By on January 3, 2014

autoguide

 

Dear Steve:

My wife and I finally bought a brand new Honda Accord.  She loves it, and I now have one less worry in my life.

With that one less worry though comes two more things, in the form of two similarly sized cars. At least one of which I no longer need.

We have a 2003 Honda Civic and a 2011 Mazda 3.  The Civic has served as my wife’s faithful commuter for the last 10 years. While the Mazda 3 has served as my own daily driver and our road trip vehicle. I love the Mazda, and it has served me to an absolute T for nearly 50,000 miles.

I just don’t know if I need it now that the Civic is available. Here’s the thing. The Civic gets far better fuel economy than the Mazda 3 which has averaged only about 24 mpg. Now that my wife has a new car that will also become our road trip vehicle, I only need my daily driver to serve as a commuter car. My round-trip commute is 47 miles a day and I just don’t see myself ripping up the asphalt with the Mazda 3 while listening to NPR. So I’m thinking the Civic may be the better long-term bet. Even though I absolutely love the hell out of that Mazda.

Another random thought came to me while adding up the resale numbers. Should I perhaps sell both vehicles and maybe, just maybe, buy a new one? The Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte would be a great match and if I sell both vehicles, the cost difference between a new car and a used one may only be a couple thousand bucks.

So what should I do? Sell the Civic? Sell the Mazda 3? Buy an Impreza? Or should I just keep both used cars?

 

Steve Says:

The #1 mistake I see folks do in their car buying decisions is overstate the importance of gas consumption.

Enthusiasts want fast… and they want their MPG.

Commuters want comfort… and they want their NPR… and their MPG.

Retirees want luxury… and plenty of unused horsepower, and they want their MPG.

Each one of these sub-species in the automotive buying world has to deal with two big problems related to this want.

The first is that high MPG doesn’t always equate to high personal satisfaction with the vehicle. Let’s take your two cars for example.

The 2011 Mazda 3 has an enthusiast bent to it, and your list of alternatives seem to point to the desire to have a car with great handling and solid performance.

As for the 2003 Honda Civic? My wife kept one for three years. It’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle, and like most cars given that level of mild praise, it’s definitely more aimed towards the non-enthusiast crowd. If all things were equal, the Mazda 3 would likely be your easy choice.

The second problem with putting gas consumption on that highest pedestal of want,  is that gas consumption represents a very minor cost when two vehicles of comparable size and engine displacement are pitted against each other.

Let’s say you kept these two vehicles as your commuter for the next 8 years and 120,000 miles. The Mazda 3 averages 24 mpg during that time (your average), and the Honda Civic averages 30 mpg (my wife’s average).

In that time, the Mazda will consume 5,000 gallons of gas, while the Civic consumes 4,000 gallons. If the average price of gas is $3,50 during that time, you end up with $3500 extra in overall gas cost. This equates to $437.50 a year or a little less than $1.80 a commuting day.

Still with me? Good. Because that level of difference can become a complete wash in the long run when you factor in repair costs to the older high mileage Civic. Maybe that will happen. Maybe not. Insurance, depreciation, resale value, opportunity cost may all sway this one way or the other. But the bottom line is this…

When you make this decision, the driving experience and the quality of the interior in particular should be the two biggest considerations. You will spend months of your life inside that car. So you need to raise ‘quality of life’ to the top of the list and gas consumption, far lower in the list of wants.

You love the Mazda, and like the Civic, and I’m willing to bet that the Mazda 3 hits those two quality of life check marks with a darker #2 pencil than the Civic. So sell the Civic and keep the Mazda. As for the list of new car alternatives, I don’t think any of them are worth the financial leap given that the Mazda 3 already hits your wants and needs. Good luck!

 

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130 Comments on “New or Used? : How Much Is MPG Really Worth?...”


  • avatar

    I’m sure if I sat down and actually calculated what I spend in Super Premium Unleaded gasoline, I’d be shocked. Driving for the most part is a luxury in my city – for many other people in spread out areas, it isn’t. The way I see it, you should simply buy a car that you can afford to finance – and be able to afford repairs on if something happens to it – and be able to afford gasoline/oil changes for.

    I see plenty of people buying used German luxury cars (and Acuras or Lexus) because they can’t afford the cars new and they are shocked when they find out how much gas money they are spending.

    Ultimately, MPG doesn’t matter much when you have a “regular” car, but if you’re driving a performance car for short distances, it isn’t really a big deal. It’s highly subjective. I don’t care if science invents a car that gets 1000 mpg. If it’s not comfortable for me or exciting, I’m NOT BUYING IT.

    Perfect example. My girl used to have a 06′ Maxima until she wrecked it. Despite my better judgement, she chose an 09′ Acura TL as a replacement. I like to throw in hints when I joke so I told her: “welcome to the premium gas club”. Despite making over $60K a year, she was suddenly surprised to see how quickly she spent money on fuel. The Acura not only got worse MPG but now you’re on Premium Unleaded.

    The bigger ridiculousness to me is having to pay more up front to finance a vehicle that gets high MPG. Buying a diesel doesn’t make sense when diesel costs more than super premium. You could just buy a regular unleaded 4-cylinder and save $ all around. And don’t get me started on EV. Some studies show that you don’t break even until between 150,000 Km and 200,000 Km.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      There’s your problem BigTruck – you need some elevation for your automotive habits. It’s generally considered fool-hardy to put ultra-awesomeo-premium in anything up here (Denver) that doesn’t absolutely need it. I was surprised when we tried mid-grade in the SHO, the computer and sensor readings were pretty much identical.

      While MPG may not make that big of a difference to most people, it was a lot easier to digest a car payment when I went from 13 to 23 MPG. If you aren’t going to see a $100 a month difference, I don’t think you should really use it as a factor in a purchasing decision.

