It’s Never too Late to Ditch your Gas Guzzler

Mr. Money Mustache has been getting quite a few emails these days asking questions like this one:

Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

I’ve only recently discovered your blog, and I have decided to change my ways for the better. But I’m still stuck with the relics of my un-Mustachian past, like my trusty (Full-sized 4×4 Pickup truck with V8 engine, Toyota 4Runner SUV, Land Rover LR2 Fake Executive Luxury Truck, etc). But it’s paid off, and I’m not sure if I should go through the expense and/or hassle of switching vehicles.

What should I do – suck it up and live with my past choices, or fix it?


It is always nice to hear people asking this question, because it means one of the biggest financial mistakes in the lives of most people – a ridiculous vehicle choice – is up for reconsideration.  But far too often the error never gets fixed, because people don’t do the math for themselves.

I hear things like,

“Well, it’s paid off, so I should keep it forever now, right?”

That’s an old argument left over from the days when people “financed” cars, and then eventually donated them back to the dealer for a tiny credit towards another financed car in a tragic move called the “trade in.”

Of course YOU don’t have a car loan, and you buy and sell your cars in the private market, miles away from the stealerships right?

If you DO have a loan, go ahead and work on that debt emergency. But the finance status has nothing to do with whether or not you’re driving the right car. So let’s not call it a “paid off” car, let’s just call it a “car”.

The next issue is the definition of reasonable fuel economy. When I hear people describing their beloved trucks and SUVs, I often hear comedic phrases like, “it’s not that bad, actually. I get 17MPG in the city”, or, “on the highway, I can get 22-23 MPG consistently”.

Those are good figures for a dump truck or a school bus, but when you’re talking about a vehicle that is regularly used to transport fewer than 10 people, they shouldn’t even enter your realm of consideration. Reasonable fuel economy starts at 35MPG (US, highway), and much higher is possible.

For example, the Honda Insight 2-seater from the early 2000s regularly returns over 70MPG in combined use, yet you can buy a nice 2001 one on the used market for under $4000. If you commute alone or have no children, this may still be the ultimate car. Take that, Prius!

So let’s see how much people really are wasting on fueling their AntiMustacheMobiles.

In one of the most recent emails, a guy told me he was driving about 40 miles per day in a pickup truck.

At 40 miles/day x 200 workdays per year, he’s commuting 8,000 miles per year just for work. We can add in another 7,000 for errands and vacations, and end up with 15,000 miles, right around the  average US annual driving level.

Assuming this truck burns at 18MPG, this person is wasting 833 gallons of fuel per year, or $3100 every year even at our among-the-cheapest-in-the-world price of $3.75/gallon.

Switching to a more reasonable car at 35MPG would cut the bill by $1600/year!

Switching to an actual commuter car like the Insight at 70MPG would shrink the gas consumption to 214 gallons, and reduce the bill by $2300 per year.

If you don’t get excited by numbers like $1600 and $2300 per year, I need you to take a break from reading, print out a picture of me, and use it to punch yourself in the face while looking into the mirror so you can watch the grave disciplinary scene unfold.

And this is because every ten years, compounded at 7%, those savings add up to $22,000.00 and $31,700 respectively.

Let’s put it another way: Switching from an SUV to a car, will save you enough to buy a new luxury car every ten years, or an excellent used car every four years.

But since that would be a foolish use of the savings, let’s consider another option: For an average earner with an average savings rate, switching from an SUV to a car will allow you to retire at least ten years earlierIn fuel savings alone! If you add in the cheaper tires, oil changes, and other parts used by efficient cars, the savings are even bigger.

This is a point that cannot be stressed too strongly. There is almost no possible case for driving around in a sub-35MPG car. And yet the roads are full of them. Virtually all of the drivers are broke, and they can’t afford even the fuel bills for their cars. And yet they continue to buy more gas guzzlers for themselves. It’s the biggest source of mass insanity in the modern world, and yet people still buy these ridiculous cars for themselves every day.

If you have a side business or a very large family that requires major cargo capacity occasionally, it is usually much more cost effective to own an efficient car for most of your driving, and a second behemoth vehicle (an early-2000s minivan for example) for the rare hauling events.

Adding my own hauler minivan to the fleet increased my insurance costs by only $7 per month. Even after adding registration and depreciation costs, owning the extra machine is much cheaper than doing all the driving at the higher rate of fuel consumption.

For more occasional hauling, simply towing a trailer (open or enclosed), or turning your little car into a big one may even save you from the hassle of owning a hauler vehicle.

So hopefully this answers the question once and for all.

  • Yes, you should sell your truck to get an efficient car, if you’re driving anywhere close to the national average.
  • Yes, it will save you a shitload of money.
  • No, you won’t be comparing your truck’s used value to the sticker price of a new car, because you won’t be buying a new car. Ever.
  • Yes, your life will go on and be just as happy even as you adapt to the new way of getting around.

Just stop fooling yourself, and sell that effing gas guzzler before this article catches on and causes the resale value to drop to zero. You’ve been warned!

Happy shopping!


  • Derek P. September 4, 2012, 6:15 am

    MMM, I seen the incredible stupidity in my own family with driving a Huge, Utterly Expensive 3/4 ton truck. My father is driving it about 40 km (about 30 miles) each day to work, including driving double distance to home and back for lunch 6 days a week. It is so stupid and the cost of owning this truck is insane.

    The way the truck is sucking up money is crazy too. They paid about 60k in 2004 for the truck, and the payments + insurance + interest + registeration for the 4 years they financed the truck for, it was the equivalent of 75% of my mothers take home income.

    The GST tax alone on new motor vehicles could have easily bought a fuel efficent used car.

    Big trucks = Dumb. 4 cylinder car = Better. Bicycle = WIN!

    • Marcia September 4, 2012, 2:08 pm

      It hurts me to read that.

  • Lance September 4, 2012, 6:22 am

    For the people in transition to mustachianism they may have their car paid off bought only bought new their whole lives. If you sell the truck you can buy an equivalent used car with that money. If you have a 2005 truck a 2005 car can probably be bought for less than you sell the truck for.

    I love having my Honda Civic that gets 40 MPG highway and a respectable 31 MPG city. I can’t imagine having an SUV or truck as my daily commuter. It will be interesting to see what options are available in 10 to 15 years for my next car. Hopefully something more fuel efficient!

    • Marcia September 4, 2012, 2:09 pm

      Do you have a stick shift? My civic gets about 27 mpg, mostly city. I’m pretty disappointed. The Matrix does better. But both are automatics.

      • Debbie M September 4, 2012, 10:43 pm

        I’m sure he does. My automatic Honda Civic also had terrible mileage. Transmission type used to be one of the things I was open-minded about when searching for my next car. There are still some models where it doesn’t make much difference (like 1 mpg), but the Civic isn’t one of them.

        • Marcia September 5, 2012, 8:31 pm

          Yeah, when we replace it (you know, whne my 6 year old takes it to college), I’ll be looking for something better. It’s my first Honda.

          • Kristine August 4, 2019, 9:58 pm

            I bought used 2013 Honda Civic in 2017 with only 24,000 miles. It gets 37-40 mpg. Wonder why I read about others getting such crappy mileage?

  • Heath September 4, 2012, 6:52 am

    “stealerships” made me laugh! Congratulations on another Classic Article, MMM.

    Another good option to having a second vehicle for ‘occasional hauling’ is to just borrow one from a friend. I have several friends and family members who, for various (delusional) reasons, feel that they ‘need’ their big-ass trucks and SUVs, and I’ve used their mistakes to my advantage (after unsuccessfully trying Mustache-fu on them, of course!). If you’ve got the connection, and are willing to pony up some dinner and beers, then friend-sourcing is a preferable option to owning a second vehicle.

    I feel like we should make a hierarchy of vehicles. Whenever you plan to Go Outside, for whatever reason, you must go down this list (IN ORDER) and use the first one that meets your needs. You must also keep in mind that the lower down the list you go, the more you must group your excursions together (i.e. grocery shopping & local craigslist-fuelled pickup/dropoff) for efficiency of both time and money.

    1. Your human feet.
    2. Bicycle.
    3. Scooter/motorcycle.
    4. Small used car.
    5. Appropriately sized used hauling vehicle.

    That reminds me. I really should look into getting a scooter. I’m going to have to re-read this article:


    • Donovan September 4, 2012, 8:10 am

      I think I’d put bike over feet for the most part. Even if it’s only a 10 minute walk away, I’ll typically bike to a destination if I know there’s somewhere to chain up there just because it’s so much quicker. And since I’m still in college, that’s still about 95% of my travel.

      And ownership cost doesn’t factor into the decision, because everyone here already has a bike, right ;]

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:16 am

        Feet are kinda neat if you occasionally challenge yourself to run somewhere rather than biking. 1 mile by bike takes no effort, but to actually run there as fast as you can will make you tougher. Ideally, I’d like to get in the habit of running places 2-3 miles away (like the grocery store), then just walk back as quickly as I could while carrying the bags and large backpack.

        • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 12:42 pm

          One small problem there: most stores get a bit anal about people carrying backpacks.

          • kris September 4, 2012, 12:58 pm

            I have never had a problem. I just make sure to not keep anything valuable in it so that if they ask me to leave it ( only one store has asked me so far) then I don’t have to worry about it.

          • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 3:46 pm

            I have rarely entered a store WITHOUT my backpack on in the last 20 years, and it has never caused a problem.

            Occasionally, in a rough neighborhood, there is a sign that says “all bags must be left at the front”, but I ignore the sign and nobody bothers me.

            • Debbie M September 4, 2012, 10:49 pm

              I once lived near a grocery store that required leaving the backpack at the front and they did not let me ignore that. So I had to wait in line to drop off my backpack, wait in line to pay, wait in line to retrieve my backpack, repack my stuff, and try to slide the bags back in somewhere to be re-used. After a while I switched to the store across the street that did not have this policy. (Unless there were really good sales.)

              It is amusing to deal with persistent sackers when you are a pedestrian. “No, really, you do not want to take my groceries for me–it’s a 1.5 mile walk each way. But thanks for the offer.”

            • Matt (Semper Fi) August 21, 2016, 9:51 am

              How about the sidelong glances you may get when you tell the checker and bagged that you don’t need a bag? Or, if you are getting plastic grocery bags to be used as garbage bags at home, that “it’s quite alright to put the lunch meat in the same bag as the dry spaghetti”, just fill the damned thing up? Hate it when they only stick a couple of smallish things into one bag. Or, God forbid, you do not put your three little lemons in a plastic produce bag so that the bagger can stick THAT bag inside of another bag? WTF is the obsession with America and its g*d*mned plastic bags?!?! Now I’ve gone and worked myself up into a lather . . .

            • EarningAndLearning May 23, 2017, 5:13 pm

              I hate that too, so I started bringing my own cloth bags. I sometimes would forget, and like you, I’d have them NOT double-bag, and please fill them up! Then, the store started charging people 5 cents for plastic bags — so now they REALLY fill them up, and way more people bring cloth bags.

              Nothing like a little financial incentive. Even a tiny 5 cents extra cost is a motivator!

              I’ve started (it was my 2017 New Years Resolution) saying NO to bags everywhere. The first time I walked out of a clothing store with a few items and the receipt on top, I felt kinda naked. Like it wasn’t allowed or something. But I was happy not to have a bag to re-use or recycle and feel badly about. I do it at the grocery store too if I forget my cloth bags — anything to avoid using more plastic bags! I encourage you all to say no to bags too! It’s been a fun resolution! :)

        • Marcia September 4, 2012, 2:11 pm

          I did that for awhile to the farmers market on Saturday.

