Lately I have been, not intently but casually, looking for a new vehicle because my old Chevrolet Tracker is getting….well…old. So I have been watching the classified ads, doing a little reading now and then about things like engine sizes, gas mileage, (mpg) and of course the price of new vehicles versus similar used vehicles.

It’s been interesting to say the least. I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about reading the fine print on vehicle advertisements from new car dealers. It’s a lesson learned. There isn’t much truth in advertising, or so it seems. Perhaps better said, truth is all in the eye of the beholder…..or…even better said, advertiser.

The thing that I find rather disappointing is the lack of newer vehicles available that will provide decent gas mileage. Particularly in a style that I am interested in, such as a truck or a small sports utility vehicle. It seems that engine sizes have been creeping up over the past decade or so, when gas prices were relatively stable, leading to a lot of vehicles with less than stellar fuel economy.

It’s not that there are no vehicles that give good gas mileage, just fewer of them, and usually those that do, are not in a style that interests me. I am not looking for a really small car, in fact, I’m not looking for a car at all, although if fuel efficiency really matters to me, that’s about all there is to choose from.

I feel like I have been out of the loop for too long, and gotten slightly spoiled in terms of gas mileage driving the Tracker. It’s equipped with a small 4 cylinder engine that returns mileage in the mid 30’s (mpg) so learning that some of the vehicles I am interested in are bragging about mileage of around 20 mpg is rather disconcerting.

The last vehicle I owned that was touted as “economical” at an expected 20 mpg by the manufacturer actually returned something more in the vicinity of 12 mpg on the highway, unloaded and with a tailwind. Oh boy…..never mind ‘sticker shock’ it’s ‘gas pump shock’ when you realize how often you need to fill ‘er up !! I vowed back then that I would never own another vehicle that did not return mileage at least 25 miles per gallon.

You could argue that it is just gas, and get over it, but when you travel any distance regularly, it becomes something to consider if everytime you drive to the cottage for example, it’s costing you $25 each way, or more. That adds up.

So with time on my hands and an interest in the uninteresting, I sat down last night with a report from Consumer Reports and listed the vehicles I am interested in, their suggested price, and the miles per gallon that Consumers Reports got when they tested the vehicles.

Of the 17 vehicles that I am considering, or at least mildly interested in, only one was recorded by Consumers as returning mileage over 20 mpg and it was only 22 mpg, still a long way from the 35 mpg I get in the Chevrolet, and still below my minimum requirement of 25 mpg. And perhaps most disappointing of all, the vehicle that was recorded as getting 22 mpg was my least favorite of the 17 vehicles I had listed.

There are vehicles that get good mileage available, however most of them are not the type of vehicle that is useful to me. There is no point in paying for a vehicle that is not useful or not what you want. Especially considering it’s a long term purchase, and a place where you will spend a good deal of your time. I’ve had a couple of vehicles like that and you get to disliking them pretty quickly.

Most of the vehicles on my list, which included trucks and “small” SUV’s with V6 engines, 14 or 15 mpg was the norm. Those figures are from new, well tuned vehicles in tip top shape. Imagine what they might give for mileage when they get older and are not as well tuned up…..

I did a quick calculation, nothing too scientific, but just as a comparison, my current vehicle, old though it may be, costs me about $60 a month to travel back and forth to the camp on weekends. A vehicle returning 20 miles to the gallon would cost me about $102.00 a month for the same amount of driving, and a vehicle returning 14 miles per gallon, which includes most of the vehicles I looked at, will cost me $144 for my four weekends at the camp.

That’s only considering driving back and forth to the camp 4 weekends a month. The truth is, I drive quite a bit more than that, and a good deal of it is city driving instead of the slightly less gas burning highway driving, so the cost of a vehicle that doesn’t return good fuel economy would be quite a bit higher than the cost of four weekends at the camp.

Of course there is a tradeoff here. The smaller vehicle will not allow me to carry as much ‘stuff’ and the ride is not as nice, etc. In fact, there is no comparison in terms of driving, passenger comfort and cargo capacity and therefore convenience. However, the savings of up to $100 a month could buy a fair amount of convenience, even if that convenience is just being able to drive past the gas station.

The above cost is not including repairs, which I admit must be considered with an older vehicle. However they also don’t consider the cost of a vehicle that must also be considered.

The older vehicle is paid for, so my monthly payments are nil, compared to a new vehicle purchase which, based on the prices of the vehicles I looked at, would be somewhere in the vicinity of $600 a month. Add to that the cost of driving four weekends to the camp, at 14 mpg, it would cost me $744 a month to get to the camp.

Of course, with an older vehicle you have repair costs, so factoring that in, say at on average, if you are unlucky and have a lot of problems, $300 a month in repairs, keeping my current vehicle will cost me about $4300 a year to drive four weekends a month compared to $8900 for a new vehicle under warranty for repairs.

But I really like the smell of the interior a new vehicle……

Related Consumer Reports
Gas Mileage Vehicles
Trucks Fuel Economy
Improving Fuel Economy In A Ford F150

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