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Hybrid Car Buying Tips / Blessing?
Old 01-26-2008, 09:34 AM   #1
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Hybrid Car Buying Tips / Blessing?

So I've been really good by keeping my 10 year old 150k mile honda prelude instead of leasing yet another car (like I did for the 4 other hondas I owned in my younger days)....soon, it will be time to buy our next car for the next 10 or 20 years (Other info: other vehicle is a 10 year old ford ranger we hardly use...we hope to retire in 2 years - I'm 39, husband's 41).

We had planned to wait until July when I get my bonus and pay cash for a great deal on a 2008 hybrid suv. My husband's only criteria was an suv and I get to pick out the colors and brand and all of the other 'important' stuff.

Well - we went to the DC Auto Show last night and now, we're not sure what to do so we're asking our trusted mentors....

1) Buy a 2008 hybrid (Mercury Mariner) now and get the 3k tax rebate and get a great deal -- financially the 'best deal', but we will need to liquidate some stocks or get a 15k 4.99% heloc for 4 months (until I get my bonus) to buy it now.

2) Get the spiffier Honda CRV now and help save the environment in some other way (justification: I have owned 5 Hondas without problems - this could be the best choice financially long term since it will most likely last as long as we need it to). Same payment option as above

3) Wait until later this year to get the 2009 version -- has better hp, stabilizer and the most important thing: the color I want! Down sides -- we may not have the 3k tax rebate then and given the demand, probably can't negotiate on price much, but we can pay cash. Oh - another possible risk is that my car can break down before then and us being forced to get something sooner..

Given that it's been at least 10 years since we've bought a car, we are really wowed by the newness of it all.... So -- any thoughts on what we should do? Blessing to do any of the three?
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:45 AM   #2
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I choose #2, this product is proven and should last a long time. Since you plan on keeping the car for 10 to 20 years #2 is the best choice.

Who knows if the new tech. will last that long and repairs will be expensive. I say forget about the rebate.
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:59 AM   #3
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It's a difficult choice. I would choose #2 as well, and get the Honda. It seems you really can't go wrong with a Honda or a Toyota.

Then the NEXT time you buy a vehicle (in 10 years, I would assume), I'd look at the hybrids again. I think that by that time, either they will have caught on tremendously and most vehicles will be hybrids, or else they will have vanished.
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Old 01-26-2008, 10:34 AM   #4
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I think the hybrid's time has come. Reliability is very good already. I heard that San Francisco taxi companies run them about 300,000 miles before changing them. I'm sure Honda's are similar in reliability. I have a Prius and love it. I drive 20 miles each way to work and get 50 mpg. When I used to drive 3 miles to work and rarely had journey's over 10 minutes I used to get 44 mpg.

Hybrids have not taken off in Europe because diesels are very popular and get similar mileage. Disels may take hold here if folks realize that these days diesel fuel does not get affected by the cold weather like it used to, or hybrids may be with us for quite a few years.

San Francisco Taxicab: Prius taxis appear to be the new favorite - Examiner.com
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:17 PM   #5
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My choice would be the hybrid. The early kinks are worked out. If you could wait a few more years you might be able to get a plug-in, but with 150K miles already that's doubtful. I'm interested in a new truck or SUV myself, and have been nursing my current vehicle along until the hybrids reached the SUV market. Now I'm hoping to hold out long enough that a PHEV might be available. If I can wait long enough, that's what I'll go for. but if I don't make it, the Mercury is looking like a pretty good option.
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:31 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by msbearkeley View Post
Given that it's been at least 10 years since we've bought a car, we are really wowed by the newness of it all.... So -- any thoughts on what we should do? Blessing to do any of the three?
It's like buying a computer-- as soon as you drive it off the lot there'll be better choices at 70% of the price. You can drive yourself nuts trying to find the "best" deal, or you can be paralyzed by analysis and end up keeping that Prelude for another five years. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing to keep it.

What about buying a used hybrid with a good record? You don't have to parse through the bleeding-edge advertising and you'll have the benefit of more objective performance/maintenance records with consumer comments.

As for a PHEV, we're buying a 2004-2007 Prius later this summer. While we're getting comfortable with it I'll take a look at boosting the battery pack and hacking the software to make our own PHEV.

Then I'll have the excuse I need to upgrade to a 10KW photovoltaic array...
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:36 PM   #7
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I can't imagine your honda not going for 200k, that's 3 more years at your mileage rate, I think I'd try to shake off the new car bug and wait a little longer. Sure you might miss the rebate, but so many competing models are about to come on the market, you'll really have a lot of excellent hybrid SUV/crossovers to choose from. Typically car makers need 5 years to go from design to floor room. A couple years ago when carmakers saw gas prices were up to stay, they got the ball rolling. In addition, as people get over sticker shock on $3 gas, they'll start creeping back into their suburbans that they really want (America ain't getting any thinner!). That should push down demand on hybrids/high mileage vehicles.

Having said all that, you went 10 years without getting a new car, if you want a new car and you aren't hurting your FIRE date, by all means, enjoy.
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Old 01-26-2008, 12:51 PM   #8
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I usually buy used. About 2 yr old. Off lease.

But if you have to have new........

I would wait to the end of the model year. Sounds like that would be about your bonus time.
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:03 PM   #9
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I have a 2007 Escape hybrid, twin to the Mariner, and really like it. I had owned a conventional Escape and Mariner in the past and liked the package and overall utility of the vehicle. Durability seems to be pretty decent based on enthusiast's forums and the NY city taxi fleet.

Although I got an employee discount, a manufacturer's rebate (last spring when gas was cheaper) and the federal rebate, it probably doesn't really wash financially. I do get an honest 33 mpg in combined city / highway driving. It is fun owning a state of the art vehicle and I'm currently working on a project to allow it to temporarily provide a small amount of backup power to my home.