        • Jen September 7, 2012, 9:27 am

          After we got rid of our car in February, we got ourselves a shopping bag on wheels (for a price of a monthly parking permit):
          Enjoying it a lot. Though our supermarket is just 10 minutes walk away, I’m fretting to carry groceries for our 5 people household in bags/bagpack, especially if my both toddlers tag along to the store. Maybe it will be my next step… to up my workout time :)

    • Georgia September 4, 2012, 10:00 am

      And don’t forget public transportation! Buses, subways, light rail, and streetcars are much more efficient than cars. (I realize that not everyone has these options, unfortunately.)

    • Emmers September 4, 2012, 4:46 pm

      That reminds me of this blog post I saw the other day — about the benefits (financial and otherwise) of walking to pick up your groceries, instead of driving.

    • Brad September 5, 2012, 10:36 am

      For most hauling you don’t need to own the vehicle, often I have bought a friend supper for the use of theirs. Then there is U-Haul trucks, pickup trucks, vans and trailers, Home Depot (3 hours for $19 for a flatbed). Then any of the rental car places but they tend to be pretty expensive for a daily rate.

  • thb September 4, 2012, 7:05 am

    F150 versus efficient little commuter car is pretty clear-cut. I’d like your take on my current situation. I have a 2006 Corolla, bought outright in 2007, which gets about 30 mpg. I drive less than 10,000 miles per year. It currently has about 60k miles on it, never had a problem, and could probably go another 10 years with normal maintenance. I’ve been debating swapping it out for a hybrid, but (for example) a 2006 Prius at a local lot, same mileage as mine, is still over $17,000. Thoughts?

    • Matt G September 4, 2012, 8:41 am

      I’ve been looking at the Prius, you should be able to get a 2008-2009 for around $12-14k with about 70k miles.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty September 4, 2012, 9:56 am

        We bought a 2009 Prius this year…with a reasonable amount of options and about 20,000 miles for 17K. It is a seriously awesome car.

      • April Quinn September 18, 2012, 6:16 pm

        I bought My 2008 Prius last year for $16,500 and it only had 48k miles. I love it! Amazing Cargo room. I got rid of my BMW Z4 and feel like I upgraded to the Prius :) I consistently average 46 MPG

    • Portland Man September 4, 2012, 8:55 am

      At some point, you hit the law of diminishing returns.

      @10k miles per year, 40 mpg you burn about 250 gallons/year.
      A prius running the same miles at 55 mpg will burn 180ish gallons/year.

      @$4/gallon that’s a savings of $280/year, if you drop an extra $8k on a new car it would take you nearly 29 years to recoup the cost – ignoring the opportunity costs of giving up $8k today.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:22 am

        Yeah, thb: your 2006 Corolla is so new that it would be impractical to move to an even newer car. An older Insight or Prius could potentially save some cash, or you could just pat yourself on the back and call it good.

        I’m surprised that you only get 30MPG, however, since I’ve rented that exact car and got just under 40 during the course of a trip to Arizona a few years ago, fully loaded with family and stuff. Maybe driving style could be an initial project?

        • JustinFarnsworth September 4, 2012, 11:00 am

          I have a 2009 Corolla (bought with cash, used) and I’ve found that I get between 27 MPG and 40 MPG, depending on driving circumstances. On the freeway it gets 35-40. It has been a challenge (living in a hilly city, I should add) keeping the mileage consistently below 30.

          I think this has a lot to do with driving styles of the people who share the car – I’m more attuned to efficient driving. But this is also all based on the meter in the dashboard, and I sometimes wonder if it is not very accurate.

          I’m in thb’s boat – I would like something that got a lot more, but we have a good, solid car with decent mileage so it’s hard to see us upgrading it. If I saw numbers that showed it was the right thing to do, I’d consider it though. We’d like to drive it for the next 15 years or more.

          • Debbie M September 4, 2012, 10:57 pm

            I’ve read that the mileage on 2009+ Corollas is significantly worse than on the 2003-2008 models.

            Yet I get only 30 mgp (city driving, which is half on on freeways) with a pretty empty car and a quite relaxed driving style. (And a manual transmission.) Though I do use the A/C.

            One thing about the Corolla–it’s a simpler engine than a hybrid, and mechanics have more experience than with hybrids, so there may be benefits in repair and maintenance costs.

            • thb September 5, 2012, 8:01 pm

              Thanks for the input, all. I’m going to stick with the Corolla and see what I can do about upping my mpgs a bit, i.e. keeping an eye on my driving style and having a talk with the mechanic at my next tune-up. I think my mileage is mostly a factor of nearly all city driving (it was way higher on a recent all-highway drive to a conference 250 miles away), but even a small improvement would be cool. Also, thanks to MMM, I’m getting better about seeing new ways to reduce my driving altogether.

            • Lennier November 19, 2015, 7:40 pm

              A very late reply to this, but if you want to improve your mileage, consider aero mods. You don’t have to stick a boattail on the car; simply lining the underside with coreflute will reduce the wind resistance and save you a couple of percent. You can also experiment with vortex generators if that’s your thing.

        • Joel July 26, 2014, 7:38 pm


          I know this post is about two years old, but for future lookers, there’s a LOT less difference between 30-40mpg than from 20-30. As an example, fuel cost over 100k miles:

          20mpg: 100,000/20 = 5000gal * 3.75 = $18,750
          30mpg: 100,000/30 = 3333gal * 3.75 = $12,500
          40mpg: 100,000/40 = 2500gal * 3.75 = $9375

          So swapping a 20mpg vehicle for a 30mpg vehicle saves $6250, while swapping something that already gets 30 to 40 only saves $3125 over 100k miles.

          **I’m not saying that you shouldn’t swap** just that the costs of changing vehicles might not be worth chasing better mileage when you’re already doing well on the efficiency curve. As with anything else, run the numbers to see if it’s really worth doing. As others have said, diminishing returns…

    • Chris September 4, 2012, 6:18 pm

      I recommend considering a salvaged Prius. I got my 2007, salvaged Prius, off Craigslist for 9500$ with 69,000 miles on it. It’s an awesome little car in great shape. I put some work back into it(various hatchback parts, gotten from the local salvage yards), and I’m averaging 48.6 mpg.

  • George September 4, 2012, 7:18 am

    Better yet, if your job is 10 miles or less from your home, get a bike and become badass; if have no kids or wife/husband, try going with no car for a month and see if you can do it, take it as a personal challenge. If you do have kids or a wife/husband, start biking to set a good example and sell your car but let them keep theirs for now.

    If your job is more than 10 miles away then get a reliable cheap, fuel-efficient beater car for around 2 grand; make sure it has scratches outside, stains on the seats, and smells like a dirty armpit; this is how you get a good price; bank the rest from selling your truck and invest in a REIT (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/15/become-a-lazy-landlord-with-reits/) to start getting your passive income flowing in or use it to pay down existing debt.

    Driving around in a big truck is for whussy poor people,

    if you want to be serious, get out on your bike and actually see the world, even if there is a big ass hill on your way to work take it as a challenge (not an excuse) and kick its ass each day going to work. Use your bike-riding muscles to get your daily workout during your commute (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/05/muscle-over-motor/). Take the rain storms and snow not as a some lame excuse to drive but as a test that God is checking you to see if you have what it takes to be someone independent. After all its just water. Otherwise just get back into your pansy-ass air conditioned truck and go give all your earnings to the CEO of the truck company to make him richer. He could probably use some more of your money to pay for his golden parachute and stock options.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:23 am

      Wow! It has been a while since I have issued a Most Mustachian Comment Award, but I think this one wins it for today!

      • lurker September 4, 2012, 11:51 am

        I must concur. that is a great post….

      • kris September 4, 2012, 12:53 pm

        I second that.

  • Oskar September 4, 2012, 7:29 am

    Many people plan to pay of their car in 60 months. True mustacheans plan to retire in 60 months….quite a difference;-)

  • lurker September 4, 2012, 7:44 am

    yes!!! where is the bike plugging!!!! financial comparison would be mind-boggling even without the fantastic intangible of improved health from outdoor human-powered commuting…of course this is only for the short commuters among us.

  • Marianna September 4, 2012, 7:49 am

    Don’t forget Zipcar for occasional hauling! They have trucks and vans as well as cars.

    • anonymous September 5, 2012, 9:18 am

      Indeed! I know several people who don’t even bother owning a car at all, and just use Zipcar for the occasional hauling run or other non-bike-friendly trip.

  • Skip September 4, 2012, 8:19 am

    Ok, so. I’m trying to sell our Ford Flex Limited, up for anit-mustachian car of the year 2010. It blue books at $24k. We’ve been getting no interest though. We’ve had a few flakes come and say they love it and then disappear, but other than that not much.

    How big of a hit should we take on this thing? We have it listed at $21,500 and I’m getting nothing.

    • Matt September 4, 2012, 8:33 am

      Try the maths. How old a car do you want to replace it with? And how much are you going to save on gas/depreciation etc?
      If you sell your truck for less, you can make up the difference on buying an even cheaper car.
      I read an article the other day on “disposable” driving. OK, it’s a UK article, but the reasoning still applies. You could buy a really cheap car and not service it, then throw it away after 12 months. Or if you want to be really MMM, sell it for parts when it fails it’s road safety test. You’ll probably recoup the cost of the car in the first place. – notabaddad.com/dad-theory/budget-motoring

      • Skip September 4, 2012, 8:48 am

        I’m actually looking at getting rid of it all together. We are currently a two car family. The Flex and a Pontiac Vibe. I was commuting in the Vibe while my wife and two kids got around in the Flex. I’ve started biking/bussing to work and she has started driving the Vibe. We are looking at going to one car.

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:30 am

          Way to go, Skip!

          Regarding how big a hit to take on that Ford Flex: don’t worry about what you paid for it.. just do your research and make sure you’re selling it for the market price, however low that is. Use http://www.edmunds.com/appraisal to double-check the value results.

          After all, would you go out and BUY a sub-25MPG truck for for, say, $20,000 given what you know now? Or would you rather keep that money and invest it? Therefore, you should sell it!

          Also, be patient with private sales. Use a 3-month period for your selling goal, and refresh/re-post your ad at least once a week. Make sure you make a dedicated website for it with at least 20 high-quality pictures.. not just one quick shot of the thing sitting in your own driveway!

          • Gerard September 5, 2012, 7:00 am

            Yeah, you gotta watch out for that sunken cost fallacy! I pay lots of money for my food, but I don’t hoard my poo.

            • James September 5, 2012, 9:48 am

              Wow! LOL I hadn’t heard that one!

            • Joy September 5, 2012, 2:45 pm

              That is a keeper LOL!

      • Jeff September 10, 2012, 7:21 am

        I love the disposable driving philosophy. I’ve been trying to do that, and the damn cars always end up lasting like 5 years instead of just 1 or 2 simply because I take care of them. Learn how to change brakes, refill fluids, and change your oil, do it regularly, and the cost of owning a car is really very low.

  • RandomReader September 4, 2012, 8:24 am

    This article saved my bacon. I was teetering on the edge of epic stupidity. The family, after taking my car for a night (so I could borrow their truck in exchange!), brought it back convinced it was a death-trap and that I needed to replace it immediately, preferably with something brand-new and shiney. Many long discussions started making me doubt my slowly-building badassity. It’s just a few hundred bucks a month. Totally affordable. Way more comfortable. Better value in the long run. (HA!) Ehhh….oooh, look how shiney and new and…oh hey, new MMM article about cars. Read read read. Oh! Right. Durrrrrh.

