By on March 18, 2008

dkalos500.jpgMontreal's largest French language daily has published a study on its site comparing 250 vehicles available for sale in Canada on the basis of MRSP, city fuel consumption, highway fuel consumption. Even better, La Presse published the numbers in a Microsoft Excel file where the findings & methodology are bare for all to see, giving full license to challenge the article's findings.  (Imagine Car & Driver or Consumer Reports doing this!) For example, the study's author, Canadian auto-journalist Alain McKenna, states that American cars top the study by having the lowest operating cost per year. When I sorted the file, I noticed the top three cars were The Chevrolet Aveo, the Pontiac Wave and the Suzuki Swift+. If by "American", he means "Captive Korean imports badged by General Motors", I suppose he has a point. He also fails to consider depreciation and maintenance expenses, which tend to be much higher on domestics. Still, it's quite an interesting spreadsheet to review if you're a numbers geek like I am. McKenna also points out that some of the cheapest vehicles are not what you'd expect, noting that three pick-ups, The Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and the Mazda B2300, all beat out the Toyota Prius. Speaking of the Prius, where did it end up? In 67th place, just edging out the V6 Mustang by $0.04/100 km of operation.

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13 Comments on “Korean Domestics Top Operating Cost Study...”

  • avatar

    Yeah, but wait until we are paying $5/gallon for gasoline; then the Prius will rise to 31 on the list.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    If he left off depreciation, then it’s essentially bogus, because depreciation is the single biggest automobile ownership expense of all. And it’s the one that dramatically skews total costs. Hence, the Prius, with very low depreciation, stands out (positively) in CR’s ratings of ownership costs.

  • avatar

    This is an incredibly over-simplified formula for cost of ownership. It’s basically the MSRP of the car divided by 80000kms, then added to the price of gas (C$1.1/liter) used per km.

    So you guys are right, they totally leave out maintenance and depreciation, as well as insurance. Admittedly, these tend to vary a lot between individuals, and this is a way of getting exact numbers for ownership, but the info should be taken with a grain of salt at the least. I do like how La Presse put all their info out there, though. bravo for that.

    Had some fun and found the cheapest way to pump the max amount of CO2 into the air. The Kia Sorrento wins with 0.22 kg of CO2 emmitted per dollar of ownership cost.

  • avatar

    Paul N: Excellent point! Ironic that the person who essentially keeps his cars until the end of their financial lives (and thus does not see the cash impact of depreciation) would make it, but it’s good nonetheless.

    Lumbergh: The gas was calculated at $1.10/L. Converted to USD, it’s about $4.25 a Gallon. So I’m not sure how much $5/Gallon would change.

  • avatar

    Paul, how do you think the Prius will do in depreciation when there are a dozen vehicles of similar efficiency on the market and the Prius no longer gets the free ride in the car-pool lane?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    SunnyvaleCA: I think the Prius is well past the earlier time when demand outsripped supply, and depreciation (or appreciation, in some cases) was artificially skewed. The Prius has, and will continue to have relatively low depreciation because of what it is: highly reliable, functional, and very economical. That makes it desireable.

  • avatar

    “Ponzukidaweolet Swikalowaveo”
    Is that French for ‘pond scum’?

    By the way, the title should read either “Korean Domestics Top Operating ECONOMY Study” or “…TRAIL Operating Cost Study”.

  • avatar

    THis study is unrealistic and flies in the face of all studies I have seen from CR, etc. I do not trust his study or his results.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    First off, the vehicle that will be at the head of the list will be a used car. Most likely one that is 5 to 7 years old and has anywhere between 60k and 120k. That much is painfully obvious.

    However, if you’re amongst the 6% of the population that actually buys a new car, this study is still an exercise in fantasy. First, as many of the folks here have pointed out, real market purchase prices have to be taken into account. Then you have to estimate the average life of the vehicle which, indeed, has a bit of variance to it. An Aveo would probably be around 175k. A Lexus LS430 may average out at around 275k. There are ways of justifying these measurements (DMV records, salvage sale data, etc.) but you would need an independent collector of information such as Carfax or Autocheck to make it legitimate.

