Ask The Best & Brightest: Why Not Buy the $250/Month Mazda?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask the best brightest why not buy the 250 month mazda

I have a confession to make: I am experiencing a struggle in my life. Normally, when middle-aged male church musicians say that, they mean they are secretly thinking about visiting a San Francisco bath house and rocking out with certain appendages fully visible. In my case, however, the desire to squeeze myself into something young, tight, and not quite masculine is entirely automotive. I’m talking about the Mazda2, of course.

The Mazda2 holds a title that’s important to me personally, even if it doesn’t exactly cause examples of the model to depart dealership lots with a Saturn V’s worth of force: it’s the lightest, simplest four-passenger small car money can buy. The MINI, Fiesta, and Sonic all outweigh it by a Roseanne Barr or more. Even the new Accent and FIAT 500 can’t quite match it. Hilariously, even the Miata outweighs the 2.

To help shove the littlest Mazda off the floorplans, Mazda is currently offering 0% financing. For five years. That’s right: if you can pay your own sales tax up front, it’s possible to have a new 2 for $233.38 a month. Is it worth doing?

We’ll start with some personal numbers. In the past year, I drove about 56,000 miles that I can document. 41,000 miles of that was in my 2009 Town Car. About 7,000 of it was in my Porsches. The rest was done in rentals. I understand that this kind of mileage is almost impossible to believe, but my daily commute and lunch trips alone account for 103 miles a day.

It occurred to me that I might possibly be able to justify part, or all, of a Mazda2 purchase based on fuel savings alone. Let’s say that I will drive 41,000 miles in the Townie again this year. I’m averaging 22.5 mpg over a variety of driving conditions. That is 1,822 gallons. If fuel averages $3.75, that’s $6,832.50, or $569.35 a month.

I should be able to average 35mpg in the Mazda2 during my commute. I came up with this number by carefully studying a number of well-documented metrics, multiplying by fuel specific weight and volume on seasonally-adjusted conditions, performing differential analysis on certain aspects of combustion-chamber swirl, and then pretty much figuring I could match the EPA highway rating. Replacing the Townie with the Mazda2 entirely would lower my fuel usage by 650 gallons per year. That’s a $2,439 savings, or $203 a month.

Those numbers look encouraging, don’t they? In the real world, however, the Town Car can do things the 2 can’t. It can carry five human beings without causing a fistfight or an incident of frottage, or both. It carries more in the trunk than the 2 does with the seats down, assuming you measure in full-sized Gibson Firebird guitar cases, which don’t fit in a 2 at all. It is invisible to law enforcement officials and it’s easy to drive downtown because I can park it by touch, as they say. (Said method is particularly amusing when, as occasionally happens, the cars ahead of and behind me are both late-model S-Class Benzos.) Most importantly, in bad weather it provides a nice solid ring of steel around my irreplaceable child. So the Town Car can go nowhere.

Nor would I expect the 2 to have the durability of a Panther. If I get fewer than 300,000 miles out of my Signature Limited it will be my own fault. Hell, at 64,000 miles it is still on the original brake pads. We all know that the Town Car will still be pimping when the Mazda2 has been recycled to China.

So the 2 can’t be my only daily driver, but it could be an additional one. I could split the mileage, which would still save me about $100 a month in fuel. Insurance for the 2 should be in the $40/month range, so I would have to come up with an extra $190 a month to have it.

Some of you will have already departed the article to comment about how one should always pay cash for cars, and the millionaire next door, and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Bondage, and so on. I’m not listening. If I had $14,000 just sitting around, I would buy two solid Les Paul reissues and a MESA/Boogie amp to sit with the fourteen LPs and two Boogies I already own. It’s bad enough that I don’t owe any money on my Porkers. I should probably take out some kind of equity loan on them and buy GM stock with it. Anyway. Although the zero-percent money represents a hidden incentive from Mazda, it ain’t like I could take the two grand in cash as an alternative or anything like that. Zero percent or nothing; that’s the deal.

Benefits of adding a Mazda2 to the “fleet”:

  • looks cute
  • amusing way to get around town
  • reduced wear and tear on the TC
  • if V. McB departs in a hurry for some reason, could use Mazda2 on first dates with women so I don’t look like an AARP member or Kevin Kline in “The Big Chill”, which are my current options
  • if I forget to sell it, could be first car for child


  • the aforementioned $190 a month, which is a nontrivial amount of money in this economy
  • represents seventh car in two-car garage/driveway combo
  • does not tow race car, which will annoy me during race season
  • somebody from some forum somewhere will see me driving it and post a thread entitled “Baruth is poor now LOLZ”. Actually, move this bullet point up to the list above.
  • will spend the next ten years explaining to people that it doesn’t have SKYACTIV, isn’t a hybrid, and can’t be plugged into a wall

Incentives expire September 30. My Mazda2 of choice is a five-speed “Touring” model in Projectile Bile Green. B&B — what say you?

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3 of 126 comments
  • B-Rad B-Rad on Sep 29, 2011

    I know I'm way late to this thread but I just bought a 1986 Volvo 740 GLE wagon this week....just because. Well, that and it's a station wagon, a Volvo, and 15 years old with only 105,000 miles. And I knew that it was time to start building up my fleet. Anyways, buy it Jack. It may not be manly, but neither is an '86 740 wagon. At least the 2 will be fun to drive. My wagon doesn't even have a manual.

  • Mfpantst Mfpantst on Feb 27, 2012

    Later than late to this party. So last Octoberish I went through this same decision process. I owned a 2003 Acura TL which I was putting 25k miles/year on and was about to crack 200k. Totally would have went further but maintenance on that car is not the cheapest. Plus gas mileage wasn't great and the car ran on premium. So I decided to do some car shopping. Somewhere less than 18k was my budget and 4 doors plus a manual transmission were practically requirements. What I ended up with was the Mazda2 being the best, most fun car I could get. In another publication I recently read "fun to drive is not high on the b-class buyers list." Let's say that's total bull, at least for me, and fun to drive was first. If I were to go through all the cars I've owned, starting with a '95 Integra "fun to drive" was always one of the first things I wanted. The Mazda delivers on this and does it while not looking like the Honda Fit (primary reason I wouldn't want a Fit, secondary to the actual cabin layout of the Fit). Anyways, I'm actually about 14k total miles in and on my second 2. See, on the shortest day of the year I hit a deer broadside @ 60 mph in my Mazda2. Walked away. The car was completely totaled, but I was completely fine. So I went out and bought another Mazda2. That's my main point- the car is pretty damn safe, if I'm going to be hitting a deer head on and walk away. So to recap, Fun, Safe, and not-terrible MPG. Plus cheap. Works for me!

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!