    Checklist: Does it still run? Yes. Is it likely to need more work than it would cost to replace with a comparable used beast in the next few months, in the WCS that it outright dies? Highly unlikely. Does it see a lot of use? Not really. (Barely 15k mi in 2 years). Problems that got them concerned? Wobbly brakes (easy fix I can do myself) and it pops itself out of fourth gear if you don’t hold it in. Boo hoo.

    Winner: Current beater car. And since I apparently have $300 extra in the budget every month, time to find someplace to invest it instead. Real winner: Me.

    • Matt September 11, 2012, 2:40 am

      Hi, I had a similar problem with my previous car. Changed the gearbox oil using dealer recommended stuff and it was fine after that. It’s a cheap fix if it works…

  • Matt G September 4, 2012, 8:34 am

    So, I have a 2004 A4 3.0 Quattro that I bought 3 years ago, before I started my path to FI. It’s in great shape, I take care of it, and do most of the repairs myself. I’ve been trying to sell it for 3+ weeks on craigslist, cars.com and the local want ad. I’ve had 1 real person that was interested in it. I started at $9300, and dropped the price to 8300 about 5 days ago. Has anyone tried selling a car at this price point, is there anything else I can be doing to speed up the process. according to KBB its worth 8300 average, I’m planning on dropping the price some more. Should I just stick to the price and hold on, or should I drop it low and get rid of it faster. I drive about 16k miles/year and I’m planning on getting a 2008-9 Prius.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:34 am

      Good luck Matt! On Edmunds.com, I get about $7,000 for that car, depending on mileage and options. http://www.edmunds.com/audi/a4/2004/tmv-appraise-results.html

      Kelley Blue Book seems to overestimate many cars – maybe it’s a tool of the used car dealers, trying to get more for their cars?

      Also, as I noted in an earlier comment, it’s worth being patient with Craigslist, and giving things up to 3 months to sell (while updating your ad weekly). My own vehicles on Craigs have typically sold within a few weeks, but it is great to be mentally prepared for a longer battle.

      • Mr. Everyday Dollar September 4, 2012, 10:34 am

        I too can vouch for TMV and always found KBB to be unrealistic. The last time I sold a car on Craigslist it was pretty annoying. The car I was selling was at a price point – around $4,000 – that attracted both a lot of interest and a lot of flakes.

        I would get emails from people saying they would be over later that day with the cash in hand and they’d never show up.

        I eventually just parked it outside and when people wanted to see it I told them the address to come check it out rather than coordinate with a potential no-show. If they wanted to test drive it after seeing it they could set up a time with me.

        Eventually, a guy looked at it, took it for a test drive and paid me with a fat wad of cash. It was a long process – the bonus was that I got some pretty hilarious emails – but I got the amount of money I wanted for the car because I was willing to wait it out and not sell it to a dealer for $2,000.

      • Matt G September 4, 2012, 5:24 pm

        On Edmunds I get somewhere between $6239(Average) – $7699(Clean). The car has basically all the options. I just want to sell the car for the most I can possibly get for it. I expect to save about $200/month on gas.

        Right now we have 3 cars and a motorcycle, I need to make some major changes to the fleet. We have a 2009 Elantra, 2004 A4, 2001 Astro, 1997 Honda Shadow (motorcycle). I currently use the Astro van to drive to my clients and the A4 when I’m not. I put a combined 16k miles on the Astro 17MPG/A4 22MPG and my wife drives the Elantra 10K/yr 30MPG .

        My plan is to sell the A4, buy a Prius, sell the van, and have my wife drive the Prius when I’m not using it.

      • mike crosby September 4, 2012, 9:07 pm

        Hey MMM. I like your comment about giving Craigslist 3 months.

        I like to sell stuff on CL but I get impatient. For instance, I had a hardly used printer that I eventually dropped down to $25. Even then, I got no takers and ended up giving it away for free via CL. Then it took only 10 minutes to get rid of.

        Any chance you could throw in an article on CL. I love CL, but I just get too impatient.

        • Walt September 8, 2012, 8:55 pm

          I’ve had more trouble with “free” than with “for money” on Craigslist, but either way the site seems to attract flakes.

          My “free” strategy is to put it at the end of the driveway and tell people it’s out there. When I notice it’s gone I take the ad down.

  • PigPennies September 4, 2012, 8:38 am

    I would love to get rid of my husband’s gas guzzling Toyota Tundra, but he genuinely needs a large vehicle for work (construction – regularly hauling in his long bed) and also for play (hauling his toys, which in the summer means a 26′ Glasply fishing boat which he very Mustachianly did two weekends worth of work in trade for, and which keeps us stocked in expensive seafood). When I’ve brought up the idea of a smaller truck, he’s said he needs the tow capacity and of course the 4×4 comes in handy for winter fun, too. Mustachians, any suggestions for more fuel efficiency that would still meet hubby’s needs? Are there fuel efficient heavy duty vehicles out there? Would the MMMminivan actually haul the boat?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:13 am

      Yeah.. pickup trucks are useful for extremely heavy towing (like this thing I saw one of my neighbors pulling with an old fullsize last winter):

      But they’re pretty poor for construction: even a true longbed is only 5×8, with not much depth. You’d be better off with a plumber-style cargo van (10′ cargo area), or a minivan like mine 8ft x 4ft cargo area with 4.5′ ceiling height). The big minivans will tow between 2000-4000 lbs depending on the model and package.

      The main point of this article is that if you need a pickup truck for hauling, you get an old sturdy one and use it for hauling. But you don’t cruise around town with it or use it to commute. My own van’s rule is: if it’s not full of more stuff than the real car can possibly carry, the engine is off.

      • PigPennies September 4, 2012, 9:31 am

        We have talked about getting a less gas guzzling vehicle as an every day driver. Maybe it’s time to talk about this some more. He could probably even trade a couple weekends of work for an older truck for hauling! The only problem there would be storage on our tiny in-city lot. Thanks for the advice!

    • Bakari September 4, 2012, 11:33 am

      I have a 3/4 ton truck (F-250) I use for moving and hauling and transporting tools and materials – plus occasionally the 7500lb RV trailer that I live in. I max out its capacity regularly, so something smaller isn’t an option.

      So what I did is I took the vehicle I already had, and I made it as efficient as it can possibly be.
      30 years old, V8 diesel engine, 5600 lbs empty…
      30mpg overall, including all the loaded trips (up to 38mpg highway, empty)



      That said, the truck never leaves the driveway unless someone is paying me for the miles its about to drive. Personal transport is about 40% bicycle, 35% feet, 15% motorcycle (65mpg), 10% public transit.

      p.s. for MMM “a minivan like mine 8ft x 4ft cargo area with 4.5′ ceiling height” – pick-up truck has no ceiling height. The van is limited to 144cu ft, while a truck bed is limited (in practical terms) to about 320cu ft (in theory, infinite! :P)

      • Portland Man September 4, 2012, 12:09 pm

        That is full blown bad ass. 30mpg out of a 3/4T? My mind is blown.

      • Sean September 4, 2012, 4:53 pm

        You’re my new hero. That is all kinds of awesome.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 7:15 pm

        You’re right Bakari – you won this battle before when I claimed my van was better than a pickup truck, right?

        Then you conceded that in my case, where the cargo area needs to be dry and lockable for carpentry tools, AND a good place to carry up to 7 passengers and function as a sleeping space, then maybe the van was OK.

        Plus, I’ve still got my roof racks, allowing the transport of up to 24′ long pieces of building materials even while the cargo area is full (Honda rates it at 166 cubic feet or so since it is 4′ at the wheel wells but wider everywhere else).


  • Joe @ Retire By 40 September 4, 2012, 8:48 am

    I have a mazda 5 (small minivan) and I get maybe 28 mpg on the highway. It’s paid off and I drive only about 300 miles/month now that I’m not working anymore. I only fill up once a month or so. I guess I could get rid of it completely and join Zipcar, but I like having a car available in the garage. It’s nice to have more space and still get nearly 30mpg.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:41 am

      Hey Joe,

      The Mazda5 is a great choice for larger families, as it’s the only 6-person manual-transmission-available/sporty/moderately efficient vehicle I’m aware of in the US.

      With your level of driving, it might indeed be fine to keep. It depends how much cash it is tying up, how often you use it completely loaded (with more than a standard hatchback could carry), and how much you could use the money to invest elsewhere.

      If you mostly use it to transport yourself, you could downsize it to a small hatchback. If you use it mostly full of huge objects, you could down-cost it to an older minivan and extract $5000 for it for other investments. Or you could go without as a personal challenge, sharing your wife’s car as well as using your bike and bike trailer for local stuff.

      It all depends on how wealthy you are. My own car+van setup is WAY more than I need (we should probably just have the car, plus a covered trailer I tow with that car for construction work). But the current resale value of my van at ~$4000 is so low, it is worth keeping just because of the number of hours of labor it saves me in business use.

      If I sold it, I would not be any more retired, so there is less incentive to squeeze out that final cost.. for now, anyway.

      • Joe @ Retire By 40 September 4, 2012, 2:59 pm

        We only have one car, the Mazda 5. We usually have 3 people in it when we go out. My parents will come stay with us for a while so it will be 5 people. The amount of driving will stay the same though. We usually take public transportation or walk.
        At this point, I’m not incline to sell it, but that may change in the future if we need some cash $$$.

        • JaneMD September 10, 2012, 7:23 am

          We’ll be looking into a used Mazda 5 for the JaneMD for family expansion pack. I know the mini van is coming in the next two years. Is it worthwhile to own one for two-three years and then trade up to the cargo/12 passenger van?

        • Christina June 15, 2014, 9:40 am

          Love our 2008 Mazda5! It has tremendous cargo capacity. I don’t know how many times it’s been full of mulch, other Home Depot things, bicycles, yard waste, etc, etc. Yes, it gets a little dirty, but we’re going to keep it ’til it dies, so we don’t really care. We take road trips with the 2 kids, dog, and cycling gear, and have room for Grandparents (6 people) once we unload. MPG isn’t awesome, but we don’t drive it that much (husband works at home), and it definitely beats SUVs and larger vans.
          I drive a 2003 Honda Accord which, incidentally, is great on snow and ice as long as I’m not driving up a steep mountain pass. I’ve been told snow tires work wonders.

  • Praxis September 4, 2012, 9:42 am

    Gah, I need to think this over.

    According to google, my Subaru gets 19 MPG City and 24 Highway. Thing is, my region gets really badly snowed in in the winter and I’m not sure that I’m okay switching to a Prius. And I’m in that “I own it cash and hesitate to sell” boat.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:46 am

      Remember, as any Mustachian will remind you:

      4 wheel drive has nothing to do with safety! It is only useful for getting up extremely steep mountain driveways in winter. On public roads with less than 6″ of fresh unplowed snow, there is no value at all.

      Only the quality of your SNOW TIRES affects your winter driving ability. Even here in Colorado, I haven’t missed my Subaru for a minute since I sold it about 4 years ago. The Scion does just fine crossing the continental divide at 12,000 feet in the middle of winter.. and at that elevation, winter is the most severe in the continent!

      • Someone September 7, 2012, 1:30 pm

        Do you have two sets of tires for winter and non-winter driving, then? Or just one set of tires that works in all seasons?

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 7, 2012, 2:17 pm

          In my case, I just have all-season tires since the winter where I live is negligible and I don’t find myself driving to the mountains much these days. But for real winter, I’d just have two sets of wheels (they’re cheap on Craigslist), one with gnarly snowtires and one with efficient summer tires. That way I could swap them myself in a few minutes in my garage, as opposed to going to an auto shop.

    • lurker September 4, 2012, 11:25 am

      I drive a Prius and they are the worst in the snow…perhaps because of light weight and narrow tires. Anyway, just a warning. Perhaps there are chains for the Prius but they slide around like mad on the slightest snowfall…..best.

