Our happily unremarkable cars

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 11:30 AM | comments: 0

The family was out doing stuff the other day, when the "change my oil!" light came on in our Prius V. That led to my commenting that we had over 50k miles on it in just over three years, which led to Diana making comments about how much she has enjoyed having that car.

It has been a fantastic car, doing nothing but oil changes every 10k miles (synthetic). I suspect tires are in order soon, but other than that, it has been maintenance free. With gas around $2.60, and fuel economy averaging 48 mpg, we're spending about 5.4 cents per mile. It's comfortable, sits up fairly high, and has an enormous interior that tops most small SUV's. It's not particularly interesting or fun to drive (unless you turn on power mode so it isn't neutered by software), but it's about as functional as it gets. In practical terms, I don't see how that car isn't more than adequate than for 95% of family use cases.

When we traded in Diana's Hyundai last fall, after having its transmission replaced under the drivetrain warranty (the hose to the radiator came off and trashed it), we started leasing a Nissan Leaf. With the mileage restriction and the need to drive to Simon's school twice a day, for almost 40 miles each day plus any other errands or whatever, we couldn't easily use the Leaf, so the V became her daily use car. That's why the fuel economy has been pretty solid, because it has mostly been city driving (though still not as high as a standard Prius, because the V is bigger and heavier).

The Leaf has been our commuter car for the last nine months, with one of us driving downtown on average four or five times per week, just under 1k miles per month. It costs squarely 3 cents per mile to drive. We've never had any issue with range anxiety, because we often charge it at work, or overnight at home (on a slow 120v outlet, no less). Despite being a small-ish car, it sits up high, and it's really comfortable. It's also crazy fun to drive. I mean, you want to stop at red lights if you can be first to go, because it gives you a chance to exercise that ridiculous acceleration. Of course it's no Tesla Model S, but the quiet and smooth acceleration is so much fun.

I've laid out the economics before, but strictly on an operating basis, we're spending about $30 per month on electricity instead of $80 for the gas the Hyundai used. That's $600 each year. Yes, it's a smaller car, and has about zero luxury points (though the heated seats ended up being handy for a few days last winter), but it's a pretty inexpensive way to get to work.

I'm super happy with our cars, because they're not expensive, and we never have to really think about them. We just get in and go places. I won't pretend that I still don't have an unhealthy obsession with the Model S, and so far I've been able to keep that obsession in check.


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