    I can see the Ranger/B2300, Corolla, Aveo, Mazda 6, and even a 4-cylinder Sonata perform particularly well for that type of study. All you really need is…

    1) A vehicle that is heavily discounted vs. it’s competitors
    2) Has been made for several years (lower insurance and parts costs) and
    3) has an economical 4-cylinder engine
    4) A transmission with gearing that gives the nod to fuel economy and
    5) A powertrain that can reasonably last 200k.

    A lot of vehicles fit that bill. However, it’s really the driver that has the greatest influence on costs by far based on their driving style and maintenance regimen. In baseball terms, the driver of a car has as much of an impact on ‘cost’ as a pitcher on a team.


    Oh, and I already know the answer to this study.

    Answer: A 3-cylinder, five-speed Geo Metro XFi that has been towed by an elderly couple for virtually it’s entire life, thereby 90+% of the miles were never recorded. It was maintained with synthetic fluids, has premium tires put at their maximum pressure, and the new owner has a travel route that goes on steep downhills both ways.

    When on long trips, the driver pulses, coasts, and drafts their way into mileage levels that would make Ralph Nader blush. They also have the physique of Calista Flockhart (or Ralph) and have stripped the Metro into it’s absolute base form. They wear ear muffs, put ice cubes in their mouth (heaven forbid you use a/c), and have a fold out bike that has an electric motor attached for those times where the thing needs to be towed (who needs AAA?

    Damn, I actually had one of these last year. Something tells me it’ll be a wee bit harder to find this time.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Ok, barring the Metros & Swifts of the world, the most economical used compact cars to own would most likely be…

    1998 – 2000 model year

    1) Mitsubishi Mirage
    2) Suzuki Esteem
    3) Dodge Neon (assuming the head gasket’s been replaced by a factory unit)
    4) Mazda Protege

    Get a 4-cylinder, 5-speed base version with less than 100k on it and you may be looking at another 10 years of joy free motoring if you live in a temperate climate.

  • avatar

    Had a Neon. Nix that as anything resembling a reliable used car! Ours was supposedly the first Neons with the “good” head gaskets, 1999 (incidentally, built in Toluca, Mexico). Nope, it was Krap. Blew up before the warrantee was done, but the dealer fixed it and charged it to the “extended warrantee” that he included in the deal (because by this time, he’d had 4 years of selling these POS’s and knew Chrysler wouldn’t want to fix it). The “improved” head gasket also blew. Just after I broomed the car. The dealer called me to whine about how the new owner just called and had a blown head gasket like 2 weeks after we traded it.

    Hence, DaimlerChrysler finally threw in the towel on designing four cylinder engines and utilized Hyundai technology on the new all alloy engines built in a co-owned factory in Dundee, Michigan. (Interestingly, neither Hyundai nor Mitsubishi are using engines built in this plant – they just own 1/3 each).

    Hyundai is busy building their own 4 cylinder engine plant at Montgomery. They’ve already got a vastly improved version of the engine which was all new for 2006, in their early 2009 cars.

    Mitsubishi may end up using Dundee built engines once they either move Lancer production to Illinois, or when the all-new Lancer based Galant is introduced in a year or two (presumably it will resemble the Galant ZT show car).

  • avatar


    I have a friends that have driven Neons and have been totally satisfied with them. They are great for what they are, cheap, econimical transportation with (for their time) good driving dynamics especially if they’re optioned right. Many wish that Chrysler had updated the Neon instead of going with the Caliber.

    Once the new head gaskets were implemented the issue pretty much disappeared. I believe in your case the place that installed the new gasket didn’t do it properly. It’s not a simple bolt on procedure. That is the number one reason new head gaskets fail, it’s almost never a faulty gasket.

  • avatar

    Despite it’s fault, this has generated very interesting discussion. Numbers are always a great place to start. (Right, Robert?) Thanks, Samir.

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