      • Jamesqf September 6, 2012, 12:16 pm

        On the other hand, my Insight does quite well in light snow, as long as it’s not more than about 4-5″ deep. I regularly drive it over 8000 ft passes in the Sierra winters.

      • Jon October 16, 2013, 1:44 pm

        That’s odd, because narrow tires are the best for the snow.

        I am sure your experience is not related to the car or tires, rather selection of tires …

        Google Rally Car Snow Tires and tell me what you see.

    • Barb September 4, 2012, 8:05 pm

      I have the same struggle as Praxis. I have a 2003 Subaru Forester that I bought used and paid cash for. So far so good. It doesn’t get the best gas mileage though and I put about 150 miles a week on it commuting. It has 112,000 miles and is in great shape….I could probably drive it another 70,000 or 80,000 miles. Does it make sense to replace a good reliable car for one with better gas mileage?

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 10:44 pm

        Yes! Those subarus have good resale value so you can find an efficient car at the same price. How many gallons do you burn every ten years, is the question?

  • Dancer September 4, 2012, 9:48 am

    I just have to ask a question — shouldn’t we also be looking at safety when considering a vehicle? I don’t drive an SUV (we have a minivan), but I’d be a little concerned driving some of these super small cars with my kids. Aren’t they like instant death if they get hit by something bigger?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 9:55 am

      Hey Dancer,

      All vehicles are reasonably safe these days.. and much safer than those our parents grew up driving. Also, a mid-size car (Honda Accord, etc.) is statistically just about the safest choice on average, above SUVs and tied with minivans. Much more important than vehicle choice is your driver training, and when and how much you choose to drive.

      If you care about safety, definitely move close enough to work to avoid driving, as the first step!

      See this article for a perspective on safety statistics: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/

      • Emmers September 4, 2012, 7:00 pm

        Crumple zooooooones!

        An *old* (old-old) small car is unsafe, sure, but with modern cars…not so much.

        • Spork September 4, 2012, 7:50 pm

          bah. This will vary from car to car. I drove a 1975 Triumph TR6 into a center guard rail doing 75. It’s really hard to steer with only 3 wheels. Not only did I survive, the car was reparable. That was around 1986. I still have it.

      • afulldeck September 4, 2012, 8:17 pm

        I don’t drive a truck, but I don’t drive a small car either. As a taller, wider individual I find smaller vehicles too uncomfortable to drive. So I drive a Chrysler 300. Gas guzzler — yes. But I cannot see myself being wedged into these cars that are the same size as airplane seats. Yes. I absolutely hate to fly.

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 10:51 pm

          I appreciate your problem, but that line of reasoning won’t get you far with Mr. Money Mustache!
          First of all, a 2003 accord 4 cylinder manual will give you just as much body space. Secondly, unless you’re a Mr. Olympia contender, you don’t solve body problems by buying bigger cars – you adjust your body!

          I’m not an unusually small man myself at over 6′, but you can easily fit five of me in the Scion Xa, one of the smallest cars available in the US.

    • Diana September 5, 2012, 9:27 am


      I’ve been lurking for a while, what a great site you have here! Just wanted to address this fear of accidents. Just over 2 months ago, I was involved in a pretty bad accident. 5 cars in 2 lanes, all stopped at a red light. None of us saw it coming, but behind us was a sleeping driver in a very large pickup truck, doing roughly 40-45 MPH. The driver broadsided the passenger side of my Prius, and proceeded to drive in between both rows of cars, hitting each of us before spinning out in the intersection and landing on the sidewalk, facing oncoming traffic.

      When the cops came onto the scene, they fully expected at least one fatality. 5 of the 6 vehicles involved were towed from the scene, and at least 3 of those vehicles were totalled. My 06 Prius, an 06 Toyota Minivan, and the 04 Pickup truck that did all the damage (and didn’t have enough insurance to cover it, grr!)

      Is there a way to upload some pics onto this site? The pictures speak volumes. While some of us are now dealing w/back/neck injuries as a result of the accident, everyone of us walked away from the scene (we went to the ER later on our own). My little Prius sustained major damage, but I left the scene w/a bump and some cuts from the shattered glass. The minivan had all the passenger side doors peeled off, and there were 2 adults and 3 kids in that vehicle! The poor little kids were freaked out and crying, but they all walked away.

      Long story short, I’m living proof that driving a smaller vehicle does not equate to driving a death trap, even when you are hit at high speed by a big truck. The injuries I sustained, I believe anyone would have sustained, regarless of the vehicle they are in.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2012, 10:28 am

        That’s a neat story, and the MMM reader (and recent guest poster) Mr. Frugal Toque has a similar one to tell about his now-totaled Pontiac Vibe. But you also hear occasional opposing viewpoints from people like firefighters and paramedics who swear by the larger vehicles.

        My point in this blog is that we should all ignore the anecdotal stories like these – both positive and negative. Safety is best assessed in a statistical sense rather than an anecdotal one, so if you want to understand safety, you study the NHTSA traffic stats. And you drive the smallest number of miles possible, and take other steps like advanced driver training. I tried to address these ideas in this article: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/

        • Jamesqf September 5, 2012, 12:14 pm

          In fact, the data shows that some larger vehicles – big pickups and SUVs that are body-on-frame construction – are the most unsafe. See the paper “The Effects of Vehicle Model and Driver Behavior on Risk”, by Wenzel & Ross. (Of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)

  • Noel September 4, 2012, 10:09 am

    So, in our family we have a single car: a 1995 Honda Accord. It’s an amazing car, now 17 years old and still runs like a champ. I don’t even know how many miles it has on it anymore because the odometer stopped working a couple of years ago, but if I had to guess it’s probably higher than 270,000. We don’t drive it a lot since I bike commute to work. However, the fuel economy on it isn’t very good by modern standards, especially for such a small car. I’m guessing ~25 mpg in town (very rough guess since it’s hard to measure with the odometer broken) and probably similar on the highway because on longer trips we use the roof box and drive over high mountains.

    I’m not going to lie, we’ve toyed with the idea of getting a “new” car (ie. one made this millenium) in a wagon type shape that has more cargo space. It would also be nice to have nice features like power locks that work on all the doors and the ability to switch from air conditioning to heating the cabin without stopping the car, turning off the engine, waiting for it to cool down and then reaching in and manually switching the valve to the heater core.

    However, the plan has been to just drive our old faithful car until it no longer meets our needs, but now I’m reconsidering. Any thoughts?

  • Tyler Karaszewski September 4, 2012, 10:23 am

    I find myself in sort of an oddly opposite situation. I am a brand new Mustachian, having just discovered this site (and read nearly every single article) in the last few weeks. I had read about “early retirement” and “financial independence” before, but I had never really understood the appeal, as it always just sounded like people wanted to sit around on their decks, not working. This site has really changed my whole outlook.

    But just before I found this site I leased a 2012 Chevy Volt. This is actually a bit of a special situation – my employer subsidizes the lease, so that the amount I’m actually paying is only the income tax on the full payment (the payment is $237/mo for 24 months. I get reimbursed $250/month, but that amount gets taxed as income). For now, I have no choice but to keep the car (the lease doesn’t end until the summer of 2014). But when the lease ends, then what? I’ll be able to buy the car (for something like $28k), but there’s no way I’ll be able to trade up to a more fuel-efficient used car. This one is already getting 85mpg, and that number may realistically double when we get electric car charging stations installed at work.

    I drive a lot (which I’m going to try and address one way or another, I may ask a question on the forums about that), but right now I’m saving at least $225/month just on gasoline, and that’s after switching from driving a 2007 VW GTI , which got decent gas mileage (just over 30) to begin with. I also still have the VW. It’s sitting in my driveway (anyone want to buy it)?

    Also, the Volt qualifies for stickers that let me drive it in the HOV lanes here in CA, which saves me about half-an-hour each day I commute to work, which is worth something.

    • da55id September 4, 2012, 12:03 pm

      Well, I just leased a Volt for the simple reason that it makes me cash money net net as well as being a terrific car in its own right. After 900 miles of travel, we have used 0.35 gallons of gas so far – 1/3rd of a gallon! Of course our family’s usage pattern is right in the sweet spot of the car’s electric range. We are able to save $130 per month via gasoline avoidance – even after each/every/all costs are accounted for. We got this volt during the recent Ally leasing incentives, as well as a GM card rebate, and the car was a dealer demo w/2012 (ironic eh?) miles on it. Before you tell me I shoulda just used a bicycle, just know that I already telecommute full time on TWO jobs, and the wife benefits from having the car.

    • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

      You could think of the extra money you’d pay to buy the Volt as a charitable contribution of sorts.

      • Tyler Karaszewski September 4, 2012, 2:58 pm

        I sort of do view it that way — I’m spending extra money to help fund the development of technology that could literally help to save the world. If you say it like that it’s easy to justify, but I don’t know if that’s just a rationalization on my part.

    • anonymous September 5, 2012, 9:25 am

      If driving in the HOV lanes saves you 30 minutes in your commute, you had 30 minutes to save, which means you have *way* too long a commute. Move closer to work for a much larger savings.

  • Squirestache September 4, 2012, 10:30 am

    What a timely post. I just went through this wrestling match with Mrs. Squirestache. We final gave up our “paid off” Mercedes E350 last week which we paid cash for (60% off MSRP) in 2008. It was tough, but we realized the cost in gas (19 MPG average), insurance and service would be $37,500 over the next 5 years. We traded it in for a used Ford Fusion Hybrid (39 MPG blended) which will save us over $9,000 over the next 5 years. That includes the cash out of pocket ($12,800) plus all expenses. After the 5 years, it will save us over $4,000 annually over the Mercedes. Once I run this car into the ground, I’m hoping I can go to an electric car. My dream is to power it and my house off of solar.

    • KiwiMM September 4, 2012, 6:39 pm

      I have looked into the whole solar panels running a solar car and the numbers do not stack up.

      The main problem is that if you have to be away from your house during the day, then you can’t get the benefit of the solar power you are generating. When you return home and charge overnight, you’re not using your solar power. You can sell to the gri by day and buy back at night but that doesn’t make you self-sufficient. Environmentally speaking, it is better to use the power genersated at source (and preferably as direct current) to avoid the the conversion and transmission losses.

      Wind or micro-hydro would be the way to go.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 7:09 pm

        Good points, KiwiMM, but I think you might be underestimating the value of selling power to the grid during the day. That’s when the peak demand is in most countries, so your power is most valuable at that time – it results in direct peak reduction, which results in the need for fewer power plants. Then by charging at night, you are increasing the demand in slow times, further smoothing the curve out for the power company.

        Sure, there are transmission and conversion losses, but you may even be helping out there – if you add to a local grid, you are boosting voltage right in your own neighborhood, meaning transmission distances would be very short and losses would be low. In response, a power station 20 miles away will automatically generate just a teeny bit less that has to be sent over the long lines.

      • Doug September 18, 2012, 12:19 pm

        Try putting some of those flexible film type solar cells on the roof or hood if they aren’t forbiddingly expensive. Oh sure, it won’t provide anywhere near the car’s total energy requirements, but every little bit helps!

      • Venturing September 24, 2012, 12:57 am

        I would be interested in how you have determined that the numbers don’t stack up. Assuming that you’re in NZ it makes perfect sense to sell into the grid during the day and buy back at night. Last time I checked Meridian Energy had the best pricing for this arrangement as they will net off your kWh so you only pay for your net import (most retailers will buy at a lower rate than what they sell as their sale price includes lines charges).

