Doing my “Civic” Duty

Those that know me, know that I have not been opposed to “green” ideas, just opposed to paying out the nose for them. Well, the time has come, thanks to Honda, for me to make that next big step. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Toyota Prius like our good friend Fleshy. I am not sure if it is because I don’t like the “cramped” look of the car, or simply that Fleshy, and so many liberals, wear that car as a (tight fitting) badge of good liberalism. The other Toyota Hybrids were nice, but pricey.

My decision, as you could guess, was based on the largely pragmatic issue of $3/gal gasoline. I enjoy my 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe but the fuel efficiency just isn’t there. I looked at the monthly cost of gasoline at 19 mpg, and decided that I could do better.

I decided that I wanted a Honda hybrid. I own a Honda Pilot that we love, and I have a couple friends who have owned Honda hybrids and they love them for all the reasons a person loves a Honda. Reliability. Design. “Feel.” So there I was, I wanted a Honda. In fact, I had arrived at the clear decision to get an Accord hybrid. I liked the style of the car, it was a spacious sedan, and at 38 mpg, it would be half the fuel cost of my existing Santa Fe. On top of all that, I could get it with Navigation and XM Radio built in! So off I went, dutifully to the local Honda dealer, to inquire about the Accord.

I met my new salesman friend Aldo on the lot, and I quickly told him I wanted a hybrid. He commented that it made sense to want 50 mpg rather than 19. 50?! What was he talking about? The best the Accord could get was 38, I thought. He told me the Civic is rated at about 50 mpg, and that he had a used on one the lot that actually had Navigation and XM factory installed! (And I didn’t think you could even GET a Civic with those features!) I was reluctant. After all it is a smaller car. So I test drove a new one, and the used one. Handled nicely. Actually spacious inside. I had recently rented a Dodge Caliber and thought that car was comfortable, and the Civic was even more so. Of course, I appreciate that the engine itself is (apparently) a cleaner burning engine than one would get with a traditional engine getting 50 mpg. I think it has something to do with the 2 sparkplugs for each cylinder, and the use of the electic motor to augment that gas engine when more power is required.

It was a matter of checking the numbers at that point, building spreadsheets, and calling my bank. The numbers were clear. With my high mileage driving patterns and costs of gasoline around $2.75/gallon, the money saved in gasoline cost avoidance would actually pay off 2/3 of the car each month. Not too shabby. The table below shows the cost savings up to 5o mpg, assuming gas prices ranging from $2/gallon up to $3.20 a gallon. I started with the baseline of 18 mpg (my current car) and this table is the difference between the fuel cost at 18 mpg and the lower costs with a higher fuel efficiency. As you can see, at $2.75 a gallon, even if I only get 42 mpg (I am told a solid estimate for city and highway mileage–and the average mpg for the used car I just bought!) there is a cost avoidance of $218.25 month (I based this on a low estimate of 2500 miles driven each month. Yes, a low estimate, given my driving history.)

The numbers were clear. By the next morning I was on the door at the dealer negotiating for my first “certified Used Car” from a dealer. I haven’t driven it much, but so far I enjoy the vehicle. It handles nicely, and has sufficient pep when I need to get up to speed quickly or avoid those crazy drivers who fail to heed the Car Talk brothers’ advice, and end up ‘driving like my brother.’

So there you have it. I am now an environmentally conscious conservative consumer, focused on saving money, while saving the environment one tankful at a time.