Coffee heat rising


The latest Consumer Reports just arrived in the mail. Not surprisingly, it devotes lots of print to saving gas, most of which comes under the heading of conventional wisdom. Every now and then, though, CR comes up with something really original.

This time they’ve figured out how much a new car costs per mile-per-gallon. This is great stuff. They did it by dividing each car’s overall mpg into the price they paid for the car, as purchased for recent tests.

Seen in this light (the light of burning gasoline?), the Honda Fit Sport with manual transmission comes out on top. CR paid $15,765 for one of these; at 34 mpg, the thing costs you $464 for each mile per gallon.

Good grief! Makes riding the bus look pretty good, doesn’t it? Hey — it’s only two hours to work and two hours ten minutes back. Could be worth it.

The base model Toyota Prius, at $23,780, rates third in their list, fairly high despite the high price, because of the 44 mpg rating. Running one of those will cost you $540 per mpg. The Hyundai Elantra GLS, at the top of this month’s ratings among gas-saving sedans, costs $17,555 or $650 per mpg. Because the gas mileage is less than the Prius’s, the Hyundai theoretically costs more to drive even though its sale price significantly cheaper. The Toyota Yaris hatchback with manual transmission came up with the lowest price per mpg, a piddling $370, but CR tested this vehicle and found it wanting. As in “not recommended.”

If money is no object, the priciest cars CR tested are the Dodge Viper SRT10 and the Mercedes SL550, which will cost you more than $6,000 for each mile per gallon.

Moving on, among used cars, you can (theoretically) pick up a 2000 Honda Insight with manual transmission for under 10 grand and get 51 mpg. The 2001-02 Prius also supposedly costs less than $10,000; it gets 41 mpg (note that not every consumer review of this vehicle can be called “glowing”).

La Maya just returned from the Imperial Valley with reports of $4.19/gallon gas prices, headed upwards. Her California relatives expect gas to be selling at $5 a gallon before long. The four-hour drive cost her $200 round trip in a Toyota Rav-4. Lordie!

Now that I no longer need the gas-guzzling Dog Chariot (a 2000 Toyota Sienna), I guess I should start looking at more efficient cars. Trouble is, I’d planned to drive it 10 years; I hate to use up my car savings to buy a new vehicle two years prematurely. Also, truth to tell a vehicle with some serious cargo space comes in mighty handy now and again. And for my old age I really, really wanted a sporty car. These gas-savers are frugal, that’s for sure. But they’re also boring, boring, boring.

I think what I should do first is calculate the real cost per gallon for my present car, using the newly learned gas-saving driving strategies (you actually can use your cruise control on a surface street, provided traffic is light and moving steadily, and it’s possible, within limits, to use it on an urban freeway). If it’s getting less than 20 mpg, I probably ought to start looking for another ride.

2 Comments left on iWeb site

Rachel @ Master Your Card

I have a Toyota Prius and it has certainly saved us a lot of oney on fuel compared to our last car. I am not sure how it compares to other hybrids or more up to date models but I am happyw ith the saving we are making.

Tuesday, June 3, 200806:35 AM


Oh, how I covet a Prius! Want one of those things, want want want….

But I think I’d better hang on to the van for a little while longer, since I can telecommute and so don’t actually make that 36-mile (round trip) commute five days a week. Some people think those of us who have gas guzzlers had better dump them now or take out an application to live in the poorhouse. They may be right–in another couple of years the Dog Chariot may be worthless. But given the number of behemoths still lumbering around the street, I’ll bet there will still be some demand for a vehicle that can carry cargo and kids. I hope….

Tuesday, June 3, 200808:53 AM

SUV-mania persists

Gas was $3.57 a gallon at Costco yesterday afternoon, when I stopped by on the way home from work to pay our annual dues. Having heard during the morning commute that the average price is now $3.95, that sounded like a bargain, so I decided to top off the tank.

Lines were out to the street at every pump. Fifteen people were stacked up ahead of me, and I may have been the only person there who turned off the ignition while standing. Admittedly, it was a warm day and sitting in the car with no air conditioning was a little uncomfortable-far from unbearable, but not exactly brisk and cool. Most people let their engines idle, burning gas for the ten minutes or so it took to crawl up to a pump.

Directly in front of me was a brand-spanking-new, shiny Toyota Sequoia, dealer’s paper license still in the plate-holder. The thing is the size of a Sherman tank! Its 273-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8 must get all of ten gallons to the mile. Toyota must be giving the things away-surely the only reason anyone would buy such a behemoth would be a price tag somewhere near gratis. When it finally lumbered up to the pump, what should climb out of the passenger’s seat but a vast woman with Mma Ramotswe‘s “traditional build.” She must have weighed over 200 pounds…and her gentleman friend was proportionately well fed. Big car for big folks: the springs on a beast like that should hold up under their weight, anyway.

As I stood in line breathing exhaust fumes, I counted 10 SUVs and pickups and 5 regular passenger cars. Most of the SUVs were late models. None of the sedans were low-mileage vehicles.

Pickup trucks make some sense: they’re designed to carry cargo and most people who own them use them for exactly that. Being trucks, they ride like a truck, and so it’s unlikely that many folks choose to buy them for the around-town family ride. And I can understand how you would hang on to a gas guzzler despite high fuel prices-I sure can’t afford to trade in my 2000 Sienna yet. But to go out and buy a brand-new gigantic SUV that gets 13 to 19 miles a gallon, at a time when gas is headed north of $4.00 a gallon? Clearly, market forces are not discouraging Some People’s Kids from consuming large amounts of gas and pushing the prices up for the rest of us.

Less than a third of a tank cost me what a whole fill-up used to cost, just a few months ago.

IMHO, it’s time for some legislation, and not just in leading-edge California but nationwide. We need to do more than just “encourage” people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles by offering a few lagniappes such as small tax breaks and license plates that let you drive in the HOV lane. We need to make it against the law to sell a passenger vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. Period. Force manufacturers to take that junk off the market, and force used-car dealers to quit peddling the trade-ins.

And if you can’t fit into a Matrix or a Camry hybrid, folks, maybe it’s time to go on a diet.