        Given that the majority of NZ’s load profile above base load is satisfied by bydro generation you are simply using the lakes as your flexible storage system, precisely what they’re good at. NZ’s load profile is awkward in that most parts of the country peak in demand on winter evenings rather than the summer afternoons that apply in many countries. Therefore, you’re unlikely to be generating into the highest demand periods. However, what you do generate is likely to be offset by reduced hydro generation. Given that our hydro stations essentially never meet peak output this means that this water is then available to meet peak demand i.e. you’re still contributing to the pool of renewable energy.

        Depending where in the country you are you may be able to get a lower $/kWh rate for energy used to charge an electric car. As such you could sell into the grid at your standard rate and actually buy back at a lower rate. Offsetting your energy usage and making a profit in the process.

  • OWHL September 4, 2012, 11:23 am

    What about taking into consideration o the reliability of the paid off car and the potential cost of the new car repairs. So i have a reliable car that is paid of and gets 26 mpg. A honda insight used may get 40mpg but is it reliable? How much will the repairs cost? Will hybrid repair costs be more than traditional cars? Could be a pitfall trap waiting to happen

    • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 12:59 pm

      In my experience, having owned one (a 2000 model) since ’03 or ’04, the Insight is as mechanically reliable as any other car – no, make that “as any other Honda”. Other than normal maintenance, I’ve only replaced an EGR valve and an oxygen sensor.

      The hybrid system is also pretty reliable. I did replace the battery in mine a couple of years ago, but I live in the mountains and probably stress it far more than the average driver. It was also perfectly drivable with the old battery, it just had about half the capacity of new, so when I had a chance to score another battery from a wreck ($200, IIRC) I jumped at it.

    • Emmers September 4, 2012, 7:04 pm

      You ask “is it reliable” about Hondas and Toyotas? I know the other car companies have made great strides lately, but…sheesh. (The point about hybrids per se is valid; we only have about 10 years of data on them, which isn’t very much.)

  • Jason September 4, 2012, 11:36 am

    Similar situation here. I bought a 1982 Olds Cutlass in 2006 (senior year of high school) with 48K for $1,700. Being a v6, it gets a whopping 21 or so on the highway.

    Being under tremendous student debt (another reminder of past poor decisions), I could never afford or justify buying any luxuries, let alone another car.

    Happily, I am now within biking distance of campus and all my grad-classes and only touch the car on the rarest of occasions.

  • Bakari September 4, 2012, 11:41 am

    I went shopping for a truck about 7 years ago, when I bought a 32ft RV trailer to live in. Nothing short of a 3/4 ton would be capable of moving it.

    I found a 1983 manual transmission diesel F-250 (diesel so we could run it on biodiesel or vegetable oil) for $2000. We could have paid less for similar trucks, but wanted the stick shift and diesel engine.

    I had no intention of ever using the truck for work – I was in school, working part-time as a cashier, and planning to become a park ranger when I graduated.
    For that first year, the truck probably left the driveway about 2 times. (I had a motorcycle, several bikes, but no car).

    When the park ranger job fell through, I ended up getting some hauling work with the truck – it was supposed to be a way to make a little side cash while I looked for another “real job”; of course today Bio-Diesel Hauling is an independently-certified green-business and my primary source of income! So the truck gets driven all the time – but – it still never leaves the driveway unless someone is paying me for those miles.

  • Art September 4, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I think a lot of readers of this website are in a similar situation as me – they have a paid off older car which gets decent but not great gas mileage and would love to get a more efficient vehicle but don’t know if it makes financial sense. Readers like this read this article and say “of course it makes sense to get rid of a 14 mpg truck”, but it gets more difficult to figure out as the mpg of your current vehicle increases and the amount of miles driven per year decreases.

    For example, I drive a 2004 BMW 330i 6 speed which averages around 25mpg in combined city/highway driving (30 mpg highway is relatively easy). It has 112,000 miles and is worth maybe around 10-11K. I put about 7,000 miles on it per year with another 5,000 miles on the 50mpg motorcycle. The car has been reliable and I can do 90% of all the work on it myself, so it almost never goes to the dealer/shop.

    Getting a used Prius and doubling mpg has definitely occurred to me on multiple occasions, but it would be nice to see if it makes sense financially. Anyone pondered this before and cares to share?

    • Dave September 4, 2012, 12:51 pm

      Ok, think of it like this:

      Prius is for city driving – needs the regenerative braking else it’s just a petrol car hauling a large battery pack.

      Diesel for long distance as it is more efficient. In the UK they (we? I’m a British ex-pat here in Canada) sell 1.2 litre diesel cars. However it is generally more expensive to maintain.

      In the middle is petrol – cheaper to maintain, less mass in the engine means it can be lighter all round. Good for a mix of motorway and city.

      Learning to use the vehicle less, and drive with a light foot, will probably be more beneficial than a vehicle swap unless your circumstances are extreme.

      Also – car sharing. I did this for a year with a co-worker, and while we both had cars and simply did one week in his car, one week in mine, it still cuts wear and petrol in half.

      • Dave September 4, 2012, 1:01 pm

        (I’m talking about cars here. For trucks.. the mind boggles. IMHO they should all be diesel if they are a work tool, the engine size to get a significant amount of torque with a petrol engine is just… But I guess that is what really really really cheap fuel does to you! Else I’m just a biased Brit)

      • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 1:06 pm

        Nope. Regenerative braking is a secondary benefit of the hybrid system. The main benefit is that it allows the gas engine to be smaller and run closer to its most efficient BSFC point. Conventional cars haul around a much bigger engine than they need for cruising, just so they can accelerate (which takes much more power). That engine is running inefficiently most of the time.

        Just for example, in city driving with the Insight I might get around 50 mpg or so, while in cruising on a level road at 65 mph I’ll average about 75 mpg, and can get up around 90 mpg on a smooth road with a bit of a tailwind.

        • Dave September 4, 2012, 1:25 pm

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov shows a Prius as having better city mpg than highway.

          It shows the Insight the other way round so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

          Looks like the Insight is roughly the same size as a Fiat Punto – 90mpg is amazing, it’s simply madness that you can’t get a car that does that any more.

          I take that back – a Ford Ka diesel is supposed to get 69mpg combined (UK mpg, so about 57 US). So – pretty good.

          • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 10:46 pm

            I’ve no personal experience with the Prius, so can’t say for sure why it gets better city mpg on the government tests. Could be the testing methodology, could be the fact that the Prius can be driven on electric only for a few low-speed miles. (As ultimately inefficient as this is for a non-plug-in hybrid, it might skew test results.)

            The Prius hybrid system is a lot different from the one Honda uses, and IMHO inferior to Honda’s IMA, but then I have a bias towards keeping things simple.

            • ShawnL September 5, 2012, 6:02 am

              It’s actually not that complicated. At highway speeds, wind resistance lowers efficiency. If you never needed to stop, every car would get better mpg in the city. But on conventional cars the loss of energy through braking dominates any savings through lower wind resistance.

              The fact that the Prius gets better city mileage is not a defect, rather it’s evidence of just how efficient the regenerative braking system is.

            • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2012, 10:32 am

              And in fact, even my non-hybrid Scion xA gets better mileage in my own city (admittedly not as dense as NYC), than it does on the highway. It’s because of the low wind resistance felt at 30MPH, the very light weight of the car, efficient use of a manual transmission, and the hypermiler-style driving where you coast down to a red light well in advance rather than braking to a stop.

            • Jamesqf September 5, 2012, 12:29 pm

              If this was in fact the case, the Insight, which has just as efficient a regenerative braking system (and more so on mine, as I’ve installed an aftermarket control system) would also get better mpg in city driving, which is emphatically not the case.

              I think you’re confusing city driving with low speed driving. Nor are the low speeds necessarily more efficient. Sure, you save on wind resistance, but an IC engine is not equally efficient at all loads and RPMs. (It’s that BSFC – Brake Specific Fuel Consumption – thing again.) With the Insight, it’s very much not true, since at certain combinations of load & RPMs, it shifts to a “lean burn” mode, where the air/fuel ratio is about 22:1 instead of the normal 14.7:1. That range happens to be where you cruise on a level road at 55-65 mph or so. It’s very apparent on the onboard instant mpg display – on level or slight downhill, I can be cruising at 90-100 mpg, while an almost imperceptable upgrade drops me under 70.

      • Emmers September 4, 2012, 7:08 pm

        Anecdote, but: we get way better highway mileage (~52 MPG) with our Prius than we do city mileage (~45 MPG). I don’t believe we’re the only ones either.

        +1 to the light foot on the gas, though. That’s a good way to save gas/money.

      • Chris September 5, 2012, 7:30 pm

        The reason the Prius is rated for better mileage in cities vs highway driving is due to the fact that the engine literally shuts down at stops and uses the Hybrid battery both here and to accelerate and cruise at slow speeds (approximately less than 25 mph or so). This is all highly dependent on your driving style as well.

        I do most of my commuting on highways and still average 48.6 mpg in my Prius. Just as hypermiling pays off in standard engines, driving slightly conservatively pays off in the Prius as well on the highway.

    • Jimmy Gibbon September 4, 2012, 1:17 pm

      Yes, Art, I agree with your observation. I currently drive a 2002 Chrysler Sebring for work. I drive approximately 1000 miles per week and my car gets 27mpg. It has been paid off for years. I am in outside sales and I get reimbursed approximately 1300 per month from my company. My company pays a flat mileage rate (no matter how much or little you drive) of 800.00 per month. They also pay .31 cents per mile for any miles over 100 miles driven per day. I would certainly like to have a more fuel efficent car, but since this car is paid off, I don’t want to spend any money for a work vehicle. I hope to just keep this one until it stops running :)


      • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 1:35 pm

        Jimmy! You’re a perfect candidate for this article!

        If you get reimbursed by the mile, your goal is still the lowest possible driving cost so you can keep as much of the reimbursement for yourself.

        The only time you don’t care about fuel efficiency is if you use a company gas card (and you live on a planet other than the one I occupy where we have a shortage of natural resources).

        Since you drive 52,000 miles per year, going from 27MPG to 37MPG would save you TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR!!

        That is definitely worth upgrading your car for. You’re the ideal customer for a used Insight or Prius. It will make you much wealthier.

        • Art September 4, 2012, 2:55 pm

          Yep, Jimmy’s situation is clear cut as well and he should get a more fuel efficient car… Any advice for the rest of us with 25 mpg avg cars and under 10K miles driven per year?

    • tbird3077 April 3, 2014, 1:36 pm

      We also have two “paid-off” cars that get OK mpg’s. We have a 2003 Acura CL with 192k on it, drives like day one. I’d like to drive it to 250k. It gets 19/27 on 91 octane. The other is a 2004 Mazda3 hatch and its wonderful but gets 26mpg on average with 87 octane. I work very close to home but the neighborhoods I would have to bike through are not very safe. I typically take the Mazda and my husband drives 12 miles on the freeway so he takes the Acura. I feel like we are stuck with what we have.

  • Dave September 4, 2012, 12:31 pm

    In Ontario at least one has to pay 13% tax on the purchase of a vehicle, even used. From this thread I’m guessing that’s not true in the ‘States, else swapping would be that much less attractive.

    We have an ’04 Civic which has good fuel efficiency (though not as good as the Fiat Panda I had in the UK!), but is a bit tight for my wife’s art equipment that she uses to make a living.

    I would love to trade the Civic in for a Vibe for the much more useful cargo space, but alas the 13% (plus the dents in the Civic) mean we are pretty much stuck with it ’til it dies.

    And being a Honda, I hear that. It. Will. Never. Die.