Because it uses a common body with the non-hybrid, you miss out on the halo effect that Prius owners get when they drive down the road with their quirky, unique body style.

Performance is excellent, especially from a stop, with the torque from the electric motor kicked in. Trailer towing is limited to 1000#, if that is a consideration.
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Old 01-26-2008, 02:28 PM   #10
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We bought a Honda CRV a couple of months ago and absolutely love it. We went thru the same debate about buying a Hybrid, thought about the Prius - however they no longer have the tax credit attached. In the end we decided that our mileage did not justify the additional costs of purchasing a hybrid. We do less than 12k per annum so once we did an analysis of costs the hybrid did not make sense.
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Old 01-26-2008, 03:42 PM   #11
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I've driven a Prius for 2 years: flawless and around 55-58 mpg on my daily commute (which is ideal for hybrids - hot climate, moderate speeds, few lights, etc.). Cheap to maintain and basically exactly what I had hoped for.

Careful on the rebate thing: the alternate minimum tax basically ate my $4000 rebate.
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Old 01-26-2008, 04:48 PM   #12
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I have not seen you do the math between the hybrid/non-hybrid ( factor in the rebate - assuming the AMT does not take it away - good point Rich-in-Tampa). There may be little to no economic advantage at 15K miles per year.

Personally, I would need to see some real economic savings to justify the added risk of all the extra 'stuff'. Cars are complex today - adding an entire secondary power system to them does not thrill me.

I'm hoping that all-electrics become practical in my lifetime. In the more near-term, I like the idea of the plug-in serial hybrids (like the GM Volt concept). It is still two power systems, but the engine for the generator is very simple - single speed on/off just to turn a generator. Valve timing, everything just optimized for one speed, one load. Simple.

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Old 01-26-2008, 05:15 PM   #13
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I've driven a Prius for 2 years: flawless and around 55-58 mpg on my daily commute (which is ideal for hybrids - hot climate, moderate speeds, few lights, etc.). Cheap to maintain and basically exactly what I had hoped for.

Careful on the rebate thing: the alternate minimum tax basically ate my $4000 rebate.
We just traded our 14 year old Honda Accord for a Civic hybrid at the end of December. I am really enjoying it so far. I'm averaging 48 mpg commuting and hoping to get up in the 50's when the weather warms up. The size of the car is almost identical to the one we traded and the amenities are better. The only downside for me was that it came only in automatic transmission (I have always driven a manual) and the rear seat doesn't fold down (the battery is in the rear seat). I drove a Prius and liked it. The one thing that kept me from the Prius was the fact that in my normal driving position the "A" pillar really blocked my view of traffic coming from the right at intersections. I was certain I would have an accident.

Like you, the AMT ate my tax credit, but as I read the tax code, this is one of the items that rolls forward and can be used if and when we come off the AMT (which might happen for 2008, since I just downshifted my salary by over 75%). Feel free to correct me on this if I have misread the situation.
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:28 PM   #14
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I am not a big fan of the hybrid... the cost does not justify it...

I like the CR-V... but also the new Accord..

Not a Ford fan... but to each their own..


Now... when diesels start to come out... I might buy one of them in a few years...
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:37 PM   #15
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I am not a big fan of the hybrid... the cost does not justify it...
Depends on your driving needs. I think I save about $1200 a year on gas, and the car cost me about $4k m ore than comparable cars, so after 3-4 years it may prove cost-effective.

But it also has very low emissions. Can't hurt...
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:50 PM   #16
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If you really want your Prius to pay for itself, become a nenpimania and get as much as 115 mpg out of it.

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Old 01-26-2008, 10:52 PM   #17
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If you could wait a few more years you might be able to get a plug-in, but with 150K miles already that's doubtful.
I just saw a TV show that highlighted a Japanese hybrid car club. One of their goals is to see who gets the best gas mileage. I don't exactly remember, but I think that the record was 200+km/gal. That seems quite high, over 120 miles/gal if my math is correct.
In any case, one of the members had modified his hybrid so that he could 'plug in' using regular house current. So it shouldn't be long.
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Old 01-26-2008, 11:04 PM   #18
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Do you feel unsafe in your current car or is it starting to cost enough in repairs to justify getting a new one? If not, and it's more of an emotional desire (all but my first car have fallen into the latter), then I'd wait for the features you want. I know you mentioned the risk of your car breaking down... but if that's only a remote possibility, then why not wait for the '09 with the features you want (plus, you get another year of reliability info on that Mariner)

I have a feeling that we're on the cusp of the next rev in hybrid technology. We're already seeing aftermarket companies mod the prius to be a plug-in. If GM comes out with the Volt, then we'll have a serious contender there. And, who knows, maybe we'll see a diesel-backed plug-in hybrid as a mainstream model.
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Old 01-27-2008, 04:04 AM   #19
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i wont buy a hybrid. the resale on them as technology gets better and better is horrible or in some cases dealers dont want them at all.

the premiums are hard to recover

parts have been an issue because the technology is changing fast

biggest issue, those batteries, its like buying a car you know will need a transmission for sure one day, they are thousands when time comes to replace.

check your insurance company, some have been charging a premium because a simple rear end tap can cost thousands because of the batteries

disposal fees for your old batteries are very high
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Old 01-27-2008, 07:33 AM   #20
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I'm a big fan of diesels. I have a VW Jetta diesel and it has been a great car. I get 44/45 with winter diesel and usually 48/49 MPG in the summer, driving my mostly highway 35 miles each way to work.

Honda will be releasing diesels in 2010 or 2009, I don't know which. Then we will be able to get the legendary Honda reliability and diesel efficiency.

I like the CRV, but ended up getting a Pilot. If I could get either with a diesel, I'd do it!
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