Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's not easy being Green

Honda Insight 2010 Front SideBack in January I went to a local Honda dealership and put $500 down on the then-unreleased Honda Insight. While in Kansas last week I got a call from the dealership telling me they had a silver one for me to look at. So today, after unpacking and general cleanup, the wife and I went over to take a look at it.

When we got there there the Honda dealership had a black Insight in the showroom. Judy and I went over and started looking at it, sitting in both the driver and passenger side to get a feel for it's fit and finish. It is built with typical Honda quality, which is to say it's overall fit and finish are excellent. When I finally got a chance to look at the engine it looked like a minor engineering masterpiece.

The Insight was sitting next to a Honda Fit Sport; the Fit seemed to tower over the Insight. But that's due to the Insights stronger aerodynamic shape, which reminds you a lot of the Toyota Prius.

At $20,000 with nothing special it's a tad expensive, unless you want to consider the technology under the hood and inside the skin of the vehicle you're purchasing. This is, after all, a brand-new hybrid. And it's a good $5,000 to $10,000 less than the Toyota Prius in this market, so you could consider it a 'bargain' at $20,000.

Honda Insight Digital Speedometer GreenWhen the salesman came back Judy, the salesman, and I went out for a test drive. I drove it first, then Judy drove it second. Both times the vehicle was peppy, especially with three adults in the vehicle. The ride was quite firm and when turning corners the vehicle was firm and nimble. When I drove it I did notice that when I took my foot off the accelerator that the vehicle seemed to want to stop itself, decelerating a little quicker than normal. I don't know if this is a feature of the dynamic braking system, but the Prius doesn't slow down like that. It was a bit surprising at first, but I could easily get used to it.

While driving I had the vehicle in Econ mode; that's where the vehicle's speedometer changes its background color to indicate how efficiently you're driving. It changes from blue to green, with blue indicating you're burning too much gas and green indicating that, well, you're driving more greenly. The car's official mileage is 40 city, 43 highway, which is backwards from the Prius and somewhat lower.

After the test drive the salesman took some more personal information from us to determine how much it would cost us to drive away right then with that car. We were going to put 10% down in cash and pay for a new tag. It wasn't long before we were ushered in before the finance officer, where we were told the best we could do with financing was 6.4% and a $504/month car note for four years (48 months); all this with our excellent credit rating. Judy and I both sat there for a moment, then informed them that we'd check with our local credit union as well as our bank and see if we could shave off a point or two. For $500/month I could buy a whole lot more car at a far lower interest rate. What bothers me a bit is they said they were going through the same bank we bank with. Before we left they informed us that in spite of our deposit, they couldn't wait until Monday for us to get a better finance deal, and that if anyone "walked in the door and wanted to buy that car" that they'd have to sell it to them. Gee, thanks.

Right now Judy and I don't know if we'll get the Insight or not. That's a lot of money to tie up in a purchase, especially in this day and time. Yes, gas has been creeping back up; I paid $2.05/gallon before heading over to the Honda dealership. But that's still over $2/gallon less than what I was briefly paying last summer before the bottom fell out of the economy. Both Jude and I are reasonably green, Jude more than I, and Jude wants to purchase a hybrid. We'd contemplated the Prius last year before the nearly $30,000 price forced us to drop the idea.

Our enthusiasm for the Insight has been considerably dampened due to the way we were treated by the Honda dealership as well as practical economic reality. I have to wonder if we aren't doing more to help the environment by not driving or making unnecessary purchases rather than buying a green-tech car. Of course there is the issue of my commuting 40-plus miles round trip every time I have to go into the office, but I can control that by just working from home whenever possible.

For Jude and I, buying this hybrid is not nearly as cut-and-dried as we first thought. Not at the current costs. Not when it's cheaper (and a lot cheaper in many cases) to be dirty than it is to be green.

I took a few more shots and posted everything on Flickr.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I found this by following your flickr pics.

    I'm thinking about buying an Insight too.

    Do you know about the new Prius coming out in a few weeks/months?

    Do you think the Honda dealer was trying to be greedy or unfair?

    I've been worried about buying the car too soon, too much excited people might be in the market.

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  2. I can't speak for all markets, just the Orlando market, but we've been trying to buy a hybrid for several years now and we've been put off by the $3,000 - $4,000 premium put on cars, especially the Prius. So to answer your question, yes, I think they are being greedy, and even more so considering the economic downturn.

    As for the 2010 Prius, it's release date was pushed back to August of this year. It was originally advertised as being released April 24. We're going out today to look at the 2009 Prius and check prices there.

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