Some look at the numbers and say "Yes!" (Wired) Others see the numbers adding up in favor for the hybrid and say the Prius is your best long-term energy saver. (Slate) The best thing going in this discussion is that people are genuinely looking at creative alternatives to the norm. Both articles mentioned present good arguments. The Slate article is basing numbers on keeping your car for 11.5 years. They propose that a well-made car should last 15 years. Most people don't keep their cars 11.5 years. The norm is about five years. Based on keeping your car five years, a used car will probably use less energy than a new hybrid considering the premium cost of producing the hybrid. You have to purchase an efficient used car to make this work and you have to keep it five years. If you could manage to keep your used car 11.5 years, then, Slate says, the Prius wins out. I bought my current car because my previous car, which I purchased used, was totaled in a wreck. It was two years old. I kept it for six years. I was intending to pass it on to my daughter when I purchased a new car so losing it in the accident stung. Now my car is that magic age of five. It's a Camry and gets 30.5 miles per gallon over all. It is very tempting to purchase a shiny new car with all the new bells and whistles you get these days. However it is priceless having NO car payments. I got the windows tinted last month. This has helped the cooling efficiency tremendously which should hopefully also impact fuel usage at least a bit. My rule of thumb has been to keep the old car as long as the maintenance is less than a monthly car payment. The revised rule of thumb has to also take into account the cost of fueling up at $4 plus a gallon. If the cost of fuel and maintenance is more than the new car payment considering fuel savings, then time to buy. When considering whether to buy used vs. new, I divide the cost of each vehicle over the number of years I would be likely to keep the car. I have found that for a long term hold, new seems to win out on year-to-year cost. One point in favor of buying a new energy efficient car such as the Prius is that the emissions are much cleaner than a non-hybrid new or used. My 2003 Camry runs pretty clean, but if you were to purchase an older fuel efficient car, you might consider the emissions. The consideration for keeping your car as long as possible along with having no car payments is that when you purchase your next car, the longer you wait, the more efficient car you should be able to get. I am counting on getting a total electric car about five years from now that will knock the socks off of any Prius I could purchase today. But then, you could always buy a used Prius. Wonder what that does to the numbers? I have to admit, I have been coveting the pretty green Prius I have been seeing on the road...and you can get it used for a bit less than the new '08 versions! This is the pretty baby I have been wanting! Compared to the 2008 Prius, the used '07 is a couple thousand less, but not with all the bells and whistles I put on the '08. After I pay to transfer the used Prius, that brings me a step closer to the new price. There is a discrepancy in the MPG's claimed by the used vs. new. The used claims 60/51 where the new states 48/45. In the end, I would probably buy new again. You have to figure that there will still be a market for a good used Prius in 4 - 5 years if the new technology tempts me to buy again then. My current car would cost me about $15,000 - $17,000 if I bought it at Carmax today. Here's a comparable version except that I have a sport package with rear-spoiler and leather seats. Let's see, a trade-in value of say, $12,000 against a $29,000 car...payments might be around $350. Not bad...however I have no payments now. Maybe I can talk them up to $15,000 and down to $27,000??? Payments of $275 - $300 a month? Ah, so much for day-dreams, I will stick with my faithful Camry with no car payment for a few more years.
Buzz it up