      • 0 avatar
        Albino Digits

        If his girl’s Acura TL is anything like my 2008 Acura TSX, then the manual states it requires premium unleaded.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        ellomdian, are you paying attention to the octane ratings? Our gas in Denver is already knocked down two or three octanes across the board. So putting in premium (91) is still a good idea if the car calls for premium (93 at sea level).

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          Both of my e38′s, my brother’s e39, mom’s Jag and SHO, and my e63 all run without registered knock on 89.

          My last Sportster and the Ducati don’t like anything below 91, and the Duck is much happier with an 91/96 blend at the strip (granted, I don’t run quarters on the Diavel very much.)

  • avatar
    Dweller on the Threshold

    It would be a service to all Americans if our beloved federal government got off the MPG standard and started us thinking in terms of gallons per mile.

    I know this is trite and perhaps obvious, but isn’t this at least as sensible as Obama’s “a tire pressure gauge in every pocket” idea?

    (Not that I’m against that, either.)

    • 0 avatar

      “gallons per mile”???

      That was how we measured mpg during the 70′s – 80′s.

      I have a better idea: how about SMILES PER GALLON?

      • 0 avatar
        Dweller on the Threshold

        Look it up. GPM is much more representative of marginal differences in fuel consumption between vehicles.

        In the real world, no one cares how many miles you get out of a gallon. You care how many gallons you burn to go X distance. And the use of MPG distorts the underlying key value of fuel consumption.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “In the real world, no one cares how many miles you get out of a gallon.”

          Actually, that’s exactly what they want to know. For car shopping, it’s a handy, intuitive tool for comparing vehicles to each other.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            It’s not intuitive. As the mpg number gets higher, the value of each additional mpg is less and less. Going from the 18mpg of my JGC to the 12mpg of my Range Rover is a big increase in gas expense. Going from 46mpg to 40mpg is not. People put too much emphasis on it at the high end, and not enough at the low end.

            But of course, PCH101 is ALWAYS right, so we might as well just let this one slide.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It’s intuitive because bigger = better.

            For example, it’s difficult to explain bond yields to people because smaller = more expensive. The bond yield is counterintuitive because most of us are programmed to think of costs and interest rates in a reverse fashion, i.e. a bigger number means greater expense, not a lower one.

            There’s no MPG crisis. It seems to work for people; the country hasn’t exploded yet, and our friends at Google provide plenty of resources that could placate the GP(100)M fans if they would just use them.

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          Totally true. GPM is more useful for the same reasons that prevent most people from understanding that raising the mileage of a vehicle from 15mpg to 20mpg is much more significant than raising the mileage of a vehicle from 40mpg to 45mpg.

          Check the math before you dismiss it.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This is a bit like claiming that pounds and kilos are inadequate because they don’t provide the temperature, or that a meter is a useless measure because it doesn’t provide you with the weight.

            Distance per fuel unit provides a different measure than fuel units per distance. One is not inherently better or worse than the other, but MPG is easy for the average person to understand on the fly.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “but MPG is easy for the average person to understand on the fly.”

            But what good is it if they are understanding it wrong?

            The move from an 18 MPG Wrangler to a 28 MPG Passat will save more fuel than going from the 28 MPG Passat to a 38 MPG Optima hybrid.

            How many people understand that? How many just think “every 10 MPG increase is the same”?

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            The attention paid to, say, 40 mpg over 38 suggest that average people have no understanding whatsoever of mpg.

            Put it in gallons per hundred miles and even public school graduates should be be able to figure out that 2.5 gallons is for all intents and purposes the same as 2.6, and really not far enough away to get excited about from a market-poison-in-MPG 3.1.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “How many just think ‘every 10 MPG increase is the same’?”

            They are the same, if you’re making comparisons on the basis of how many additional miles can be traveled on a gallon of fuel, i.e. ten more.

            If you want to compare fuel usage for a given distance, then you need to do a bit of math.

            It seems that you want MPG to tell you something that it isn’t meant to tell you. There is no perfect single statistic that provides every bit of information that everyone wants to know.

          • 0 avatar
            redrum

            “It seems that you want MPG to tell you something that it isn’t meant to tell you.”

            Which is why he is saying GPM is more useful, as it measures consumption, rather than just be a raw measure of efficiency that requires a user to do further calculations. I have no idea why you’re trying to refute it. It seems like you’re just being argumentative.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you want to know gallons/ 100 mi or whatever, then just break out your calculator and figure it out.

            I don’t see why it’s so important to you that this figure comes from the government or some other third party. If you want to know it, then you’ve already been provided with enough information to calculate it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “… then just break out your calculator and figure it out.”

            I’m not John Nash over here.

            Re-cip-ro-cal? WTF is that!?

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            How many people pick their destination based on how much gas they have or can afford, rather than having a destination and wondering how much it’ll cost to get there?

            “Oh- I went from 20 mpg to 30 mpg, so instead of driving 20 miles to work I decided to go to a parking lot another 10 miles down the road”

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            MPG works as well as GPM (Gallons per 100 miles would be more appropriate) for those of us who can do high school algebra.

            For those of you who can’t handle high school algebra, MPG vs GPM is among the least of your problems).

            The changeover would probably cause even more confusion.

      • 0 avatar
        AJ

        I actually go by GTD (gallons to destination) when driving my lifted Jeep. It comes in handy when driving around in the boondocks.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      How about just using L/100km. Why get used to yet another stupid customary unit?

      It’s not like people measure their commute distance and do math. It is a easier number as liters are nearly 1/4 of the size of the gallon.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If you want to know how many miles one can travel on a gallon of gas, then MPG is the better measure.

      If you want to know how many gallons/liters are needed to travel over a fixed distance, then it isn’t.

      MPG is intuitively easier to grasp because bigger = better. And no, we don’t really need the metric system for common everyday things (although it would make sense for much of industry and science to stick with metric.)

      • 0 avatar

        PCH101

        You’re absolutely right. “MPG is intuitively easier to grasp because bigger = better.”

