Saturday, February 18, 2012

Second Car Shopping Weekend

Gas Prices Friday 17 February 2012
Hess regular gas price as of  Friday 17 February 2012, Orlando, FL

The price of gas this past Friday says it all. This is as high as it was last summer before the price started to drop. The lowest 2011 price was in December at around $3.15. There's a lot of factors to the current price rise, such as the commodities markets driving up the price of oil due to the saber rattling between Iran and Washington, with Iran threatening to stop the shipping of oil through the Straits of Hormuz. There also seem to be issues with lowered U.S. refinery capacity and the irony that gasoline refineries are suffering from profitability because of reduced demand for gas in the U.S. because of higher gas prices, forcing some refineries to be shut down by their owners, which in turn... raises the price of gasoline even further. Very high and continually rising gasoline prices, combined with the 11 year old age of the Kia Sedona van, are why we're out looking for an affordable non-hybrid vehicle that gets 40 MPG on the highway.

When we looked at high MPG cars in 2009, nothing approached the Prius. But three years later and the advanced state of automotive technology, combined with even more brutal market realities, has produced a whole series of low cost higher MPG gasoline-only vehicles. And at a much lower price compared to hybrids. I had expected hybrid prices to come down over a three year period, not stay jacked up the way they have. I'm very pleased with the Prius, but not so pleased as to buy another one over $7,000 more expensive than the one we currently have.

When we purchased the 2009 Prius in 2009 it was marked down a good $5,000 from it's "standard" price, which was cheaper than today's prices to start with. Looking at 2011 and 2012 Prius, the prices are in the $26K to $28K range, where are $3,000 to $5,000 higher than those "standard" 2009 prices. Which pushes it right out of our upper budget limit.

That's why we're looking at the current crop of high-mileage, standard internal combustion cars around $15K, or a good $11K to $13K lower than the 2012 Prius.

2012 Hyundai Accent GS
2012 Hyundai Accent GS
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Engine
Accent GS engine
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Driver Side
Accent GS driver side
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Hatchback Up
Accent GS with hatch open.
Tonneau is removable, one 60/40 seat is down.

The first dealership we stopped at was Hyundai on West Colonial. I don't like shopping there because every vehicle is maxed out with unneeded accessories that raises the price from the base vehicle cost some $3,000 to $4,000 dollars. The price of this red Accent GS was pushing $19K, which is a good $6,000 more than the official starting price of $12,545 [LINK]. The advertised mileage was 30MPG city, 40MPG highway.

One key feature we want in any car we purchase is a hatchback/fifth "door". It makes it very easy getting Labs and other cargo into and out of the vehicle. The hatch has an added benefit of acting as an effective, if temporary "umbrella", for keeping out most of the rain. And it does rain here in Florida.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited
2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Sitting right behind the Accent was this Elantra, again maxed out and over $25K. This pushed it up into Prius range, and to add insult to injury it was a regular sedan. What was very interesting was the mileage; 29 MPG city, 40 MPG highway. Yes, the Elantra's highway mileage matched the Accent's, or at least that's what the sticker claimed.

2012 Hyundai Accent GS Mileage
Accent mileage estimates
2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited Mileage
Elantra mileage estimates

Both vehicles were well made, and the front seats (driver and front passenger) both had good to excellent lower back support, something my wife needs. We didn't drive the vehicle, we just sat in them (we've yet to drive any of them, we're just looking and gather facts).

Both vehicles were well made and showed high quality materials all around. But then so did the Fiat 500C and Ford Focus. In fact the Ford Focus and the Fiat were highly competitive with regards to overall quality with the Hyundai.

Gunmetal Gray 2012 Yaris
2012 Toyota Yaris 3-door hatchback
Powder Blue 2012 Yaris
2012 Toyota Yaris 5-door hatchback
Blue 2012 Yaris Interior Driver Side
2012 Toyota Yaris driver-side interior

The Toyota Yaris was a better fit with our budget, with two hatchback models falling to either side of our $15,000 budget's set-point. The seats fit us well, and there was plenty of room on both sides of the vehicle for me to sit. Mileage was interesting, in that the 3-door was 30 MPG city and 38 MPG highway, while the 5-door was 30MPG city and 35 MPG highway. What makes the 5-door more enticing is the larger cargo capacity in the back with the seats down. My wife needs something she can take the Labs in when she goes to the vet, and we need something we can travel in around Florida. The Prius has great cargo capacity with the seats down and we've used it for quite a few state trips. It's now gotten to where we take the Prius where we just to load up the van. The van now stays in the driveway except for local trips around town, and even then I insist we use the Prius, which puts a lot of mileage on the Prius.