    Which is in many ways a very good thing, especially as I also lust after a Mustang :)

  • Nathan September 4, 2012, 12:32 pm

    Great breakdown and I’m feeling guilty about our 4Runner so your persuasive arguments are working. I only have excuses of which you’ve handled just about all of them. I think where I struggle is the idea of having 2 cars again so that we could commute with one of them and haul with the other. We’d probably be best off cutting out some luxurious driving which mostly consists of backpacking in summer and snowboarding in winter with the occasional family road trip to Texas/Louisiana. Our commuting and errands are minimal, I bike or bus and the wife takes a scooter 3.5 miles for most of the year which is only a 3 day a week commute as a nurse. We can walk, bike, scoot to most activities most of the year, but when laziness sets in we hop in the 4Runner and the miles can add up. Selling the 4Runner for just a commuter wouldn’t work right now with 2 big dogs and the wife isn’t going to allow me to do the economic thing with them at this point as she’s pretty attached. Got a baby on the way so that puts a dent in the dogs in the back seat idea. Thanks for the post, definitely got me thinking.

    • 205guy September 4, 2012, 9:44 pm

      You don’t need a truck or SUV to go to the mountains–that’s just what the ads want you to think. I had an old civic hatchback that went just about everywhere and got its best mileage (45) on long road trips to the mountains (stick-shift for the win). It was low, but I could still take most dirt roads. With chains and skill, I could drive on snow just fine.

      However, driving to the mountains in anything is another debate. Should city dwellers drive 4+ hours each way just to spend a weekend in the mountains? In the SF Bay Area, there are closer alternatives, but nothing like the High Sierra. That’s a whole lifestyle and trade-off question. Colorado is better off in that respect, if you like the mountains–for others it’s the ocean.

  • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 1:19 pm

    I’d add one thing to the list of things to consider: the ability to get where you want to go. Now if you’re a (sub)urbanite, this may not matter much. For us more rural folks, who may find ourselves driving up the sides of mountains on very rough dirt roads, the van as hauling vehicle doesn’t cut it. (It’s also not very handy for loading firewood or hay bales.)

    I think my own choice is pretty close to optimum. The Insight for all paved-road (or good dirt), non-hauling driving, and a ’88 Toyota 4WD pickup for everything else. The Insight was bought used for $8500 IIRC, which works out to about $1000/year. (So far, I may be keeping it another 10 years.) The pickup was $2800 4 years ago (but I sold the older ’84 for $1100 because I was tired of trying to tune the carb to pass smog) so under $700/year.

  • Uncephalized September 4, 2012, 1:27 pm

    We bought a 10-year old Tacoma V6, a few months before we started learning about FI and such here. Luckily that’s the “stay at home” vehicle that my wife uses only for occasional errands, and my commuter car is a reasonably-efficient ’98 Civic. We’ve put less than 5k mi on the truck in the last year so it’s not costing us much.

    We’ve even farmed it out to acquaintances a couple of times for weekend hauling, and gotten paid for it! So it’s been pretty low-cost for us, but we don’t use it like most people would.

  • ketchup September 4, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I drive what I consider to be the perfect commuter car. 1988 Chevy Sprint. Tiny little thing. Gets me 52-53MPG on average, 57MPG if I don’t use gas diluted with ethanol, and 48MPG if learning how to drive standard. Bought it this April for a thousand bucks with only 46k on the clock. Up to 53k now and has pretty much already paid for itself. So far I’m down to about 35 cents a mile (I keep an obsessive nerdy spreadsheet), including the entire cost of the car and insurance, maintenance, etc. Will only go down (per mile) as I continue to drive. Car should last me at least several more years.

    And for when my girlfriend and I needed a larger vehicle to store all our stuff for our big roadtrip to the east coast in July, we borrowed my friend’s 2009 Kia Spectra5 hatchback. Roughly 32-38MPG and feels as big as a bus next my little Sprint, carrying the two of us, two dogs, and all sorts of silly things like clothes and food for about 3000 miles.

    Small car for road trips, tiny car for commuting. Works for me.

    • Margaret June 24, 2013, 11:43 am

      Hey Ketchup, curious about your name here. We have a friend whom we used to call Ketchup probably until we were in our late twenties..I’m 38 now. He used to eat Ketchup with like EVERYTHING! LOL. Thus the nickname! ;)

  • Spork September 4, 2012, 2:42 pm

    “If you don’t get excited by numbers like $1600 and $2300 per year, I need you to take a break from reading, print out a picture of me, and use it to punch yourself in the face while looking into the mirror so you can watch the grave disciplinary scene unfold.”

    This one sentence is, quite possibly, the most awesome thing you have ever printed.

    I’ve been struggling with exactly this issue for way too long — driving a guzzler to work that’s on the other freaking side of town. I keep toying with the idea of getting a rollerskate car to commute in and crushing (figuratively) the guzzler. Maybe this will give me the oomph to go over the edge.

    I already have my “extra hauler”. It’s a POS pickup from 1981 that I traded for a large pizza. Ugly? Yes. Moves crap once a month from point A to point B? Yes.

    • jf September 5, 2012, 7:54 am

      Amen…I smiled for half an hour after reading that sentence. The mental image of printing out a portrait of MMM, holding this portrait arms length away while punching myself in the face and looking in the mirror is priceless.

  • Red September 4, 2012, 2:55 pm

    I’d love some input on my particular situation. I own a 2007 Subaru Impreza Outback Sports Wagon AWD with automatic transmission. I bought it in cash for $15,000 last year. It was a great deal as both NADA and KBB estimated that it was valued at $18,000. It had only 17,000 miles on it then, and 1.5 years later it has 22,000 miles on it. So you can say that my average yearly usage is only about 3000 miles total. I mostly commute to work via motorcycle or bus and only drive the car for out of town trips or times when I don’t feel like riding the motorcycle. So this is very much a “luxury” vehicle. I had originally decided to get this vehicle because it’s AWD and I thought it would be great for driving into the mountains and doing mild off-roading, neither of which I have done so far. It snows approximately 2 days a year out here in the Pacific Northwest so I don’t particularly need it for that either.)

    The average cost of maintenance is:
    – Insurance ($885/year = $73.75/month)
    – Parking ($1200/year = $100/month) (I have very cheap rent, so the parking charge is something I can live with.)
    – Maintenance (I’ve only spent about $25 on it so far for an oil change and fluids top-up, which I did myself. Since it has such low miles, I don’t anticipate any major maintenance.)
    – Tabs/registration: ($130.75/year)
    – Fuel (So far this year it has been $666.44. If I extrapolate to the rest of the year it will likely be $1000/year)
    Total cost of ownership so far (did I miss anything?) appears to be $3215/year

    I had three one-off costs when I bought it and these are the ones that make me want to hold on to it:
    $1500 state taxed from when I bought it
    $2000 deductible for two separate “incidents” (one of which was not my fault, the other one was)

    Depreciation hasn’t been huge since Subarus are very popular cars out here.

    Here are the pro/cons I can think of if I sold this car and bought a cheaper one.

    First, things that won’t change:
    – The parking, registration, insurance and fuel would likely remain the same or very close. if it is an older car.

    – Less money is tied up in an expensive car that doesn’t get driven a whole lot
    – New car might be something I enjoy driving (I don’t really like the way this Subaru’s suspension feels and the tires are very noisy so long drives are not very pleasant.)
    – New car might have better mpg. This one gets only aout 25mph on freeway tops.

    – Maintenance might go up if I got an older car
    – Hassle of figuring out what my new car should be and spending time in finding one
    – Taxes/registration fees on new car

    If I didn’t have the one-off $3500 sunk into it, I think my decision might be a lot easier. I don’t know if any recouped opportunity costs or savings on owning a cheaper car will be worth that $3500. (In my eyes, everything else seems like it would be a wash)

    I should add that I have lived for a long time without any car and while I was mostly okay, it really sucked to feel like I was “stuck” in town for most of the winter. Zip cars were not cost effective for going events that would involve hanging on to the car all night or for weekend trips. Rental cars were not great because it “seemed” expensive to pay $200+ for a weekend trip. Neither were flexible and good for spontaneous trips. Buses were very difficult to take for anything that wasn’t just around town. Having a car is a luxury that I’m willing to pay for to have this flexibility. I’m just not sure how much car I need and whether it makes financial sense to hold on to this one or just get rid of it and buy a cheaper one. So – please do not recommend that I not own a car at all. That is an option I have considered, tried out for many years, and vetoed. I just need thoughts on whether I should just hold on to this car or get a cheaper $5000 one.)

    I’d love some advice on what would be the financially sound thing to do here. Thanks in advance!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 4, 2012, 3:41 pm

      Hey Red, great self-analysis!

      You’d very likely benefit by selling that Subaru. I think you’re an ideal customer for a combination of zipcars for rare local stuff, and car rentals (or paying your friends who drive) for vacations. Shop around and you’ll find you can often rent a car for a full week for under $200 with all fees included – unlimited mileage! Even for car owners, this ends up making a long distance (but short duration) roadtrip cheaper than using your own car because you don’t have to pay for the wear on your own car.

      Work it out on an annual basis, and remember to include at least 5% annual returns on the capital you get back from selling your car. I think you’ll come out way ahead!

      If you later live somewhere with free parking, the equation may change significantly. But for now, that $1200/year on top of everything else is just killing your ‘stash… unless your income is so high that a few thousand per year is a negligible portion of your annual savings.

      • Debbie M September 4, 2012, 11:14 pm

        FYI, as a carless person, I did better renting from places catering to people with their cars in the shop than from places in airports catering to travelers. The latter can’t understand that you are from the same city and that you do not have a car in any city. The former can understand this and will sometimes pick you up and/or drop you off for free.

      • Kay February 17, 2015, 7:30 am

        My husband and I are almost to the one year mark in going carless in Minneapolis. Many things are good about it, and we may stay that way. One thing about renting cars from any source is that you must pay extra (sometimes double ) the cost of the rental rate if you do not own a car whose regular insurance you could fall back on. We must buy collision, which is much cheaper as an upgrade online such as using Hotwire (about $9 or 10), AND liability which is about $12 more per day. We still come out ahead of owning a car for now, but thought this might be helpful for others.

    • Jamesqf September 4, 2012, 11:03 pm

      Only about 25 mpg from the Subaru, and that highway miles? That is pathetic: I get 26-27 mpg from the 4WD Toyota pickup, and when I drive it it is either going on rough dirt roads or hauling stuff (often pretty heavy loads, like pine logs stacked nearly cab high and out the tailgate), sometimes both, as when I go cut firewood.

      Assuming you do plan to get into mountain/rough road travel, I’d suggest trading the Subaru for an older Toyota pickup (or 4Runner, they’re mechanically the same). A late ’80s/early ’90s model (get the 4-cylinder with EFI) shouldn’t cost more than about $3K, and will give you a lot more hauling & travel options.

    • Eric Hansen September 6, 2012, 8:25 pm

      That parking fee is brutal. I bought a car 3 months before I graduated from college, after having a bike and moped for most of those years. Parking spots were $100/mo near campus, so I kept the car a few miles away, for free, and picked it up with the bike or moped when I needed a car. Those 3 months were a pain though. I only needed the car about every 2 weeks.

      I live in Jackson Hole, WY and recently bought a 2001 Outback for $3700. I got the AWD that I needed (yes, MMM, I live on a steep road. It’s actually named “Heck of a Hill Road”. The last time I went through Canada, the Customs guys didn’t believe that was my address). It’s also a wagon and has the RocketBox that I wanted. It’s in great shape and has a lot of life left in it. I get similar mileage as your 2007, which surprised me after I bought it. My ’95 Passat with VR6 engine got better mileage.