        Gallons per mile makes more sense if you’re flying a jet.

        And always remember: the average American isn’t good at math.

        • 0 avatar
          Dweller on the Threshold

          Apparently my posited need for the federal government to make this clearer is more acute than I thought.

        • 0 avatar
          WaftableTorque

          I’d ditch the Mazda3 and Civic and get a Bentley Mulsanne. Good thing I’m good at American math.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Those get exactly the same mileage according to the above assumed American “I no care” attitudes. So go for it!

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          In a turbine powered airplane (pure jet or turboprop) fuel is measured in pounds.We use pounds per hour as a measure of fuel consumption. I noticed in cruise the other day that the consumption was about 1700 pounds per hour. This is in a turboprop, a Dehavilland Dash 8.

          Breaking it down, this is about 4.4 gallons per minute. At cruise of 250 mph, it’s nearly 1 mpg. In the world of turbine aircraft, this is very efficient.

          • 0 avatar
            Japanese Buick

            Yep, everything is “per hour” in aviation. We piston pounders use gallons per hour.

            You can’t use mpg or gal/mile because that varies with the winds.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            True, JBuick, it’s not a direct translation of a MPG. My calculation was also using true airspeed, not indicated or ground speed. Ground speed was only about 195(80 knots headwind)

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Let’s see.

          Comparing big trucks (relevant because the economy numbers are more meaningful there and, hey, “bigtruckseriesreview”), let’s analyze the difference.

          Let’s compare a 14mpg Big Truck (my F-250, in actual use) with a 16, and 18, and a 20 mpg Big Truck.

          At MPG that’s “six whole MPG” for the whole spread, and discrete intervals of a piddling 2 mpg, “same difference as between 28 and 30″.

          In GPM (or better, as I think of it and will use it, “gallons per HUNDRED miles”), we get …

          14mpg = 7.14 gphm
          16mpg = 6.25 pghm
          18mpg = 5.55 gphm
          20mpg = 5 gphm

          (Or 28 = 3.57 vs 30 = 3.33)

          That “6mpg” saves us 2.14 gallons every hundred miles, or something like 7 cents a mile at current prices.

          The first increment of 2 mpg to 16 saves us nearly a whole gallon per hundred miles, or about 3 cents a mile.

          The same increment from 28 to 30 saves … about a fifth of a gallon, or “rounds to zero” whole cents per mile.

          “2 mpg” is not REMOTELY the same impact, by orders of magnitude!

          THIS is why gallons per hundred miles is a MUCH better way to glance at a number and see real fuel economy.

          (Cost per mile would be even better, but fuel costs vary too much…)

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            With gallons per hundred miles, you are adding another dimension to the reciprocal of mpg. Too complicated!

            I fall into the camp of mpg. I think most people are vaguely aware that mpg in the teens is not-so-good, while mpg above 40 is exceptional. Those who care for more information will use their calculator, Google, or Siri.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In the UK, figures are reported in MPG (with the “G” being an Imperial gallon), while fuel is sold in liters…er, I mean litres. Talk about drama.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            The reason for MPG vs. GPM (or GP/100M) is to avoid the need for fractions or decimals when comparing fuel efficiency – many average folks prefer whole numbers; keep in mind that when the measurement was instituted, electronic calculators were many years off.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Hey guys…

        All this debate and concern over GPM or MPG or L/100km may be off the mark.

        The only real fuel mileage I care about ultimately is: $$/month. (And I own 5 vehicles.)
        And the only real fuel consumption that Uncle Sam needs to worry about is average gallons per registered vehicle.

        It is always assumed that “MPG” somehow translates into the ultimate economic measure of vehicular validity.

        Well, my neighbor has a Bugatti that has lower annul fuel consumption than another neighbor with VW Golf. The first guy drives his car less than 1000 miles per year; the 2nd drives over 50,000 miles per year.

        But, upon whom does our socialist government slap a “guzzler” tax? (^_^)…

        ——————–

        • 0 avatar

          NMGOM

          Our new mayor, DiBlasio basically said in his inauguration speech that he’s coming to get me…

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Good thing you have a car that can outrun him…

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >> DiBlasio basically said in his inauguration speech that he’s coming to get me…

            di Blasio wants to replace the horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park with antique car replicas. Maybe you could convince him they’d rather ride in your 300. I can see it now…

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          It should be obvious why the Bugatti has a gas guzzler tax and the Golf does not. The Bugatti per mile uses much more fuel. It is not the Government’s fault if he drives the Bugatti less. Anyway that is one time tax so the Golf driver is paying more gas tax per year as he drives, funding the roads for the Bugatti to drive on.

          • 0 avatar

            NO CAR SHOULD HAVE A GAS GUZZLER TAX.

            That’s typical anti-free market liberalism at work. Why tax people who want a car that uses more fuel than another??? That’s what’s killing GM and Chrysler and letting little, UNSAFE foreign imports get ahead.

            If you were in a car accident, would you rather be in a Accord or a 300SRT with an iron engine???

            All these LEECHES do is tax people who work harder than others to pay for Welfare and waste. I’m sick of it!!!

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Welfare and waste are a fraction of Government spending. Unless you count education, roads, libraries, the military, national parks, social security, medicare/medicaid as waste.

            Unsafe imports in – what like Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Mazda, Ferrari, Lambo, RR etc??

            I would rather a gas guzzler tax than more tax on say earned income. The money has to come from somewhere and if we cut this tax then the deficit gets bigger.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I would rather a gas guzzler tax than more tax on say earned income. The money has to come from somewhere and if we cut this tax then the deficit gets bigger.”

            There is another option. Cut spending.

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          With all due respect, look up the dictionary definition of the word “socialism”.

          • 0 avatar
            Keith_93

            Actual knowledge of words like socialism would ruin their whiny arguments.

