Replacing the Civic

After some insurance hokey pokey (the car was totaled, the car wasn’t totaled, the car was totaled for reals), Denisa and I discovered that yes, we were going to have to get a new car. For a researcher like me, this is officially The Worst. Not because I’m scare of some research, but because the research question (“What is the best car for Bryce and Denisa?”) has so many facets. We have to consider price, reviews, reliability, warranty, availability, taste, engine type, and more. There are just so many things to get up to speed on when I haven’t really paid any attention to cars for the last seven years.

There was nothing to be done but to dive in.

First up, I had to get a general idea of how much a car was going to cost. We’ve always bought used before, and so looking at new wasn’t even a question. Except as I looked at used cars, I discovered that they’ve all gotten ridiculously expensive since I bought the Prius 7 years or so ago. Just poking around, looking to see how much a Prius or a Civic would cost showed me that to get one with low mileage, I’d be paying somewhere in the mid $20ks. I had to run a few more searches, just to make sure I hadn’t read that wrong.

I had not.

Yes, we could get an older car with more miles, but I was reluctant to do that, mainly because I like the dependability factor. Having a car we can rely on is important to me, and I’d rather not have to get a new car a few years down the road. I also would rather not be paying for repairs. So I resigned myself to the fact that this car was going to cost more than I wanted it to. I also recognized that I did not have enough cash on hand to be able to afford to pay it all at once. We were going to have to finance.

Next? What kind of car to get. I knew there were a number of rebates for electric cars right now. $7,500 from the federal government, and $2,000 from Maine. So maybe now was the time to get an electric car. The idea of just driving around town for no gas was appealing, and for a while, a Tesla even seemed like it might be in the cards. Once you took $9,500 off the price, then the cost sunk to the upper $20ks. Could that really be possible?

No. It couldn’t. Tesla does this weaselly thing on their site where the price they show you includes not only the $7,500 federal rebate taken off, but also $6,000 more taken off, because you’re going to save that in gas money. So the actual price is much more. Once I figured that out, I realized I wouldn’t be getting a Tesla for under the low $30ks, and so I took it off the list.

But did I want an electric car at all? I did some calculations. If you drive on average 15,000 miles/year, then it’s pretty easy to calculate how much gas is costing you based on mpg. If your car gets 30 mpg, then you will have to feed it 500 gallons to get it to go 15,000 miles. If gas is $3.50, that will cost you $1,750. A Hybrid gets something in the realm of 55mpg, which equates to $955/year. A guesstimate to charge a Tesla from empty to full is about $10, from some poking around online that I did. If a Tesla gets you on average 250 miles per “fill up,” you’ll have to fill up 60 times to get to 15,000 miles. That would be $600. So, still a lot less than gas, but far from free.

Denisa and I do not usually drive 15,000 miles/year. It’s closer to 10,000, judging from our past records. So that means things break down to regular car ($1,173), hybrid ($640) and electric ($400). Though again, electric is a big question mark, especially up here in Maine, where the cold temperatures will tend to lower its range. Viewed through that lens, I tossed out the plan of getting an electric car, since I wasn’t able to find a model I liked at a price I could afford, even with the rebates.

So then it was hybrid vs. normal. I looked at the recent car issue of Consumer Reports, wanting something that would be consistent and reliable. According to that, Toyotas won hands down, which would mean a Corolla or another Prius. I was surprised that Civics had fallen out of favor somewhat, so I researched that some more and discovered that there are now two different engine models for Civics. The 1.5L turbo has more problems than the old reliable 2.0L. With that tidbit of information, I added the Civic to the list.

Looking at reviews in general, the current Civic appeared to be almost universally loved by car sites, getting a 10/10 from some of the big names. The Corolla? More like a 7.5 or so. The Prius got very good reviews as well, but it was going for about $3k-$5k more than the Corolla or the Civic. When I looked at the actual gas mileage of the Civic, for example, it would cost $970/year for us to drive, a savings of around $330/year over the Prius. Assuming the Prius was $4k more, it would take us 12 years of Prius ownership for us to see that money.

I tossed out the idea of having another Prius. (Don’t get me wrong. I love mine, but since it was more expensive, and we’d already be getting a loan to finance this, it just didn’t make sense.)

So. Corolla vs. Civic. We weren’t crazy about the small trunk size, but we discovered that both models come in a hatchback, which bumps the cargo space from around 14 cubic feet to more like 24 cubic feet. The one drawback is they cost more money, though not as much more as a Prius. We liked the idea of having more cargo space, so we set our sights on a hatchback. And after weighing the options, we went with the car that was getting the better reviews. The Civic won.

When I looked at how much it would cost for a used Civic hatchback, it appeared the base model (the LX) went for around $23,000 for a 3 year old car with 30k miles on it. For kicks, I decided to see how much a new Civic hatchback would cost. They start around $25,000.

None of this made any sense compared with all of my previous car buying experience. Black was white, up was down, cats and dogs, living together. Why in the world would I want to get a used car when $2,000 more would get me the same car, new, with a full warranty and 0 miles? Crazier still, car loan rates have gone up. Financing a used car would be around 6-7%. Honda was having a deal through July 8th where it would finance a new car at 3.9%.

Which is a loooooong way of saying Denisa and I went to a Honda dealer yesterday and put money down on a new Civic hatchback. It’ll be here in three weeks. I never would have thought I’d be buying a new car, but I guess this is the new reality I’m living in at the moment. My hope is this is the last car we have to buy, though realistically, I understand that’s likely not the case. Judging how much things have changed since I last bought a car, there’s no need worrying about what things will look like 7 years from now.

Anyway. There you have it. My research and thought process from start to finish. Very glad to have it over and done with. The car has a full warranty for 36k miles/3 years, and a powertrain warranty for 150k miles/10 years. Here’s hoping we never need to use it.

2 thoughts on “Replacing the Civic”

  1. Hi Bryce, We recently when through a similar experience, with one difference being that at our ages we have a better shot at this being our last car. ( How’s that for a positive spin on looming death? Ha! ) We decided on a new Rav4 hybrid all wheel drive with a tow hitch, trading in our used Prius hybrid and an older gas only small truck. This was the first new vehicle either of us ever owned, and since we were rear-ended 3 miles outside the dealership, unbelievably, it quickly took on the less than new look.
    We had similar shocks and concerns, but are happy with our choice and the milage is as good as the older Prius was getting. Remote camping was the main reason we didn’t go smaller or all electric.

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