      Either way, do you need such a new car if an older one can do everything else you need? Buying a car with 17k miles and only putting on 3k miles a year is asking for a huge depreciation hit, IMHO. Especially with all the other fees you’re paying. Holding fuel constant, parking fees constant, maintenance slightly higher and insurance slightly lower (for an older car), I can’t justify paying that much more for a newer depreciable car versus an older one.

  • Mike Key September 4, 2012, 3:16 pm

    How about converting your giant 1987 GMC Suburban to bio-diesel and then processing your own fuel from used cooking grease. :P

  • Ryan September 4, 2012, 4:25 pm

    I turned in our Hyundai Elantra when the lease expired in July since I could not find a deal I was happy with This left us with one vehicle, my 1949 Mercury pickup truck I’ve slowly been restoring. My wife suggested we try the truck as a grocery getter since we both telecommute. The truck gets 17-20 mpg and we live 10.3 miles from the nearest grocery store. Despite this, we went from spending $600/mo on average for two vehicles to spending $75 total in August including fuel, maintenance and insurance. Though we will surely spend more in future months, this was inspirational to me.

    Everything became instantly cheaper, the payment disappeared, the insurance went down by 2/3rds and there was virtually no maintenance since I drove so few miles. Not having the fixed expenses means that my costs are much more controllable and depend mostly on the actual use of the vehicle, not the ‘ownership’. We’ve decided to challenge ourselves to do this until at least the end of the year and reevaluate then.

    In reference to this post, I think gas mileage is only important if you drive. Walking, bicycling or just plain not going anywhere are much more powerful tools than trading up or down and chasing “efficiency”. I would consider keeping what you have and finding a way to drive a lot less.

  • Sean September 4, 2012, 4:58 pm

    Awesome. I just got a trailer hitch for my beloved Prius, and couldn’t be more psyched about it. I can’t wait to see the looks on the faces my giant pickup driving buddies when I start pulling a trailer with it.

    • Fil September 4, 2012, 8:48 pm

      I installed a hitch on mine for a bike rack which is awesome. In doing research in trailer pulling I get mixed information. Some say it’s fine just be sure it’s light, others say the frame isn’t made for it and you could damage it or the engine. I would love to be able to pull a small one. What kind of trailer are you pulling?

      My prius is a 2010 btw.

  • Ryan September 4, 2012, 5:44 pm

    How odd…yesterday my brother in law listed his 2006 Dodge Durango on Craigslist because he can’t afford the payments. He bought it a month ago for roughly $16,500. He claimed he got a great deal because it booked for $18,500. He explained that the 5.7 hemi dropped 4 cylinders on the highway and gets a combined of 15MPG! I couldn’t hold in my laughter, I pointed to my 1998 Saturn SL and said 40MPG. He then asked if I would drive a hemi if I could, implying that I couldn’t afford it. The jokes on him because while I could buy it in cash, I couldn’t sleep at night knowing all the money I’m throwing away. Unfortunately even though he’s trying to sell the beast he is looking for a pickup truck instead. I guess some people never learn from their mistakes. To make it even more sad all the similar Craigslist ads show a price closer to $12,000…he will lose his ass on this one.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque September 4, 2012, 7:25 pm

      Isn’t it weird when, despite being punched directly in the face by the combined brass knuckles of physics and economics, people still don’t realize that they’re doing something dumb?
      Does karma have to come over and put a steel-toed boot to his ‘nads too?

  • Fil September 4, 2012, 8:50 pm

    I looked up a 2000 Honda Insight picture. I will stick with my Prius, thanks. ;-)

  • MrsKensington September 4, 2012, 9:09 pm

    I have a 1998 Honda CR-V with 100,000 miles on it. Paid for. Not great mileage. But I take my kid to school and then myself to the train station on a 2006 Yamaha 125 motor scooter. Car moved us cross country and gets us to Grandma’s 90 miles away about once a month. Winter snow or big rain it will replace scooter for the day. But scooter = bonus of free parking at station ($5/day or $1000/year) plus she gets to carry her pink fullface helmet to class and be the cool new kid. It also saves time to scoot, due to clusterful line of parental cars at school and dealing with train parking lot hell, which is a HUGE factor for me.
    Thanks to all who contributed. Lots of valuable info.

  • mike crosby September 4, 2012, 9:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking of putting my truck (Toyota 2007) on the market. My business is winding down (appliance, AC and heating repair) and I use my motorcycle now for all my calls. Living in SoCal, I’m going to wait and see how I do come winter.

    I’d really like to sell it. Not only for the money, but the truck just sits in the garage and takes up precious space. If I lived in another part of the country, I could purchase a rental property and get a monthly dividend check for life.

  • FixItOrSellAsIs September 5, 2012, 12:08 am

    I have a 2003 Audi A6 3.0 that I know I should sell.
    It needs new brakes and probably new rotors as well.
    This will be ~$1,500
    I have had zero luck with any non-dealer even touching the car. (The car will not stop with after market “just as good” brakes. I made that mistake before.)

    Should I:
    Fix it then sell it?
    Fix it, drive it for 5k miles, then sell it?
    Sell it as-is?

    (Fixing it myself is not an option.)

    • Matt G September 5, 2012, 1:41 pm

      I’ve owned a few Audi’s and done most of the work myself.

      OEM Pads/Rotors = $170 shipped to your house.

      Labor = 2 hours(it doesn’t really take that long) @ $100/hr(you should be able to beat this) = $200

      Dealer tax = ~$1500 – ($170+$200) = $1,130

      I think it’s worth your time to shop around a little bit. I’ve never had a problem with parts from blauparts.

      • Geek September 5, 2012, 3:35 pm

        Combined, in software jobs, we save about 60% of our after-tax income… we have 1 car and 1 motorcycle (and1 bicycle but that’s going up to 2 once DH learns to ride a bit more), and the car is not super efficient.

        Guilt level: 3/10 on the car.

        Just make sure you consciously choose your ‘stupid’. As another PF author says, you can have ANYTHING but you can’t have EVERYTHING.

        I’d save much more money than I could save on gas, if we could just stop flying to the east coast to visit relatives. I’ve won the holiday battle, now to work on summer.

    • Walt September 8, 2012, 9:46 pm

      If an Audi can’t deal with aftermarket parts then the places you’ve been dealing with are selling you crap.

      I owned two muffler shops for years. There’s a LOT of variety in aftermarket parts quality. Pads from someone like Bendix will be perfectly fine on your Audi.

      Explain to the shop that you know this, you will pay for the quality parts, and you want them. If they aren’t willing to work with you like this, find a more reasonable place. Hint: If their parts come from AutoZone, you’re at the wrong place.

      Or get the OE Audi pads online at a discount and get someone to install them if you’re not up to DIY.

  • FreeUrChains September 5, 2012, 8:09 am

    In Tokyo, their Semi trucks are the size of F150 Trucks here in America.

    Learn a whole new way of minimalism, eating healthy and lite, and about overemployment by visiting Japan.

  • FreeUrChains September 5, 2012, 8:27 am

    If you must take a Vacation Expense, try using 70 MPG commuter cars or preferably Public transportation.(non taxi), and extend the trip experience by enjoying the location frugally and happily.

  • madage September 5, 2012, 10:35 am

    The timing of this article? Impeccable.

    Just the night before, my wife and I decided to keep our 2011 Highlander (18 mos, $7500 @ 1.9% left on note) after kicking around the idea for something smaller. Yesterday, thanks at least in part to this article, we turned that decision around and are now shopping for a 2009 Honda Fit. The change should net us about $3,000 cash and about $1,500 per year in fuel and insurance savings. The Highlander is definitely a luxury vehicle that doesn’t fit our priorities.

    Thanks, MMM!

  • dave in red bank September 5, 2012, 5:30 pm

    35mpg seems optimistic in city driving. Even in the Corolla and Fit I’m familiar with. Also, hw in the world do you insure a car for so little (your minivan)?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2012, 5:53 pm

      Hi Dave,

      It all depends on your driving style (and the city you drive in, of course.. if it’s so dense that you’re constantly at stoplights, you should be riding a bike instead!). I get 44MPG city in my (manual transmission) Scion xA, a mechanical twin to the Toyota Yaris.

      For the van insurance, I just called up my existing company (Geico) and asked for a quote. The low insurance rate is one of the main factors that convinced me to go ahead with the purchase. That is one of the reasons I recommend the Geico company to others through the sidebar ad on this blog.

      Note that insurance is cheap in Colorado, and spectacularly expensive in Ontario these days – so results may differ. This tilts the balance towards owning fewer, older cars in Ontario and foregoing collision insurance. Car-free life also becomes much more desirable and I’d probably do it if I still lived in Ottawa!

      • dave in red bank September 7, 2012, 3:26 am

        I think its probably one more way insurance in NJ is terrible. I had a similar situation and had to abandon the third useful but far less practical, completely paid off vehicle.

    • Jamesqf September 5, 2012, 10:37 pm

      If you don’t have a loan on a car, you don’t need to purchase collision & comprehensive insurance (which pays for any damage to your car), only liability (which pays for damage you do to others). Liability only is typically much cheaper, and if you tend to drive older cars that you can replace with a paycheck or two, there’s not much point to carrying C&C.

  • Tradies wife September 6, 2012, 1:25 am

    MMM is SO right and SO wrong all at the same time. Firstly this blog post assumes that all of us are office dwellers, who have been sucked in to buying a large ‘truck’. Very far from reality in our situation.

    When we purchased a F-250 it was for very good reasons. There was no other vehicle that could do what this truck can do. My husband is a tractor mechanic. Often he is called out to break downs. Unlike the breakdowns of other vehicles, tractor breakdowns more often than not occur in the back paddock in a delightful mixture of cow dung and mud. The country is hilly, not flat. He needs to carry a compressor in the back. He would love a crane on the back too. He needs to carry a computer, and software to fix tractors as well as manuals. Spare parts for tractors need to be on board as well, and oil and coolant and waste oil drums. Basically his truck is his workshop (for now at least, while we gather some cash). It needs to be four wheel drive, just for saftey alone. It needs to be able to cart kids safely in the back too, and do the occasional Kinder run. Basically we looked at a whole range of options, and this truck one was the only one that meet those needs.

    In Australia these vehicles are fairly rare, and those that have them tend to hold on to them. To get a new one is almost impossible, because you need to find someone who imports them, and you are looking at $125,000. Second hand and with around 10years on them they are around the $50K mark. Now here is the thing. The F-truck is a service vehicle. It costs us in repayments $825 a month, so $9900 a year. We have financed it, because we get a tax break for the business. For a small workshop, we would be looking at $20,000 a year plus rates, insurance, water, electricity, signage ect, ect. At the end of the day, we need a ‘truck’ to make an income, not just for recreation.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t entirely agree with the post. I think that it is a bit silly if someone buys a massive car just for the sake of having a massive car. It would be absolutely ridiculous for me to have a 7-seater massive, expensive car. I couldn’t justify that for just taking the kids to Kinder and Playgroup, Library’s, shopping and getting around town. We do need a car as school is 11.5km away, but other than that… not really. Our new cargo bike is getting a great work out.

    You know, despite owing a monster of a ‘car’ we really do try to keep our car costs to a minimum. We are still living a fairly frugal life.

    So I wonder what does MMM thinks of our situation…

    • Trader Rob September 6, 2012, 7:39 am

      In defense of MMM it is, at times, standard fare to buy the biggest baddest meanest truck you can find and then drive 2K to the store to buy a quart of milk. The simple fact is cars and trucks are massive in the states due to the size of the country and gas is (or was) dirt cheap. So in that regard cultural differences do play a roll.

      • tradieswife September 6, 2012, 6:40 pm

        I don’t understand why you would have to have massive cars and trucks just because the country is seen to be large. Australia is not a small country either, and DH works up to 115km away to fix tractors.