          • 0 avatar
            Reino

            We could call Obama what he really is: a fascist. But the liberal elite already has brainwashed our youth into associating fascism with conservatives. So let’s just call him a socialist, at least that is a term the far left accepts.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “We could call Obama what he really is: a fascist. But the liberal elite already has brainwashed our youth into associating fascism with conservatives. So let’s just call him a socialist, at least that is a term the far left accepts.”

            Before you pressed the “submit comment” button, did you know how foolish and ignorant that you would appear to be, or were you just being sarcastic?

            (I know that it’s the former, I’m just hoping for your sake that it’s the latter.)

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            LOL, as someone from the far left (european), Obama is still very much on the right side of an imaginary center line :P Whatever slight fascism part you have over here now (apart from your *ss being owned by coorporations) was introduced with the Patriot Act in 2001, long before Obama…

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In the lunacy of the far right blogosphere, centrists are radical leftists and liberals are communists, while communists are something else entirely. They’re humorous, but not particularly smart or accurate.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            Right. Politics as presented on right-wing Tea Party AM radio is a sad and twisted joke. It speaks poorly, though, of the lack of capacity for critical thought among so many Americans that they allow themselves to be spoon-fed this hogwash, and blindly accept it as the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Exactly. It’s not intuitive unless you’ve thought about it…even most here probably think every mpg is the same. To save as much gas as going from 20 mpg to 40 mpg, you’d have to go from 40 mpg to infinity mpg.

      Here’s another way to think about it. Let’s say you have a 50 mpg Prius, and when you throw your enormous bike rack on it your mpg drops to 31 mpg. You think “Almost a 20 mpg drop! This think sucks gas with that rack. Now you do the same thing with your hummer and your mpg goes from 14 mpg to 12. You think “The rack barely affects it at all. The truth is the rag adds the same amount of drag to both cars and forces them to burn the same amount of extra gas.

      Think of a notional 100 mile trip in the Prius. At 50 mpg, you burn 2 gallons. At 31 you burn 3.19 gallosn- 1.19 additional gallons for you trip.

      In the hummer at 14 mpg, you burn 7.14 gallons. At 12 mpg you burn 8.3 gallons for an additional 1.16 gallons burned.

      In this instance, 2 mpg = 19 mpg as far as additional fuel consumption is concerned, which is why mpg is very counter-intuitive and not nearly useful as how many gallons you burn per trip.

      For another example, Going from 50 mpg to 100 mpg saves you 1 gallon on a 100 mile trip…not a ton for such a long drive. Going from 20 mpg to 25 mpg saves you the same amount of gas.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      No, it makes no difference. Why? How often do people really need to do that comparison? When they buy a new car, once every few years? If they can’t do a little division that often, no measure will make any difference.

      If it actually mattered, we should also change how we measure speed to minutes/mile. (Quick: which saves more time, driving 35 instead of 30 or 50 instead of 40? It’s the same as the fuel use question/calc.)

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      If MPG matters to you, you’re not buying a plaything, you’re buying an appliance. Know what they have on the side of the appliances in the store? a “cost to operate” value that’s based on a couple of assumptions (usage and cost of power)and makes a great apples to apples comparison tool that is fair, intuitive, and linear. MPG is fair and accurate, but so far from linear that we need better. If the “evil” government came up with a pair of standard assumptions and updated them every few years for fuel cost, an “Energyguide” label in addition to the MPG figure would provide fair, accurate and linear information to compare when purchasing a transportation appliance. Bigtrucks and most of us here can ignore it and buy whatever produces a fizzy feeling. A single mother of two with other things to think about can make a rational decision about the cost differential between a pair of cars that suit her needs with different fuel usage rates. Best of all, it’s an existing system that most of us have seen before.

  • avatar
    ant

    welp, I can tell you this: My Mazda is a rust bucket, and is 3 years newer than my other car that is not.

    Take that for what you will.

  • avatar
    jrhmobile

    You say you love the Mazda 3, but that you feel the Honda would serve you just as well and gets better fuel mileage besides. While you profess your love for the Mazda, it sounds like you’re looking for a financially sensible solution for your situation.

    So make one. All things being equal in overall condition and reliability, sell the Mazda.

    It has superior value in the used car market, as it’s 11 years newer than the Honda. If you’re still carrying a note on the Mazda, this makes it a double-imperative to dump the newer car. If not, the extra money in your pocket will pay for a lot of cheaper insurance, repairs and gas.

    If you choose to sell both cars for something that would serve you better, that’s cool. But if you’re choosing one car over the other, and the cost of fuel is something you consider significant, choose the car that gets you better mileage and saves you the most money.

  • avatar
    Onus

    I can’t see how you can only average 24mpg in such a light vehicle.

    I’ve pulled a 20-21 average in a pickup truck ( mind you diesel powered, but weights 6000lbs ).

    Look at your driving style and try to change it so that you can get better numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      You said the magic word: diesel. I get 13 mpg towing with a V8 mid-sized pickup, a friend has a full-sized diesel, towing a bigger boat yet he gets over 19 mpg. Also highway vs city makes a big difference. My 350Z gets 25 mpg driving mostly highway miles, while the wife’s C30 gets like 22 in the city. However if we switch vehicles/commutes the Z drops to 19 city while the C30 jumps to nearly 28 highway.

      To the original question, here what I would do: keep the Mazda, its newer, then use the Civic’s resell value to buy fuel for the more fun to drive Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      tooloud10

      I don’t understand that mileage either. I AVERAGE 26mpg in a 300HP large sedan and I drive it like I stole it.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I’ve had 2 cars with that 2.3L engine. A 2006 Mazda6 that I sold, and the 2005 Ford Focus ST that just got totaled. As other have said, it’s not an efficient engine. The Mazda actually got slightly better mileage, even though it was a bigger car, but the ST was geared to take off faster in 1st and 2nd. Both were 5 speeds. The Ford was fun to drive; the Mazda made me wish I had gotten the V6.

