
How much car we can afford is also a critical factor. But does that mean we should buy the most car we can afford, even if it is a very expensive luxury class vehicle? That is a great question, I think. Since we are Christians, we have a responsibility to be good stewards over the money God gives us, and over the planet’s natural resources consumed to produce and run a particular vehicle. Before purchasing, we can examine our emotions and motives, pray for direction and wisdom, and seek the counsel of others, including our spouses and our professional financial advisers. Only after doing these things, can we make a clear headed and responsible decision.
What do you think are the most important things to consider when purchasing a car, a motorcycle, a truck or an SUV?