I don't spend much time thinking about stuff I want to buy, but after living in California for fifteen years I do think about my ride. Whenever I see a Toyota Matrix I fantasize about owning one. My neighbor and former professor, a glamorous Arab-American poet (hi Elmaz!) bought a bright gold Toyota Matrix this summer and does she look hot in it!
Honda Fit, those little Nissans (what are they called?), Honda Civic hatchbacks - I covet a small, fuel efficient car with a little hatchback. I imagine myself driving the kids around in one and feeling smug about saving gas. Why don't I lust after a Prius in this manner? Because they're too popular among people like me and I'm contrary. I was eying a Ford Focus mini-station-wagon the other day, almost asked the owner how she liked it, but decided that was too weird. My friend Alison says the Vibe is also a very good car in this category.
The New York Times has just busted my fantasy, thank you very much:
Our current cars are not gas guzzlers - a '98 Honda Accord and a '90 Toyota Camry - if you know my address and search it in Google Maps Street View, you'll see both of them in the driveway.
When I plugged my '90 Camry into the trade-in calculator, prospecting for a 2006 Matrix (not even new!) I discovered that it would take me 17,000+ months to recoup the expense. That's with gas @ $4.50 a gallon. This planet doesn't have 17,000 months of petroleum left in the ground so I guess I can't justify buying even a used Matrix.
I tried a car with better mileage - a Fit I think - and still it would take me decades to recover the cost. Part of the equation is that we hardly drive our Camry. We just don't drive much - hubby works at home, I sit around a lot these days, kids go to school nearby, and I refuse to drive all over the state for shopping.
So, figuring that a used Fit would have cost me about $12K (probably more in this hot market for small cars) I calculate that by NOT trading in my Camry I have just saved all that money.
Now we need to tune up both cars and check their tires for maximum MPG.
P.S. - with this post I inaugurate the Lazy Environmentalist category. Food for another post maybe, even though Susan Straight already wrote an essay like this in the L.A. Times.