        The 2.4L in the KIA forte I just got is faster and much better on gas.

    • 0 avatar
      donatolla

      It’s a 2011 Mazda 3… If we’re talking about the 2.3, they were not good on gas at all. I had a slightly older one than that, but same drivetrain, and that mileage was common. Once they dropped the skyactive drivetrain in there, they really did improve things.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        We have an 08 Mazda 5 with the 2.3. I’ve seen as high as 32 highway with it, but as low as 17 around town. 19 is around average with the hills and city driving for me. The 2.3 is not an efficient engine, neither was the pre-Skyactiv 2.0.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Weight only impacts rolling resistance drag and that is peanuts compared to aero drag at highway and interstate speeds.

      He is talking about average mileage which likely includes a decent amount of stoplights and “near city” driving. Your average on a trip in the diesel is effectively ideal conditions; his are not. Driving his cycle, your diesel might be around 12mpg for all we know. It is hard to compare this on the internet when the environment can be so different. A diesel is definitely the right choice for certain driving conditions, but if he has 15 miles of 0 -> 55 -> 0 -> 55mph, a diesel is still going to return dreadful mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      24mpg is the best I’ve gotten on my 2002 Miata, with all of 142hp. Sure, these cars ask to be driven hard, but Mazda drivetrains were simply very thirsty until the Skyactiv engines came out.

      • 0 avatar
        Dweller on the Threshold

        Yes, poor MPG in my Miata too. But, you know, wasting fuel by revving the crap out of it never really crosses my mind. I’m more interested in whether it’s up to temperature.

        And yet I drive gingerly to save a few bucks here and there in my wife’s V6 RAV4.

        Difference? (and illustrating points made elsewhere): fun to drive will get you over bad MPG better than good MPG will redeem miserable to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Something may be wrong with your Miata. I had a 96 that easily got 30 mpg with no hypermiling, as it aged it dropped to about 27 mpg when it was 15 years old. My current Miata, a 2012, gets 28-30 with no hypermiling and it’s heavier with a more powerful engine.

  • avatar
    Wscott97

    Is the Mazda paid off? How many miles do you have on both vehicles?

    You have a 47 mile commute to work and that will rack up the miles on both cars. If you’re still making payments on the Mazda, You can keep the civic, save money in the meantime, and once the Accord is paid off, You can get another new car.

    If the civic’s miles are high, then you might be better off keeping the Mazda. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about repairs and there might be a little resale value in the car after a few years.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Which one will you get more money for, to pay down the Accord?

    If the Mazda is a wagon, then I’d consider keeping it for that utility factor alone…even though I’ve been able to hail some bulky items with our 2012 Accord.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice to see you “doing the math” on the mileage, Steve. The problem with using MPG is that, as MPGs go up, the fuel/dollar savings for each additional MPG go down.

    So, going from 15 to 20 MPG is significant; and going from 20 to 25 MPG is significant. But going from 35 to 40 MPG (as our addle-headed “we know what’s good for you” rulers in Washington will mandate) is not significant at all.

    Which is why it continues to puzzle me why anyone (in the US at least) would consider buying a diesel-powered small car (like a Golf or a Cruze). The savings from the incremental increase in fuel economy are not great . . . and, of course, you have to factor in that diesel fuel in most parts of the US is about 15% more expensive than regular gasoline. A diesel-powered Jeep GC or RAM 1500 pickup might make sense (although watch out for the price premium for the oil-burning engine) because you’re in the zone where each additional MPG is significant.

    And, even among gasoline powered cars, as others have noted, you need to watch out for “high-mileage” gasoline engines that require premium fuel (although their aren’t many of those).

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      +1 to everthing and as far as diesels:

      In addition to higher fuel cost, you also (sometimes) have other smaller costs like diesel exhaust fluid and the potential to have to replace an insanely expensive particulate filter.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I didn’t even get into the fact that today’s diesels, with exhaust gas recirculation, particulate filters, urea injection, etc. are a far cry from the bone simple engine in, say, the Mercedes 240D that would run forever as long as you changed the lube oil when you were supposed to. Two previous generations of Ford diesel pickup truck V-8′s were a small disaster; and, from what I read, the 3 liter V-6 Mercedes diesel in the Sprinter van is not a whole lot better.

        That today’s diesels have eliminated not only the smoke associated with diesels, but also the smell, is a technological tour-de-force; but there’s a price for that, which the owners pay in repairs, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      This is already 5th times this canard came up. It’s like complaining that increasing X by 33% makes it 3/4 of result. DA MAAATH. There’s no error in Steve’s calculation.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Agreed, our addle-headed “we know what’s good for you” rulers need to hit the heaviest vehicle the hardest, where all the real gains are to had. Big ass pick up trucks and SUV’s? Make them get a measly 25 to 30 mpg combined.

      How about that?

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Sell both cars and either get a Chevy Volt or a Ford C-Max. Get a Volt if it will let you drive in HO lanes or if you can charge at work. Get a C-Max quicker and more spacious inside. You can enjoy driving for MPG as much as driving for maximum speed.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I vote thumbs up for the Three.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I am one of those people who puzzle you I guess DC Bruce for I bought a TDI wagon 2 years ago, I get 42 MPG with a DSG auto trans, I drive about 35,000 miles a year for work and they pay the fuel so I could have gotten something less efficient on fuel, but I love getting 600 miles to a tank and I love the way a oil burner drives and i love the space i get with a wagon. The same car is a gas version (vw 2.5 jetta wagon auto ) may get about 28 MPG the way I drive, so I am saving some money but it may or may not be offset by the premium price for the TDI but when I go to sell it I will be much better off bc oil burners hold their value a hell of a lot better then their gas counterparts. So I paid more for it , will get more when I sell it, it gets a lot better mileage, goes a lot further on a tank of fuel, is a better drive and meets my needs.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      Not to mention what a really nice car it is to drive and sit in. Good grief, with all those hours in your car, do you really want to spend it in a Honda Civic with mouse fur interior? Buy the 2015 VW Golf or Jetta Sportswagon TDI when they come out and live a little.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I’d sell the car that cost more to own. I’m guessing that would be the Mazda 3, especially including depreciation and insurance, since it is much newer. However, I’m a guy that thinks a Mitsubishi Mirage is the perfect commuter car for me once our 15 year old Corolla dies.

