The Truth About Cars » savings The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » savings Green Cars Push Gas Prices Down (About Time …) Sat, 07 Jul 2012 13:24:55 +0000


Gasoline prices are falling in Japan, not only due to lower crude oil prices, “but also because the widespread popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles has lowered demand for gasoline,” The Nikkei [sub].

The Tokyo paper predicts …

“a shakeout in the gas station industry, as next-generation green cars, including electric and fuel-cell vehicles, become more popular. Next-generation cars will account for 56% of all automobiles in Japan in fiscal 2030. Gasoline consumption that year is expected to be about 60% lower than the fiscal 2010 level.”

A gallon of that ultra low-priced gasoline retails for $6.64 a gallon, due to a strong yen and high taxes.



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The Exorbitant Cost Of Savings: Don’t Buy A Volt If You Value Your Money Fri, 06 Apr 2012 10:33:38 +0000

Two years after the Volkswagen Golf was launched, it received a fuel sipping diesel in 1976. I presented the launch campaign in Wolfsburg, and the ground shook. It wasn’t because of my campaign. It was because of the body stamping presses. The offices of the Zentrale Absatzförderung, VW’s advertising department, were two floors above.

I presented a campaign that was all on savings. The Golf D had one of the, if not the best mileage of all compacts. Herr Plamböck, the gentleman who had to vet the campaigns before the big boss would see them, looked at my grand savings plan, and said: “Let’s have lunch.”

Over a Currywurst, Hartmut Plamböck said: “Bertel, did you check the added cost of that engine?” I forgot how much it was, but it was a lot. “You will have to drive 80,000 kilometers to get your money back!” Mr. Plamböck thundered. The plastic forks jumped as Plamböck pounded the table. He looked around, lowered his voice and added: “And then, the engine will fall out of the car.” At that time, Volkswagens had a bit of a corrosion problem.

I was reminded of that story when I came across a story in the New York Times that provides a sanity check on savings at all costs. Rarely does one recoup the added investment into fuel savings. Little has changed since my Wolfsburg Waterloo. Fuel savings come at a price, and you have to decide whether you pay at the pump or to the dealer. Paying at the pump makes more economic sense, but more often than not, emotions trump math.

One of the worst investments, says the New York Times story that uses data compiled by TrueCar, is the Chevrolet Volt. Says the Times:

“The Volt, which costs nearly $40,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, could take up to 27 years to pay off versus a Chevrolet Cruze, assuming it was regularly driven farther than its battery-only range allows. The payback time could drop to about eight years if gas cost $5 a gallon and the driver remained exclusively on battery power.”

Mind you, the 27 year payback time is based on the TrueCar calculated $31,767 price of the Volt. Without the generous government rebate, financed by your tax dollars, the Volt would still be upside down long after it landed in a museum. At full retail, it would take 45 years to get you your money back. Payback is a bitch.

Driven fully on battery power, the Volt would needlessly drag around its heavy range extender machinery, but at least it would compete with Nissan’s LEAF in the ROI race. The Leaf takes 8.7 years to recoup the investment.

According to the study, “eco” upgrades usually are not worth the money. A Ford Fiesta SFE saves you $23 a year at the pump and on average. With these meager savings, the Fiesta actually beats the Volt in the senseless savings discipline. It would take 26.8 years to get you your money back.

As long as fuel saving cars carry huge premiums, you need to pray for higher gas prices, and you need to pray a lot. A survey by Lundberg says that gas prices need to go to $12.50 a gallon for the Volt to break even. The Leaf would be competitive with gas at $8.53 a gallon.

Are there savings that make sense?

If you really want to reconcile eco and economics, the sixth generation descendant of the Golf Diesel, the Jetta TDI,  would recoup the added money before the warranty is up, says the Times. So do the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Toyota Prius. Not only is their mileage much better than the comparison model, their price premium is so low that it can be easily recouped. As Toyota’s Satoshi Ogiso demonstrated a few months ago,  savings at no added costs are the true engineering achievement.

(Hat tip to my man in the mountains.)

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New or Used: Eliminate Debt, Eliminate Subie? Thu, 01 Dec 2011 16:46:41 +0000


Ryan writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I find myself perplexed by a vehicular conundrum. A year ago I purchased my first new car, a 2010 Subaru WRX STI SE. It is a great car. Previously I daily drove a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser. Another great car. I drive about 20,000 miles a year, mostly on the highway.

My wife and I both work. We contribute heavily to our 401K’s and IRA’s. About a month after I purchased the car my wife decided to go back to school, for an MBA. No problem. She now has a year left. For the year we will be setting aside just shy of $1000 per month to pay for her schooling. This leaves us saving very little over the next year. We have emergency funds to last a few months should the need arise. I want to eliminate debt as soon as possible (currently 2 car loans and a mortgage, nothing more).

My inner cheapskate has become uncomfortable with the nearly $1100 a month operating costs of my beloved STI. My inner car guy misses the Land Cruiser terribly. I’m without a truck. Replacing the STI with another 80 series Land Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery I do not save much money because of the fuel costs.

