Buying a Car for Fuel Economy
I bought my Mazda Protege back in the beginning of 2003 when I was still driving 10 minutes to work. I passed up a Toyota ECHO, because it lacked power options, and I didn't feel like losing that in my new car.
These days, I wish I had just bought the ECHO back then. My Mazda gets has been averaging 29MPG, which isn't bad, but an ECHO would be better for my current 90-mile daily commute, so I occassionally look around for an ECHO to replace my Protege. I'd also like to get a manual transmission for the sake of learning it.
Unfortunately the math just doesn't work out. Even with gas costing $2.70 and my excessive commute, the money saved on gas won't be able to offset the price of even the cheapest used ECHO within a reasonable time. The ECHO will cost me more than my current Mazda for the next 3-4 years.
The gap only widens as well due to my excessive driving. I've resigned to the fact that I'm going to drive the value of my current car into the ground in a relatively short period of time. I already have over 80k miles on the Mazda. That really does make me pause and reconsider if I want to spend $24k on a Prius (or any other slightly valuable car), since I'll just ultimately destroy its value with miles.
It seems I really should consider cars as consumable products. It turns out that the ECHO really would have been the better choice back then, since it started at the same value as the Protege, but it could have been saving me gas money all this time. Spending more on a car is probably not a good idea for me.