    Now for my old fashion way of thinking, and nothing personal to anyone in particular – while our minivan is in my wife’s name since she drives it, I cannot imagine her “buying” a car, especially if her old one is still perfectly acceptible. She runs the house, kids, and my life, and I run the finances. It is very much a pre-feminism model, but it works very well. Call us the Cleavers.

  • avatar
    Acd

    I made the mistake of selling a car that I absolutely loved (Chrysler 300C) for one that got better mileage and better reputation for reliability (Acura TL) and have regretted it ever since. Keep the one you like better. Period. You spend too much time in your car not to have something you really enjoy.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      This is exactly the advice I once received from a friend’s father, who owned a Dodge dealership. Whatever car you get, he would say, get one you LIKE, not one you just “settle” for, because ALL cars will have their problems and there will be times when something happens with it. A car you truly enjoy will make the problem perhaps less frustrating, and give you an incentive to do right by it.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      +1. If you commute 47 miles a day you’re spending at least an hour a day in your car. How do you want to spend that time? Everything else is secondary.

      signed,
      Someone who has commuted 60 miles / 1.5 hours a day round trip for 12 years. In a 1998 LS400. I do not complain about the price of premium fuel to run it. Well OK, I do but I also recognize its worth it.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Unless you are going from large 70s luxo barge to a small commuter car buying a new car for gas mileage alone is a bad idea. A used Prius without mechanical issues might be the best used car for gas mileage concerns. And that is if your drive involves bumper to bumper driving daily. You can also claim to care more about the environment if that is your thing.

    Most cars today are very efficient and despite high prices the cost per mile of driving is still low. Factor all into the cost per mile to do a true comparison including insurance, maint, depreciation, and finally gas.

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    I’d say keep the Civic in rotation to keep the daily grind miles off the Mazda. It’s paid for, insurance is dirt cheap and when gas prices go insane again you can sell it when used compact cars are in higher demand.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Honda is well depreciated by now. If it runs well, then selling it now would probably not be the optimal financial decision, as you’ve already taken most of the hit.

    The Mazda is reaching a point that you should either be prepared to keep it for the long haul or dump it. The mileage is high for its age, and doubling that mileage will make it suitable only for auctions if you trade it in (i.e. you’ll get under wholesale book).

    If financial prudence is the priority, I’d probably be inclined to (a) keep them both, using the Honda for commuting until it’s dead and preserving the Mazda as your weekend garage queen, (b) dumping and replacing them both or (c) selling the Mazda (assuming that the Honda has been well maintained and reliable.) But if you really prefer the Mazda and have little interest in the Civic, then ignore all of that and get rid of the spare Civic that you don’t really need.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      +1

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        +1 on the +1, your Mazda just jumped off the depreciation cliff and is 8 miles behind the depreciation plateau that your Honda is coasting on.

        My last two Hondas were rock-solid, but past the 200,000 mile mark, Hondas start acting like domestics.

        Keep both and use the Civic on rainy days and Mondays, or if you need to sell one, if either is a sedan, sell it and keep the hatch.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    We decided to rent a car for our road trip vacation last summer. I wound up with a Mazda 3. Wifey wasn’t too happy, as it wouldn’t be comfortable for me on a trip. I decided to give it a try, as it was something different.

    I must say we were less than happy with the fuel mileage, but it wasn’t a bad car, overall. The A/C worked well…

    For the record, I don’t listen to NPR, I listen to 700 WLW or our local classical music station – WGUC – which is Cincinnati Public Radio, no connection, and my internet station, Martini in the Morning.

    I was somewhat hesitant when we bought my 2012 Impala LTZ 300 hp beast, as I should perhaps have looked at a more efficient ride, but even though this car doesn’t get quite the mileage of my old 2004 Impala, the comfort and conveniences it has certainly make up for it! Besides, many commenters here know of my Impala-love, and I always wanted the final B-body style! In other words, I love my Impala!

    In other words, it’s a right nice vehicle to spend 2 hours a day in, and was downright pleasurable a few weeks ago during a snowstorm when it took me 3 hours to get home! I walked in the door smiling, when Wifey thought I was going to be hard to live with that evening.

    So, drive what you like. I still have second thoughts every 4 days when I fill up, but I just can’t see myself in a Civic, Corolla or Cruze (hmm… maybe).

  • avatar
    danio3834

    If you plan on keeping a car for the long haul, sell the Civic and keep the Mazda. Since you’ve recently (in the last few years) purchased 2 new vehicles between your wife and yourself, I can’t imagine you’d be satisfied with the Civic for too long, and would soon sell it and buy something newer anyway. That scenario would involve selling the Mazda now for a big hit, only to get a newer car not far down the road.

    We all want the best fuel mileage, but when it comes down to it, we are willing to sacrifice some fuel consumption for other niceties.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I agree with Steve about the relative values of economy and driving satisfaction. I’ve become increasingly aware of how our decisions get affected by the hard-wired human aversion to loss, even to the result of making unwise decisions. A prime example is how often people hold onto an asset like stock or a house when the offered price is below what was paid. People will ride the asset down to a total loss hoping against hope that the price will recover. Many retail tricks are based on this aversion to loss, e.g. buy one, get one free deals that get you to buy something you didn’t need/want. Your mind easily measures the loss of the higher fuel consumption in the Mazda but can’t so easily measure the extra satisfaction over the Civic.

