One Car Challenge….fail?

I suppose in my heart, I knew it wasn’t going to last.  But we managed to get from March to nearly November  in 1 car and still maintain most of the vestiges of our suburban lifestyle.  Of that I am proud.  We proved that it can be done.  We discovered what in our hearts we already knew – that to do it took some serious compromise.

After months of angst and frustration regarding the paltry market for cars with serious mpg ratings, I came across the following which lifted the cloak of depression about what a girl should do when reality means a 25 to 30 grand Prius or VW diesel is out of her price range:

  • hybrids get great gas mileage but it takes 113 million BTUs of energy to make a Toyota Prius. Because there are about 113,000 BTUs of energy in a gallon of gasoline, the Prius has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom. Think of it as a carbon debt — one you won’t pay off until the Prius has turned over 46,000 miles or so.There’s an easy way to avoid that debt — buy a used car. The debt has already been paid. But not just any used car will do. [Read the entire article HERE]

So what did we buy?  Well, suburban family life kept trying to steer us to a van but I just couldn’t do it.  Even knowing that buying used was a good option, I just couldn’t stomach buying something that’s rated around town at below 20 mpg. The new Mazda 5 comes in just above that, but again, that’s all very well if you’re willing to dig into your wallet for upwards of 20 grand for a new car.

So I spent weeks doing searches on yahoo cars and Craig’s list, just putting in “wagon, manual transmission.” I can tell you, that’s not a very satisfying search.  Most people don’t want to drive a stick – who knows why. Maybe just so it’s easier to drink the coffee and chat on the phone while driving (at least texting is illegal in our state now).  It came down to: Audi A6, BMW 3/5 series, Dodge Magnum, Ford Taurus, various Mercs, Saab, Subaru, Saab 93/95, VW Passa/Jettat & Volvo elephant wagon.  And realistically, on checking out the search results, most of these weren’t even sticks, they just snuck through somehow.

So how to choose?  MPG is always first on my list, but TealGreen hubby and I are, I confess, actually enthusiastic drivers and have high standards on looks, build quality and driving performance.  So out went Dodge (terrible Consumer Report reviews anyway), Ford Taurus (likewise), Mercs (too expensive and thirsty), Saab (test drove and just didn’t like the feel), Subaru (a little thirsty and feels tinny), Volvo (bad reviews from several friends).  Test drove a couple of ancient Audis.  Nice enough but not blown away and older models don’t get very good Consumer Report reviews.  So back to VW and BMW, our old friends from many years of living in Europe (the last 3 in Germany).  Still like the looks and drive feel of a VW, but feeling burnt by water issues with our totaled one, so feeling tempted by BMW.  But riddled with guilt that that’s all terribly middle class, suburban status symbol.  So keep doing the Craigslist searches and fate intervenes.  The PERFECT car comes up as a hit.  Black 3 series, wagon, sub 100 grand miles, pucker spec (leather, good sound system, yummy lights); good mpg rating (not the 40mpg of the diesel…but that’s out of our price range), and on the market within our budget (goal is sub 10 grand; substantially sub being even better).    So we pluck up our courage and decide to bite the bullet and test drive this baby, prepared for it to be not what it seems.

But it is; so far anyway.  A cream puff of a car, lovingly driven and serviced, looking pretty new even though at 90k and 10 years, it paid off its manufactured carbon debt several years ago.  And the best news: although it’s rated at 20/29, it actually is coming in at about 25 town, 30 highway, both of which are better than my Passat ever was.  So that’s the end of the car story.  A nice, nippy beemer 3 wagon for TealGreen family driving.   And it’s still rated at zero mpg when I’m riding my bike!