        I’ll give you an Aussie prospective on why someone would require a large pick up truck just to get around town in. The thought process goes something like;

        1. The people driving them must be really fat and not able to sit in a regular car comfortably. Americans are often depicted over here for being large people.
        2. Maybe they need it to kill a deer or two. I’m sure it would be easier to wash out the blood from the back of a pick up truck.
        3. Maybe they actually like not being able to park at shopping centers, because if American parking spaces are anything like over here they are based on a small car (like a Mazda 121!)
        4. Maybe a combination of 1,2 and 3….. because surely these things can’t be a status symbol.

        Maybe some real cultural differences there. However, the analogy is probably more akin to people driving the Latest model luxury European SUV. These people often consider themselves above the rest. Culturally (although the people driving them often have rose tinted glasses on) these people are refereed as toffee nosed wankers. I don’t know how that translates to American.

        ‘Gas’ cheap! Really? I wonder why people complain about it so bitterly them. Over here it is around $1.50 a Litre. Not sure about the US.

        Yep, I’d say some cultural differences are there, but all in all we are probably more alike than not.

        I’m really enjoying reading MMM’s posts. But it does occur to me that he writes from a prospective of paid work being clean work such as office jobs and clean trades where you don’t really need to take anything off road, ect. I just got a bee in my bonnet I guess.

        MMM is pleasantly thought provoking though, and makes people reconsider silly decisions. Which is really great thing.

    • Jamesqf September 6, 2012, 12:30 pm

      I’d say your situation is no different than the self-employed semi driver who owns his own tractor and contracts to haul trailers. (Do these US terms translate to Australian?) It’s a work vehicle, but wouldn’t it be a pretty silly thing to use for grocery runs, taking kids to school, or the family’s weekend getaway? Especially if the owner never did any actual hauling with it?

      • tradieswife September 6, 2012, 7:07 pm

        Hey Jamesqf.
        Yep, those terms do translate well. We are self employed.
        But because we are self employed that means that we DO use the car for grocery runs when required, pick up and drop off’s to Kinder, and weekend getaways. This is why;

        1. Grocery runs, if DH has the car out and about and we need something (like fruit for the kids to take to Kinder), often he is able to do this on the way home. This saves us all time, and makes best use of the resource.

        2. Kinder runs. Often Dh is working on a farm close to the Kinder so he takes my daughter out there, or can do the pick up. It would be silly for us to run two cars in the same direction. The F-truck is set up with child restraints in the back to be more family friendly for this reason. It also means that when work is available to me as a teacher (casual), My DH can get jobs done with the kids while I work. My $ from work is guaranteed to arrive in my bank like magic, where as a self employed person needs to charge it out then wait for payment, make phone calls and finally bank the payment. So having the ‘truck’ set up for kids too, means that ultimately we can have some extra cash in our bank.

        3. Weekend getaways! YES, YES and YES we intend to use the truck for these. We have my car, without a tow bar. It’s a relatively small car, fuel efficient and set up for day to day runs between townships. But this means towing capacity is fairly limited. The truck has a tow bar. We have a old pop up Jayco camper. Taking the truck means that we CAN go for holidays as a family and my hubby has to come! A no frills free camping trip to places like Bear Gully Victoria, and National parks that are free. The theory goes that we can even make these trips ‘cheaper’ by doing some tractor service work along the way. Spring has just hit here in Australia and I’m itching for a ‘holiday’. Our holidays aren’t $$$, but simply spent together as a family in the bush near the beach. No shinny glossy holiday brochures here. Before the F-truck we would have to take 2 cars, because a standard Ute isn’t set up for kids. It was much more expensive on fuel that way. If we didn’t camp for weekends away, we wouldn’t get holidays at all.

        So I wonder, if given the above explanations if it would still be considered silly or justified to use the truck for these purposes?

        • Jamesqf September 7, 2012, 11:09 pm

          I think there’s a difference between stopping off for groceries &c on your way to somewhere else, where you will do work with the truck, and – as most American truck owners do – starting from home, driving to the grocery store in the pickup, and driving home.

          (I understand that among the American truck guys, the F-250 is kind of a wussie version of a truck. Real men drive F-350s or F-450s.)

          For the vacations, have you considered a tent? Otherwise, you are again using it as a tow vehicle, doing something you probably couldn’t do with a smaller car. The question really breaks down into two separate parts: 1) Do you need/want to do whatever you’re doing? and 2) Are you doing what you decide to do efficiently?

  • Trader Rob September 6, 2012, 1:47 am

    There was a very good article about women and finance I read a while back and one of the points it made was what family car to buy and how often mothers buy the wrong car. They compared two people haulers, a mini van vs a RAV 4 or equivalent and they ran the numbers over 4 years and the difference was tens of thousands of dollars. Even I was surprised at how much a difference it made. Will email the link if I ever find it again.

    MMM Europe may have it problems but designing a fast comfortable fuel efficient vehicles is not one of them. We just traded our Mazda Premacy (240k on a diesel) in for a Peugeot 308 6 speed diesel and I am stunned at the improvement. Thing runs like a bat out hell yet gets almost 53 mpg (British units) and that was running almost 80 mph with the A/C running INSANE!!

    My old Mazda Premacy got 46 on the highway.

    But in fairness I should add I ran the whole way with cruise and wasn’t aggressive on a hill I would back off a bit for example. That sixth gear makes all the difference in the world

    BTW you idea coast in gear not in neutral really does work, checked it on a few cars and in gear it reads 0/100K or 999MPG

    Getting used to driving that way is taking some getting used to.

  • Mo September 6, 2012, 2:06 am

    I’m in the lucky situation where I don’t have dependents. I made the conscious decision to move closer to work, live with a roommate, and sell my car in order to pay down student debt as fast as possible. Real frugality in action.

    Just like in your analyses, I’m saving a TON of money. My car payment, insurance and gas together cost $650/month. If I were to continue like this, assuming *0%* interest on my savings, I’d save $78,000. Not too shabby!

    (By the way, this blog is fantastic. It’s nice to read a blog from a fellow Ontarian who has also moved to the states).

  • Melanie September 6, 2012, 2:18 am

    Especially after reading your blog for a while now I am really keen to sell my 2002 Mitsubishi Outlander! I just still don’t know how to do it. We live in South Africa and really need two cars to get around. It is not possible to rely on a bike due to distances and safety. I bought the Outlander second hand and cash, but we are paying off my husband’s car as well as our house. For safety reasons we will also soon be paying off a fence. We haven’t got savings and I do realise our debt is an emergency, but I don’t think I will get a proper mustachian car for what I will get for the Outlander without making more debt. Unsure how to proceed … obviously we must try to save elsewhere.

    but thanks for your great and inspiring blog!!


  • Eric Hansen September 6, 2012, 8:47 pm

    I love reading all the comments, especially those outside the US. $125k for a new F-250 in Australia?!?!? That would change buying habits in the US real quick! I do wish many of the vehicles available in Europe were available in the US.

    • Tradies Wife September 7, 2012, 6:09 pm

      Oops I made a estimation of the cost. Really they are more than $125, 000AU here in Australia. DH quickly corrected me, and gave this link to share.

      If you go to View our stock, then click on the links for the Ford F-250’s you will see the prices are a little over $130K.

      Plus on road costs (a percentage of the price of the car, so allow for another $15K)

      Yep, I think that if the US had these kind of prices for your big trucks it would soon change the buying habits quickly. It’s absolutely a ridiculous price in my eyes. But as I’ve said earlier, there isn’t any competition for the same kind of vehicle here in Australia, which is right hand drive. Our 2005 F-250 is equivalent to your 2003 model in the US, and ours was still $50K with 260,000km. But resale value should hold, because there aren’t many importing them.

      It was a major purchase, and debated wildly before we actually took the plunge.

      • Jamesqf September 8, 2012, 11:06 am

        From the link, it doesn’t appear as though that dealer is primarily interested in selling work trucks. It’s pushing luxury vehicles with appearance packages, presumably as US-style daily commuting vehicles for the masculinity-challenged :-)

  • SMC September 9, 2012, 9:33 am

    I’ve been an MMM reader for almost a year and despite all I’ve learned I just recently bought a very un-mustachian vehicle – 2005 Subaru WRX Wagon.

    Reasons I bought it: wagon, manual, AWD, turbo is fun

    Being a wagon its actually quite useful, really the only quality that disqualifies it as a mustachian vehicle is the gas mileage.

    As I don’t drive to work I use it exclusively as a pleasure vehicle – my shuttle to the mountains on my days off. With the hitch-mounted bike rack I installed it’s perfect for mountain-biking, and the AWD + Nokian Snow tires + roof rack will be great for snowboarding trips.

    I know for sure I could have got a smaller cheaper more fuel efficient car that would work just as well with quality tires, but as I don’t use it for regular commuting the extra cost is pretty minimal, and it feels great to own what has been my dream car for many years.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 10, 2012, 5:07 pm

      Wisely considered, SMC! A WRX is actually a reasonable choice in your situation. They are CHEAP on the used market, the turbo is ideal for high-altitude, and you’re not commuting in it.. so the only penalty is the low fuel economy (which is still way better than even the best SUV).

      For other mountain 4wd performance enthusiasts, check out the 2004-2008-range Subaru Forester XT (turbo large tall wagon), and Legacy/Outback turbo versions from around that time period. Both are hardcore offroaders with large capacity, but with 4-cylinder engines, at least they use a finite amount of fuel.

      So, good job :-)

  • hands2work September 10, 2012, 7:32 am

    Darling MMM, while out running errands this weekend (in my paid off 1996 Mazda Protege) I actually went a different way in an effort to find a shorter path between my house and a shopping center that includes a grocery store, craft store and lots of other businesses that we visit from time to time. I found a safe route for my bike and clocked the trip at 2.8 miles. This means that round trip I can now get 5-6 miles of exercise and save money and gas. I already have a backpack and my bf and I are trolling the curb for thrown out bikes (we see perfectly good bikes being thrown out regularly in our neighborhood) so that we can build our own bike trailer to haul larger loads. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Walt September 13, 2012, 5:53 pm

    Want to offer an opinion on our “fleet”? We own both outright, no loans any more.

    My car: 2008 VW GTI 4-Door. I usually get about 25 mpg, drive 10 miles each way to work. Car Max offered $14,000 for it. About 28,000 miles on it. It needs tires, which are probably going to run $800. Could, and probably will, get by with two at about $400.

    Wife’s car: 2007 Camry V6 XLE. Car Max offered $10,500 for it. Wife is staying home with baby right now. Kind of beat up, around 75,000 miles on it.

    Family consists of me, wife, 4-month-old baby and 22-year-old step-son. Thanks to the volume of baby stuff, we rented a minivan to go on vacation last month.

    I drive my nephew to stuff two or three times a week – Cub Scouts, karate class, etc.

    We played around with swapping stuff around to get a beater for me and something bigger for her (minivan?) but the numbers just don’t work.

    What’s the mustachian thing to do?

  • Doug September 18, 2012, 12:28 pm

    It’s interesting to note the mention of using a trailer, a very good idea at that. For many years I hauled around a lot of stuff in a trailer pulled easily by my 1978 Ford Mustang with a 4 cylinder engine.

    By contrast I mentioned the idea of a trailer rather than a truck for periodically hauling stuff around to a guy I worked with and he said: That’s gay! I want a truck. Well, if being sensible and practical is gay, then I guess I’m gay and proud of it. There are reasons why someone like me, who doesn’t have a high income, manages to do just fine and have a good portfolio while others who make far more than me struggle financially.


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