I am contemplating selling the STI, and picking up a truck and a commuter. The commuter would need to be somewhere around $10,000 or less. Cash for one vehicle, maybe a loan for the other. The ideal commuter would be more comfortable than the STI, get around 30 MPG, have four doors and possibly be all wheel drive (for ski trips). Cadillac CTS? Lexus something? Nothing soulless, please. I can turn a wrench and can maintain both vehicles no problem.

What say you? Do I keep the STI and buy a truck when I can? Sell the STI, buy the truck and commuter? If so, what kind do you suggest?

See the attached spreadsheet. (Ryan’s Car choices)

Steve Answers:

My assumption is that you can cash out the STI. Because if you can’t there is no need to read beyond this sentence.

Well now… you apparently want a Euro car in an American market. Before we cross the bridge of dread known as ’10 year old European car’ I have to ask you three questions (cue Monty Python bridge scene).

  1. Have you ever spent more than five hours performing a major maintenance or repair… and succeeded?
  2. Are you one of those people who enjoys reading up on enthusiast forums at odd hours?
  3. When someone tells you about ‘electrical issues’ with their ride, is your first gut reaction to flee and/or throw up?

If you have the courage to brave a parts network that arguably lead to the fall of the EU, then by all means have at it. Audi sells the A3, A4 and A6. BMW has the 3-Series and 5-Series. Mercedes has… well, let’s not go there.

If saving money and having a fling is your thing, then ask Sajeev. Or get a Lexus IS300 SportCross.

Sajeev Answers:

Don’t ask me about having flings, but I am a damn good tightwad…maybe that’s the problem?

So what does the lady in your life drive?  I hope it’s a Panther, as that would make my job much easier.  But I still might give the same answer: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Odds are your wife’s ride doesn’t suck down money like the gas/insurance/monthly payment of an STI.  Even if it isn’t a “commuter” car.

Definitely sell the STI. You like trucks, so get one. Take it from me, people are actually excited to go for a ride my stupid little 4cyl/5-spd Ford Ranger. I really don’t get it. For some reason being inside a truck with a stick shift is exciting and different to most folk. Which is a sad (but true) statement about our overweight, over-leveraged, conspicuous consumption society. You can both appreciate a cheap little truck’s charm AND enjoy it, considering your love affair with the Land Cruiser. Not to mention you need the money. So be a tightwad like me, at 33MPG highway in my case you won’t regret it. At least not initially.(cough)

You are in Tacoma land, or Ranger land**.  Neither are soulless, as my experiences have shown. Drive them both and see if the Taco is worth the price premium…buy it with cash and get one loan payment out of the way. Worry about the wife’s car later, that is a separate problem.

**If you are upside down on your loan for the STI, you might very well be in $8000 Ford Ranger territory.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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The Price Of Green: Savings At All Cost Mon, 07 Mar 2011 16:14:15 +0000

Gas prices are getting into the area where they affect consumers’ buying decisions. According to a new Kelley Blue Book study, more than 80 percent of car shoppers say that gas prices have influenced their buying decisions. 58 percent already have downgraded.  But what about switching to diesel or hybrid instead? Be careful when you do that, says Edmunds: Choosing a green alternative can cost you a lot of green.

“Now that federal tax credits have expired, car buyers may be surprised to learn how long it takes for savings at the pump to offset the additional expense of buying a hybrid or diesel car,” says Ronald Montoya, consumer advice associate at

Some of the worst choices, says Edmund, are the BMW X5 xDrive35d (takes 25.2 years before savings kick in), the Volkswagen Jetta TDI (13.8 years) and the Nissan Altima Hybrid (10.3 years.)

To help you choose the greenest car that saves you the most green, Edmunds compiled the list of Top 10 Diesels and Hybrids With the Shortest Break-Even Periods for 2011.

Surprise, surprise, the list is monopolized by an unlikely candidate: Mercedes-Benz.

5 of the Top Ten are Daimlers. The leader of the list, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Diesel, even is $961 cheaper than the gasoline model. Buy it, and you started saving before you drove off the dealer lot.

#2 is the Lexus  HS 250h Hybrid.

Lincoln lovers get a good deal with the  MKZ Hybrid.

The Prius comes fourth, it takes you a little more than half a year to break even.

Rank Model Premium Savings per year Break-even after
1 2011 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Diesel -$961 $694 -1.4 years
2 2011 Lexus HS 250h Hybrid $85 $990 0.1 year
3 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid $167 $1,093 0.2 year
4 2011 Toyota Prius Hybrid $620 $882 0.7 year
5 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid $1,966 $1,102 1.8 years
6 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Diesel $1,428 $640 2.2 years
7 2011 Audi A3 Diesel $1,432 $617 2.3 years
8 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Diesel $1,433 $567 2.5 years
9 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Diesel $1,427 $544 2.6 years
10 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid $1,317 $476 2.8 years

Remember: All cars on the list are the best performers. If your green diesel or hybrid is not on the list, then you most likely won’t see any savings before the lease is up.

(I was toying with the idea of pointing out that there are no EVs on that list. But then I dropped it. I’m worried someone would brand me as an EV hater.)

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