She wants to save money—and not f*ck up the environment
May 4, 2013 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Mom wants a fuel-efficient car . . . what should she get?

My mom no longer wants to spend $500+/year on her current car and wants to get a new, fuel-efficient, car.

ATM she's familiar with and interested in the:
  • Chevrolet Cruze Eco
  • Ford Focus
  • Toyota Prius
Any of the above recommendable? And are there any good alternatives to the above?

Important info:
  • Mom lives in Canada; car prices differ greatly here than in the USA
  • Not sure what her budget is, but I'm guessing she wouldn't spend more than $30,000 CAD on a car
posted by GlassHeart to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it were me, the ONLY car I'd even think about getting, and I've done some research (you should do more), would be the Nissan Leaf.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:09 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Subaru Impreza. 35mpg, an absolute battle-tank in the snow, known for looooong mechanical life, easy to get into and out of (front seats and back), good sized trunk, great dealer network and lots of cheap parts if she goes with the local mechanic after the warranty.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:11 PM on May 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Driving a Prius C, getting 50+ mpg. YMMV.
posted by lathrop at 8:48 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by oceanjesse at 9:26 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do love my Prius. My husband loves his. I have heard they do well in the snow, but I don't have any personal experience there. No idea what they would cost in Canada.
posted by jvilter at 9:33 PM on May 4, 2013

Not clear what the Prius models cost in Canada, how much your mom drives. If she doesn't drive much, the extra cost of the hybrids generally isn't offset by the fuel savings.

My dad (who is beyond terrible at getting the oil changed and other routine maintenance) and others have been very happy with the Mazda 3 for how they drive and last, the price and fuel-efficiency.
posted by ambient2 at 10:04 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honda Fit. Hybrids aren't always the way to go.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:20 PM on May 4, 2013

I wouldn't go all-electric in Canada; batteries and cold don't mix. That should be a consideration. I also don't know about car-charging infrastructure, nor whether your mother has a living situation that's amenable to charging a car.

When researching prices, watch out for the fact that the hybrids and electrics modify their displayed pricing (at least in USA sites) for our Federal hybrid/electric pat-on-the-head tax credit of up to $7500. I presume a Canadian citizen, perhaps assuming she doesn't earn income and pay taxes in the US, is ineligible for this, so be sure to watch the fine print when doing research.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:52 AM on May 5, 2013

Wait a minute. She doesn't want to spend $500/year, but she's prepared to pony up $30k for a new car? Perhaps you'd be better off getting her to decide that she actually wants a new car. Because I would imagine that if she has something which is less than 15 years old, getting a new car isn't going to drastically save her in the running costs department, but is going to mean a big fat hole in her savings.

For the record, we have a Prius which gets good MPG and seems pretty bullet proof in other departments. Especially around town, the mileage is significantly better than a non-hybrid.
posted by lucullus at 1:39 AM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Mazda3. My Sport gets great gas mileage, has had no mechanical troubles for four years, has great safety features, and handles very well under all conditions, including snow and ice.
posted by rpfields at 1:57 AM on May 5, 2013

Does she just want a new car? Does she just want a hybrid? Or does she really want to do some kind of calculation to what makes the best financial sense?

If she wants a new/used hybrid and she can afford one, then she should get one?

Otherwise, she should think about what kind of driving does she do? How much does she drive? What does she spend on gas? How much does she think about her trips and routes? A fuel efficient car will not help her too much if her actual milage is very low? If she does the 'wrong' kind of driving, a hybrid won't help much easier. If she plans her routes better, combines trips and modifies her driving style she could easily save more fuel than a hybrid would for her?
posted by jazh at 2:26 AM on May 5, 2013

Nthing the Mazda suggestions, my 2002 Protege gets 36 city and 42 highway and is an absolute pleasure to drive. It's survived Utah and Kansas winters, so it could take Canada I believe. Outside of routine maintenance I haven't had any extra costs associated with the car, it's wonderful.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 5:37 AM on May 5, 2013

That issue of low mileage is a true thing to consider. I read the Prius Chat boards and often wonder about people who drive maybe 4000 miles a year buying a Prius. On one hand, that car will probably last forever and they'll get great mileage. On the other hand, they are spending a lot for that combination. There are several other cars I would be happy to own if I didn't live in southern California and drive crazy often and far distances in my everyday life.
posted by jvilter at 6:13 AM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is true that for many people (including myself; I am a 4000 miles per year driver) the cost of a Prius will never be recouped over the lifetime of ownership of the vehicle. However, there are reasons other than sheer financial calculations that someone might wish to go the hybrid route. If the OP's mom is anything like me, she might simply like the idea of doing her part to minimize fossil fuel use. Like they say, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Of course, an all-electric car like the Leaf uses the least fossil fuel of all. However, there are many places that do not have readily accessible charging stations, and where charging in a home outlet is simply not possible. For an apartment dweller in NYC, for instance, it would be pure folly to own a Leaf. At the present point in history, a hybrid vehicle is the best way to go for maximum fuel savings.

A Prius is actually not that expensive if you don't get all the fancy doodads. My 2010 was $25,000 US. Middle-aged folks do not generally require bluetooth and Surround-Sound in their cars.
posted by RRgal at 6:46 AM on May 5, 2013

I live in Toronto and I bought a Prius C a year ago. I believe the cost was approximately $25,000 (after everything). The tank has a 36 litre capacity and we get about 700km per tank in the summer/spring/fall and 600km per tank in the winter. I love the car and absolutely recommend it.
posted by postpostpostscript at 7:16 AM on May 5, 2013

We have owned a Honda Fit and a Subaru Impreza. Both great cars and mechanically excellent. Better mileage out of the Fit as it's not AWD, but we switched up due to winters here in Canada.
posted by arcticseal at 7:23 AM on May 5, 2013

We drive a Prius and get 50 mpg in the summer, 40+ in the winter. In a region of -40 winters. My only complaint is that the heater is so-so in very cold weather. We live up a very steep, curving driveway, and it does fine even in spring when it's muddy as long as we have it in non-eco mode. We paid $24k (it's a basic model) and especially love pulling up to the gas station and having a fuel bill of less than 1/3 of most of the other drivers. I just would like to have a Prius with butt warmers like my truck!
posted by summerstorm at 7:48 AM on May 5, 2013

If her primary interests are (1) saving money and (2) saving the environment, then the best thing she can do is keep her current car and maintain it properly. If she wants to stop spending an extra $500/year on an old car, why would she spend $30,000 to replace it? Creating a new car has all sorts of environmental costs that will take years to make up for in terms of fuel savings.
posted by one_bean at 10:07 AM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I remember looking at the 2013 "annual car report" issue of Consumer Reports and they calculated the total cost of ownership over a vehicle's lifetime and the Prius was one of the least expensive. If you are in the market, I highly recommend that issue.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 3:42 PM on May 5, 2013

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