    And don’t forget the karmic value of passing on the Civic to someone who really needs cheap wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “I agree with Steve about the relative values of economy and driving satisfaction. ”

      Steve would make a great psychiatrist or bartender, because he listens so well. He picked up that the OP deep down liked a sporty drive. I’d go with Steve’s advice.

      If the OP is still concerned about fuel economy, he should commute with the Civic for one tank and see how he does. It’s his wife who got the better mpg on the Civic, but his number might be different, and closer to that of the Mazda3.

      Like other posters, I am a little surprised at the Mazda3′s 24 mpg. Is the OP’s commute in cold weather? Hilly? Are the tires properly inflated? Is there junk in the trunk?

      • 0 avatar
        bikerguy29

        OP here.

        2011 Mazda3 hatchback with 2.5 engine and loaded.

        2003 Civic LX – basic but still decent and fun to drive (no stability control!)

        Conditions:

        Mazda: 24mpg, cold weather (sub 40-degrees), tires 6 months old and properly inflated, hilly/curvy highway setting (40 miles, daily), nothing in trunk.

        Civic: Estimate – 30mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Greenhouse gas emissions are carbon emissions. Carbon emissions correspond directly to the amount of fuel burned, and the only way to reduce them is to burn less fuel.

        Pollution emissions such as NOx can be reduced with technological improvements. Newer cars invariably produce far less of those kinds of emissions than older cars; a new full-size would produce far less of that sort of pollution than an older compact.

        It all depends on your focus. The Europeans have tended to focus on greenhouse gases, while the US emphasis has been on improving air quality. Americans generally and Californians in particular have somewhat cleaner cars, but their fuel-consumption habits result in a lot more greenhouse gases.

  • avatar
    Tinker

    So,why not sell them both, or trade them in on a Skyactiv Mazda3? You get the mileage you need, along with the driving satisfaction. Not sure how much you pay/mo on the older Mazda 3, and the new one costs more, but its the only solution that gives you the satisfaction you deserve, and the reduced fuel cost you need with lower maintenance costs and improved reliability.

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    I’m biased, but I would keep the Mazda.

    I routinely get 30 MPG in mixed driving out of my 2.3 engine. It’s all about throttle control with the Mazda. Resist the urge to constantly wind the engine up and the MPG’s will rise.

    And I’m not talking about hypermilling (i’ve done that and been at 33 MPG on a tank), or driving 10 miles below the limit (I’m a 70-75 kind of guy) just be more aware of how and when you use the throttle.

    And I have never seen 24 on a tank, even after autocrossing it on a weekend.

    • 0 avatar
      bikerguy29

      OP here…

      2011 Mazda3 5-door GT 2.5

      I must just dog the crap out of it. It’s so easy to do with how sensitive the throttle is on these cars.

      Plus, the comfortable cruising speed for a Mazda is 80mph.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    Virtually everyone I’ve known who either bought a particular car or got rid of a particular car because of gas mileage has ended up unhappy with their decision. Unless your life involves driving 100 or more miles every day (what I’ve heard is the national average, 12,000 miles a year is 32.8 miles per day), or you’ve made your career in pizza delivery, good mileage is nice to have, but probably should be less of a consideration when buying a car.

    I remember when gas was pushing $4 a gallon around here (I live in a cheap area, highest it ever got was $4.07) my neighbor just had to get rid of his Hummer H2. Traded it on a brand new Dodge Charger V6. After a couple months, decided he hated it. Hung on for four more months and then traded that on a new Hummer H3. I don’t even want to know how much he ate in those transactions. He should have just kept the H2 and tried keeping his foot out of it to maximize fuel economy until things eased. People are like, ‘what if it goes to $10 a gallon, you’ll be screwed.’ My philosophy is that if it takes 10-20 years to get there, not that big of a deal. If it happens overnight, we’re pretty much all screwed and will be lucky to have jobs to drive too. That guy in the Prius might still end up in a boat he doesn’t want to be in.

    Sure, you’ve got your rabid environmentalists or MPG fetishists who would drive any penalty box if they could say it got 50 mpg, but really don’t you want something that you enjoy driving? I don’t love spending $200 on fuel in an average month for two vehicles, but driving a car I didn’t like to save $30 or $40 is just ludicrous in my mind. Someday we won’t be around, we’ve got no kids, and we can’t take it with us. We both want a vehicle with some git-up-and-go, and won’t be happy with anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s truly unbelievable how many people would spend $30,000 in the name of saving $10 a week in gasoline. Of course there are sometimes other motives at work, but in the case of your H2 driving neighbor, I don’t think it was anything more an idiocy.

      The same goes for people who were all of a sudden paying $3000 for $500 Geo Metros after the Katrina gas spikes.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      When doing fuel cost estimates, don’t bother with per-month or even per-year numbers. Estimate how long you will keep the car (e.g., 150k mi), its efficiency, & fuel price, then simply add that to the price of the car.

      For example, given two cars that get 24 mpg & 30 mpg, respectively, and if you expect to drive each for 100k mi, and if gas averages $3.50/gal, then the 24 mpg car costs $14,583 to fuel, while the 30 mpg car costs $11,667. The question then simply becomes: If both were on the car lot, is the 24 mpg car sufficiently more fun/comfortable/whatever it is you value that you’d spend $2916 more for it?

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I’d sell The Civic and keep the Mazda. Transaction costs will eat you alive. That’s not depreciation per se, but the spread between wholesale your sale, and retail, your purchase, extra insurance and title costs, and time and expense of negotiating the sale.

    Why the Civic and not the Mazda? Because your second car assuming it is otherwise satisfactory, should be able to do something your first car can’t. In this case, deliver smiles.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Rather than focussing on fuel cost per mile (or miles per given fuel cost), let’s look at the other financial factors.

    Which one is cheaper to insure? Probably the Civic.
    Which one is cheaper to register? Probably the Civic.
    Which one will have lower depreciation costs? Probably the Civic.
    Which one will have higher maintenance costs? Probably close, unless you need a timing belt on the Civic.
    Which one will have higher repair cost? Probably the Civic but it’s among the most reliable of the ’03 cars, so likely not big repairs coming your way.

