Car Shopping

I hate car shopping. This can probably be traced back to the fact that I have very few real requirements for a car. Namely, it has to be reliable, fuel-efficient, inexpensive and preferably not a horrible color. Eight or so months ago, I finally traded in my 2003 Mazda Protege5 and bought a Mazda2. You really can’t get a more basic car. Yes, it has a radio and air conditioning, but that’s about it for the bells and whistles. It’s a tiny car, it cost me less than $16,000 new and it gets 36 miles per gallon. I also have a pretty long standing loyalty to Mazda- this is the third one I have owned.

This past weekend it was time to go car shopping for my husband who graciously agreed to part with his not so fuel-efficient and very costly to own and maintain BMW 5series. Buying premium fuel and getting less than 25 miles to a gallon hurts in many ways. Fuel-efficiency was one of our top priorities for his new car, but it also had to have enough tech gadgets and features to satisfy his love for such things. Plus it had to have at least a little bit of a coolness factor. We were hoping to reduce his car payment, so we ruled out the “luxury” brands this time and zeroed in on Mazda, a brand I am very loyal to, and Volkswagen, a brand he is very loyal to.

We test drove several cars at the local VW dealership, including the new Jetta Hybrid, the Passat TDI (clean diesel) and finally a standard gas CC which was still pretty fuel efficient and definitely a cool car. Both the Jetta Hybrid and the Passat Diesel got gas mileage in the 40+ mpg range. The fuel economy was very attractive, but the sticker prices and leasing options meant that we weren’t really going to lower our monthly payment much at all and the money saved on gas did not seem to make up for the increased sticker prices of the hybrid or diesel technologies.

At Mazda, we limited our looking to the CX-5 and the Mazda6. My husband liked the idea of the CX-5 compact SUV and the gas mileage was actually pretty good at almost30 mpg combined,  but I had a suspicion that he really wanted an SUV so he could tow our group’s tailgate trailer and it just seemed like a lot of vehicle for just a few towing occasions. We started leaning toward the Mazda6 and were pretty impressed. The 2014 Mazda6 was just released and features Mazda’s “Skyactiv” technologies. In the case of the Mazda6, this is a whole range of technologies aimed at fuel efficiency including a lighterweight car body, streamlined aerodynamics, a super efficient gasoline combustion engine and regenerative breaking to power the car’s electronics. The result seems to be a car that can get up to 38 mpg on the highway without the sticker shock of an electric or hybrid solution. I was also a big fan that the car doesn’t have a battery that costs thousands of dollars to replace and has to be disposed of as toxic waste like a hybrid. Electric cars are intriguing to me, but we live in Ohio where most of our electricity comes from coal and a coal powered car doesn’t really seem much better to me than a gas powered one.

Mazda’s Skyactiv technology seem like a great combination of fuel-efficiency, affordability and just enough style to please my husband. Sign us up! We are now the owners, well make that lessees, of a Mazda6 for the next 3 years. We’ll see how it goes…



One thought on “Car Shopping

  1. I like following the line of choices that leads to a decision. It’s like seeing the gears turn in someone’s mind.

    We just bought a Nissan Leaf last month. That was a stressful leap. I watched the documentary “Who killed the electric car” a couple years ago and it got me interested in electric cars. I drive 40 miles each way to work so I wanted to make sure it can handle the distance. And the random need to drive to a job site doesn’t help.

    Our 2002 Toyota Echo has been a reliable car, gets just over 41 mpg. Probably cost $11,000 new and doesn’t have A/C or power windows. Now at 165,000 miles we’ve been wondering how long it would hold out. I test drove the Leaf last summer and the dealership let me drive it home over night to let me get used to the 40 mile commute. Then again this past winter on a really cold day to see if there was a noticable battery loss from the temp.

    What I’ve learned is the milage remaining estimator is unrealiable. Much better to watch the batter charge percentage as it drops. The heating and cooling system uses about 10% as much energy as I consume driving on the expressway. Driving in cold temps doesn’t have a noticable effect. I do need to plug into the 120V outlet on the exterior of my companies office building during the day to get enough charge to get home. The range of the leaf for my driving habits is about 70-75 miles, so with a round trip of 80 miles I need just a bit of a recharge to make it back home. I got permission from the building owner before plugging in. The “ECO” mode only adds about 5% distance. Flooring it in normal mode is fun.

    After sales taxes and fees the mid model was about $34k. I’ll have to wait until I file taxes next year to get the $7.5k federal rebate. The local Utility will reimburse me for the cost to install a charging port in my garage. They will also charge me for time of use with night time rates at $0.07/kWh. To fill the whole 24 kWh battery will cost me $1.68. I can’t drive 70 miles for that much in any gas car. I expect the 15,000 miles I’ll drive in the next year to cost me $360 in energy with zero oil changes. I didn’t want a Volt that had a smaller battery and would require maintenance on two engine systems. Our other car gets 25mpg and would cost $2,400 for the same miles driven. We’ll still need to use this one to visit grandma and grandpa. It just won’t be used daily now. By the time I pay off the car in 5 years I should save $10,000 in energy costs.

    Energy thoughts. Increasing electrical loads during the night is much less harmful than increasing them during the day. Plugging in at work is only an added load of 1.8 kW. Plugging into my home charger will add 6.6 kW at night time. While I feel bad about the daytime load increase, it is not much. About 2 microwaves running. Most power plants have excess capacity at night and run very inefficently. Many wind turbine produce more power at night than during the day time and they have been paying Utility companies to take the extra generation because demand is so low. So I’m okay adding base load at night. Even if it is mostly coal generated. Then I noticed most oil refineries use a lot of electricity in the production of gasoline 24/7. My 1.8 kW per day is close to what goes into a gallon of gas produced. If I shift from gas to electricity I’m really not adding much load onto the electrical grid. Electricity has a lot of alternative sources. Gasoline does not. Even if my Utility is coal heavy now, it is slowly reducing.


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