I have a gas guzzler (a Chrysler Pacifica) and so most people would recommend that I trade it in for a car that gets better gas mileage to help save money. Since this is the only car I own, I use to to commute back and forth to work which at first glance would make it appear to be a perfect candidate for replacement, but after running the numbers and taking in other transportation considerations, I do not see replacing the Pacifica as an option.
One of the biggest problems is that I have a family that includes 3 small children still using booster or car seats. In addition to my commute, the car is used for a number of long distance trips we take each year meaning that at least one car must accommodate all of us. Again, the logical solution would be to get another car to use for the commute and use the Pacifica for longer trips. Here are my calculations:
If I were to replace my gas guzzler, I would do it with a gas miserly Hybrid to use for the daily commute and to save the Family car for family trips only. So the Pacifica would hit the road on Sundays and Wednesdays, and for those trips to visit family. The Mac Daddy of gas misers appears to be the Toyota Prius Hybrid with a suggested retail price of $22,175. I currently pay about $175 per month on gas, so even if the Prius ran on air and Toyota gave me a 0% APR loan, it would take me ten and a half years to save the value of the second car in gas savings.
This of course changes for the worse when you consider that the Prius actually gets roughly three to four times better gas mileage than the Pacifica and not infinitely better. This means that I would pay more than $40 a month for gas. This increases the time it would take to pay for itself to 13 years and 7 months. The Prius has not been around for thirteen years yet, so no one knows what type of maintenance costs I would pay on a hybrid engine after thirteen years and the 300,000 plus miles that it would have on it at that time.
Figuring on a modest 5% loan for 48 months and the interest (with $0 down) would amount to just about $2400. This add just about 18 months to the time required to pay for the cost of the car. I am currently at fifteen years and one month, and I have made these calculations assuming that 100% of my current gas budget would be reduced by using the miser car. Obviously this would not be the case.
A trip to Church, followed by the usual Sunday drive to visit family and go to the library and back home is 50 miles that would have to go on the Pacifica. That is $6 a month at the current gas price. Short trips to the local park and the pond would add maybe another $1. Three trips up the East Coast, which has been our average over the last five years, would be another 3000 miles that can not benefit by the addition of the Prius. This works out to 150 gallons of gas or $400 at the price that I paid yesterday for gas. This would be $33 a month. The total monthly fuel cost that would remain on the Pacifica would therefore be $40. This takes the Prius savings on the gas budget down to $95.
To pay off the $24575 that the Prius would cost on a 5% loan for 48 months, at $95 a month would take 258.68 months. That is 21.55 years. I am pretty sure that as bad as it sounds to say, I am better off driving the Pacifica to work. They list the Prius as a 5 passenger car, but there is no way three children, two in booster seats and one in a car seat fit across the back seat.
This goes to show that you should never take a money saving tip as gospel. You need to run the numbers and see if it really makes sense for you.
Image courtesy of Malingering