Everybody’s on some kind of diet
Oprah Winfrey has been on a diet since before she was on television. The one diet she hasn’t been on has been a debt diet. But every Friday her show becomes the debt diet. It’s not surprising to know that some people are in debt, but to know that 70 percent of America lives paycheck to paycheck is astounding. Clearly, anytime more than 2/3 of your country is in the same predicament you need to take it into consideration when reporting.
There is so much in the news today about the price of gas, that buying a car is getting lost in the picture. If you are one of the hard-working folks that are living paycheck to paycheck every dollar counts. I understand that there are some of you that won’t consider buying a new car now because you can’t afford the price of a car and the gas. But the folks that are looking for a vehicle need to take a moment and decide what is important to them. Are they looking for a car that is most fuel-efficient or are they looking for a car that will meet monthly payments that they can afford? What are the least expensive cars to purchase, whether they are flex-fuel, hybrid, diesel or just plain ole gasoline?
The numbers are interesting and you really need to do your homework. I got my actual price numbers from J.D. Powers, Power Information Network (PIN) group. The prices are for the full year, 2005. The final amount for each vehicle includes any rebates and incentives received, giving me the true market value. For example, PIN says that the average price for the Honda Insight for 2005, including all models, was $20,083. Nadagauides.com and edmunds.com are two sites that will give you the invoice and the Manufacture Sales Retail Price (MSRP). They cant give you the actual price of the vehicles sold, but they can give you an idea of what you can expect to pay. I then financed the car for five years (the average financing time) and calculated the monthly price and full amount at 6.39%. If you don’t have a calculator go to bankrate.com and calculate the actual monthly price.
For fuel numbers, I used the average of 15,000 miles that is now driven every year, according to fueleconomy.gov. Dividing that by the EPA miles per gallon and multiplying it by the price of fuel I got the annual price and divided that equally to achieve a monthly price for the car, including financing and gas. Depreciation, residual value, and costs to repair were not taken into account. Which cars were the winners?
Gasoline only – the old internal combustion engine
The old internal combustion engine doesn’t get the respect it used to, but there are about 235,000,000 of them on the road today. Some of these cars are as fuel-efficient as hybrids, but does that make them the least expensive? The gas price was computed at $2.92 a gallon.
- Hyundai Accent – With a combined (city/highway) mpg of 32.75 and an average cost of $11,390 the monthly payment is $333.72 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $111.45 per month just for gas.
- Chevy Aveo – With a combined mpg of 29.75 and an average cost of $11,617 the monthly payment is $349.39 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $122.70 per month just for gas.
- Kia Rio – With a combined mpg of 33.5 and an average cost of $12,303 the monthly payment is $349.04 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $108.96 per month just for gas. Notice that there is not much difference in the payment between the Chevy Aveo and the Kia Rio for the first five years. That is because of the difference in mpg. And once the car is paid off there is a $13.74 per month difference. Remember, if you keep your car for more than five years and you are part of the 70 percent this could be even larger if the price of gas keeps going up. In fact, the fuel costs would be lower than the Hyundai Accent, the lowest monthly payment car of 2005.
- Hyundai Elantra – the price goes up substantially (almost $2,000 from the Hyundai Accent) and the mpg goes down. After these other aspects go into play, such as horsepower, comfort, safety…
- The hybrid, according to EPA figures, is much more fuel-efficient than regular gasoline only internal combustion engine, but the prices start much higher. The EPA numbers are off and the EPA knows it. I have included the average mpg that users say they get on fueleconomy.gov. Hybrids still take gasoline, so I computed the mileage at $2.92 a gallon
- Honda Insight- With a combined (city/highway) mpg of 62.2 and an average cost of $21,476 the monthly payment is $481 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $58.68 per month for gas. Fueleconomy.gov users (only 1 person reported) says they get 66 mpg, bringing the monthly gas bill to $55.
- Honda Civic Hybrid – With a combined (city/highway) mpg of 50 and an average cost of $20,901 the monthly payment is $484.01 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $73 per month for gas. Fueleconomy.gov users (29 people reported) says they get 45.1 mpg, bringing the monthly gas bill to $80.93.
- Toyota Prius – With a combined (city/highway) mpg of 55.5 and an average cost of $25,165 the monthly payment is $560.63 for five full years. Once the car is paid off you will still pay $65.77 per month for gas. Fueleconomy.gov users (23 people reported) says they get 48.1 mpg, bringing the monthly gas bill to $75.88.
- Diesel fuel will change in September 2006. Right now America’s diesel fuel is 300 ppm of sulfur, in September the diesel fuel will be almost as clean as Europes at 15 ppm. That still doesn’t take care of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx). Only Mercedes-Benz has taken care of that problem with their Bluetec technology. Bluetec reduces NOx by 80 percent. Diesel fuel is running $2.89 a gallon but gets about 25 percent better fuel than gasoline and 67 percent better fuel efficiency than ethanol.
- Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI Bluetec – Once the car is paid off you will still pay $97.64 per month for gas.
- Flex-fuel vehicles can take E85 (85/15 percent ethanol/gasoline) or gasoline. The difference is in the fuel. Ethanol is made in America and gasoline is imported from a foreign country. Ethanol gets about 25 percent less fuel-efficient than gasoline, but costs about 25 percent less, at $2.34.
- Chevy Monte Carlo – What could be more patriotic than a Chevy? Buying fuel made in America. Whether you use gasoline or ethanol the monthly bill ($145) is about the same. The difference is where that money goes. Would you rather have $123 of your dollars stay in America and spent back in your own economy or all $146 sent overseas?
Tricks of the trade
- Knowledge is king when it comes to buying a car and there are little ways to make a big difference. First, salespeople’s goal is to sell you a car and make a profit. Your goal is to stay within your budget and keep as much as your monthly paycheck as possible. There are three distinct transactions in your process; buying a new car, selling your used car, and financing your new car.
- These transactions do not have to take place at the same time, nor at the same place. In fact, if you don’t mix these transactions you will know the true price of each transaction. If you go to a dealership and tell them you want to trade your car in, buy a new one and get financing a dealer has the ability to finagle the numbers to their liking. Take each transaction one step at a time.
- You can use websites such as nadaguides.com and kbb.com to find out what your used car is worth by trading it in or by selling it yourself. If you want to sell it yourself there are websites that allow you to list your used car for sale for free, such as craigslist.org and carlist.com.
- There are even more places to list your car if you are willing to pay, including your local newspaper. Secondly, you can find out the invoice and MSRP of any vehicle on the internet. Edmunds.com is a good place to start. Edmunds.com has a proprietary True Cost to Own algorithm that estimates the five-year cost of owning each new vehicle currently in the market. Edmunds and Intellichoice.com also have the latest information on incentives being offered for new cars.
- Thirdly, financing can be done over the internet as well. Sites such as bankrate.com give you the average rate and allow you to compute those rates with the dollar amount of the car, the finance rate, and the years you want to finance. Give yourself an idea of what the vehicle will cost before you try for financing. And don’t forget, credit houses can see every time you have your credit checked, meaning you are shopping around. The more you know before you go shopping the less you are going to pay for your vehicle.