Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Traded our Sequoia for a Prius, April fools?

Nope, and I wish I would have constructed an elaborate ruse before the joke was made by one of my friends.  Meet our new refrigerator white 2009 Toyota driving appliance:

Little bit of a shift from our normal stable of V8s and turbocharged inline 4/5/6's but when we started crunching numbers we realized how much of our hard earned greenbacks were going in the gas pump.

There was a time when we were both commuting in premium gas guzzling sports cars, spending upwards of $500/month on fuel costs ($6000/year!) and loving every second of it, mainly because we were doing a terrible job of tracking our spending, but also because WOT runs are like novocaine for the soul.

When our twins came the sports cars had to go away (or at least sit in the garage collecting dust) and after seeing the size of the baby items that started arriving from our registry we had a space freakout and sold our beloved 1990 Volvo wagon (still 270,000mi young) and bought a 2000 Suburban, as I previously mentioned in this post

A few lessons learned here:
  1. A 12 year old Chevy is NEVER a good idea
  2. The best plan of action when possessing a 2000+ v8 Chevy truck/SUV is to put the motor in something old, slap a turbo on it, and scrap the remnants
  3. We had no concept of how much space we actually needed and picked one of the largest vehicles we could find to compensate
  4. We would have been much better off renting a 7 passenger vehicle for the few times we actually needed to carry that many people (Budget and others have incredible coupons/discount codes if you plan ahead and keep an eye out)
Unfortunately, these lessons led to quite a bit of stress over reliability issues and a few thousand dollars of unnecessary fuel cost during a time when we were already stretched.  The Suburban saga ended with a major failure less than a year into ownership that resulted in a loss of about 1/2 of what we paid for it after having to dump the thing on Craigslist. After that we sold our beloved laser red G35 coupe and "downsized" to a 2005 Toyota Sequoia.

We loved the Sequoia and it's 282hp of VVTI Toyota V8 goodness but as our driving increased due to more and more baseball and church events, we started to realize how much the beast was slurping out of our pockets. Even with me biking to work, we were still averaging ~300mi/week which adds up to a crap ton of money at 15mpg with gas prices hovering around $3.30.

Our short term solution was to drive our beater '96 Volvo more, which manages mid 20s in the mpg category with novice hypermiling skills resulting in about a 60% reduction in fuel consumption and shaved ~$100/month off our fuel bill.  Even fully loaded on baseball tournament weekends we were never lacking in cargo space and an adult (or 13yr old manchild) fit nicely in the back seat with one car seat outboard and one in the middle so it was a good test bed to determine how much space we actually needed on a regular basis.  The downside was that while it never left us stranded, the added use started to show (as one would expect when driving a $1200 almost 20yr old car) and I found myself laying in the driveway replacing stuff more often than I wanted to.

After some extensive research and soul searching, we (ok, I) compiled our newfound empirical and theoretical data into a spreadsheet and arrived at the worst solution we could have imagined for our transportation "problem"--a 2nd Gen Prius.  Chalk that up to never saying "I will never...", but the question became how much is unfounded pride really worth??  Not only would the 04-09 Prius save us the most in the fuel category compared to similarly sized and valued vehicles (Nissan Versa, Scion Xa/Xd etc.), but also had plenty of space for us and our usual cargo with options available via potential fun fab projects for special circumstances (trips etc.), something I'll touch on in a future post.

From an investment standpoint, in addition to the trade of our 2005 Sequoia we chipped in $500+ and spent $270 on a pair of compact carseats (on sale of course) to get back some rear seat width (the Mrs and I have reduced our width quite a bit recently but would still not fit in the 13.6" that would be left by our current seats).  If I also add in a couple hundred for a hitch and materials for the external storage solution I'll be putting together our total out of pocket investment sums to about $1k.  Doing some fuzzy math the 1yr ROI works out to 300% just comparing to fuel savings over the Sequoia, 226% if we factor in continuing to drive the Volvo as much as we can.  Even if we bought the Prius outright we'd see a 30% annual ROI which would put us close to paying ourselves back in just over 3yrs, not too bad in my book...

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