    Do you have a sizeable loan on the Mazda? Are you upside down? If yes and then no, sell the Mazda and eliminate your monthly payments and reduce most of your other costs.

    If the Mazda is paid-for, you could sell it and free up some capital for investment.

    I currently have a similar problem… a surprise extra car… and I’m going the “cheap” route. The older car is reliable enough and does what I need, so I’m selling the newer one and putting the cash to work elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Dweller on the Threshold

    This entire thing is part of why I think the Mazda 6 doesn’t work for me.

    In my opinion it just isn’t that engaging to drive. The promise of somewhat better than expected mileage is not just compensation.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    I used MPG to justify buying a car I always wanted. Drove a POS Celica for ten years after selling Suburban. After 10 yrs the savings was enough to buy car with cash. But I had a 70 mile daily commute then.

  • avatar
    gosteelerz

    Sell your house, move closer to work.
    Long commutes are bad for the soul.

    Oh, and keep the Mazda.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    I’m a car guy and a statistician, that overlap produces some real life numbers. These only reinforce Steve’s argument. To take the conclusion first: Apart from the ecological argument, which isn’t a small one, I cannot see why Americans with their dirt cheap gas even consider mileage. Looking at sales statistics, most don’t seem to care much either.

    Located in Norway, with a current price of 15.65 NOK/litre for 95 ROZ gas – translating to 9.62 USD/gallon – gas consumption is less than half of the total cost of car ownership even with an old clunker. Of course, everything is more expensive here than in the US, but the proportions should roughly match up anyway.

    Example car: Over the course of 22580 km, my old ’96 Nissan Primera averaged a fuel consumption of 7,64 l/100km, translating into 30.79 MPG:
    http://www.spritmonitor.de/en/detail/518455.html
    The total cost of that fuel consumption is 4125$. That is roughly the depreciation expected by a normal station wagon here PER YEAR if bought new. Since these numbers will appear blown up in dollar terms, I give you my original calculations just to show the relationship between cost with this cheap car. Its total life cost in my ownership is 2.92 NOK/km including depreciation, insurance, fluids, gas, tolls, repair bills and considerable social democratic taxation. A new car of this size will cost 7-8 NOK/km to operate in Norway. My number breaks down like this:

    Repairs per km: 0.59 NOK
    Depreciation per km: 0.44 NOK
    Gasoline per km: 1.12 NOK
    Other cost per km: 0.77 NOK

    In short: Forget MPG and buy just what you want and can afford. Unless, that is, you want to contribute to keep the planet breathing. But that is hard to figure out in statistics alone.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >> Unless, that is, you want to contribute to keep the planet breathing. But that is hard to figure out in statistics alone.

      Check out U.S.. EPA green vehicles site: http://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/Index.do

      The 2003 Honda Civic:
      Pollution Score: 3/10 (10 is best)
      Greenhouse Gas Score: 9/10

      The 2011 Mazda3:
      Pollution Score: 9/10
      Greenhouse Gas Score: 6/10

      Overall, the Mazda3 is cleaner… and if you have the PZEV engine, it rates even better.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        Thanks for the link, very informative site! That shiuld definitely help to factor in environmental concerns into the decision making process. Still, how does one quantify driving pleasure and gut feeling?

        Actually, I just included that green thought because that is the answer I usually get when I discuss car costs with people. Financial incentives are not yet entirely aligned with green concerns, as many people like to point out with a serious face.

    • 0 avatar
      mor2bz

      HOW did you get 30 mpg out of a Primera? I get 20.

      • 0 avatar
        Sjalabais

        It was the 2.0 petrol engine. I serviced it when I bought the car. And I live in the countryside. Most of my daily driving happens in fifth gear, apart from delivering the kids in two different kindergardens. I also pass all the idiot traffic who can’t manage to drive smooth speeds. So I guess the tiny amount of city traffic, 10-20%, is the major factor here.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    There is no doubt that MPGs are overrated and driving enjoyment is underrated. It seems to me that RWD is the single greatest ingredient in making a car enjoyable, more so than horsepower. Unfortunately, RWD is expensive, and resale values haven’t cooperated to change that fact.

    My personal philosophy has become to get a cheap, high MPG, reliable car for daily chores. Also have a used RWD vehicle for fun. For the last few years that RWD vehicle has only had two wheels.

  • avatar
    Reino

    MPGMPGMPGMPGBLAHBLAHBLAH….
    That’s all you see in car marketing these days. Everyone is selling their MPG first, features and performance second. New SUV’s come with super hard high-way tires to optimize MPG that are absolutely terrible off-road.

    RAM likes to boast the highest MPG in a half-ton truck, but their disclaimer is “V6 2WD model”…aka a truck no one will buy. Its all gimmicks.

    There is way too much emphasis on MPG these days. Nearly every car in the same class is going to be 1-2 MPG away from each other. Buy the car that speaks to you when you drive it.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I was going to leave a comment, until I read the last two paragraphs.

    Bang on!

  • avatar
    bikerguy29

    Original Poster here.

    I currently own a 2011 Mazda 3 hatchback – with 2.5 liter engine

    We are leaning toward selling the Civic and use the money toward paying down credit card debt (actually eraticate most, if not all of it) and see about trading mine in toward a 2014 Mazda3 iTouring – 2.0 rather than the 2.5 – don’t need all the bells and whistles that mine has given the new Accord has become are goto car for weekend road trips. Test drove it pretty hard and was averaging 36mpg, roughly 10mpg better with very little loss in power (enjoy the steering feel and handling above straight-line performance anyways. Reduction of financing per month by $30 estimate along with insurance and fuel cost.

    Thanks for all the advice.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Smart move getting rid of the debt , did you test a 2013 as some have said very good deals on them good luck.


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