Preliminary Results

Right now we think the Ford and Toyota are the two best cars for the money. My wife is particularly impressed with the quality of the Ford Focus. I liked the Yaris 5-door personally, especially the cast alloy wheels and fog lights. The $17,595 price was pretty decent as well. Both cars hit all the right features, especially the ability to fit my 6'4" frame into both sides without me needing a crowbar to fit into or climb out. As much as I liked the Fiat, my head was literally touching the roof interior of the car. And that's a real shame because we both liked the styling of the Fiat and liked the overall quality of that car.

We're not going to look at Honda. We had a really bad experience in 2009 trying to buy the Insight, which is what drove us down the block to Toyota and the Prius. The only Honda we feel worth looking at would be the Fit, and based on preliminary research the 27 MPG city, 33 MPG highway is just a little too low. And Honda dealerships seem to want to lard the Fit down with unneeded accessories, pushing the price well above $20K and dropping the mileage even further. We don't have time nor patience to put up with that, so we're staying completely away from Honda.

As for Kia, we're tired of Kia. We waited and waited for Kia to produce a high MPG compact, and they never did. Hyundai, the sister company, was always a better deal in that regard.

That leaves General Motors and Chevy. We're ambivalent about a Chevy, but based on preliminary research we might just go look at the Chevy Sonic. The price is there, but not so much the mileage.

A Comment About the Yaris

We looked at the Yaris in 2009 when we looked at the Prius. If the 2009 Yaris had been as good looking and had the same gas mileage as the 2012 version, I'd be driving the Yaris right now instead of the Prius. The Yaris has improved tremendously over the last three years.

Update 19 February

We got a rather rude call from Gladys at Toyota of Orlando, the dealership where we'd purchased our Prius and where I take it religiously to get it serviced. It's also the same dealership where we looked at the 2012 Yaris.

Of all the dealerships we've visited so far, only Toyota of Orlando has been as annoyingly aggressive to try and sell us a car. When we went to look at the Yaris all we did was open up the vehicle to look it over. We never drove it off the lot. But before we could do that we had to give the salesman a drivers license. Nobody else made such a demand.

When Gladys called today she strongly implied that because we'd "seen the car" we must be ready to close a deal for the vehicle. All I have to say is, if looking at a vehicle on their lot obligates us to buy said vehicle, then I need to stay away from them. We're still in our due-diligence phase of looking and comparing to whittle the field down to just two prime possibilities. We then intend to find a place that will rent us a vehicle for a day so that we can see how it drives with the two of us, the two Labs, and my wife's wheel chair. Once that's done we'll make a final decision, line up our own line of credit at the best possible rate and begin the final negotiations for the purchase. That's our process and we're sticking to it.


  1. why not consider a motorscooter?

    also, check out the VW Golf Diesel for MPG. While you're at it check out the price of fuel in Europe and recall that there are 3.9L per US Gallon (unlike the 4.54L per UK gallong {just *had* to be different didn't ya}) and consider that you're not badly off.

  2. why not consider a motorscooter?

    You're joking, right?

    also, check out the VW Golf Diesel for MPG.

    I did. Mileage is great, but the cost of the 2.0L TDI 4 door according to Volkswagen's website starts at $25K. That blows the budget. For that amount of money I might as well buy a new 2012 Prius. And diesel costs more than premium unleaded. It's the most expensive fuel you can get.

  3. why would I be joking?

  4. Because a scooter won't hold my wife, a wheelchair, two Labs, and me all at the same time.

  5. I had assumed (perhaps falsly) that you all didn't travel together all the time. Probably the "second car" implied to me you were also after an additional car. I have a Mitsubishi Pajero 4Wd as my one car and my scooter as the solo transport for nicking into town and doing those transport things where I go by myself.

    Clearly this wasn't your criteria.

    Sorry you seem offended

  6. Sorry you seem offended

    I'm not offended. It's a great idea in locales where there is some degree of respect between car drivers and bike riders.

    I don't know what riding a bike is like in your part of the world, but here in Florida, and especially around Orlando, it's very dangerous. Car drivers seem blind to bike riders of all stripes.

  7. Here in Brisbane its way worse than Tokyo, but still with a modicum of care you can do it with far less risk than one may think.

    It always bothers me from the sustainablity perspective why the Colonies (Australia, Canada, USA) are so against scooters when in many parts of the world they thrive.

    1.8L/100km around town (130MPG) is certainly attractive and bikes like those being made in Europe with 125cc fuel injection are really clean.

    Would certainly go a long way to solving many of the energy issues we have and even have you asking why bother with hybrids and or electric vehicles.

    Clearly however one has to do what one feels comfortable with. There comes a time in age when change is dangerous


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