I own a vehicle that gets 21 miles per gallon, drinks premium, in a state with some of the most expensive pump has in the United States. I had thought to myself, when will it ever be justifiable to jump ship for a new car?

I’ve made at least two posts similar futility, but here’s the one I remember:

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Though gas prices will fluctuate, I can’t account for that so we’ll use today’s prices in my state as a known variable. We’re also going to assume both vehicles are the same to insure.

  • Fictional commute: 60 miles per day
  • Extra/recreational miles per week: 120
  • Therefore total miles per week: 420 (boi)
  • Aaaaaand approximate miles per year: 21,900
  • Premium per gallon (IS): $3.45
  • Regular per gallon (Corolla): $3.09
  • IS mpg: 21
  • Corolla mpg: 35 (optimistic)

Now here’s the number many people don’t consider when they hop to a shiny new commuter: what is the premium on that shift between vehicles? I think today, the difference in value between a new Corolla and a sorted Sportcross is maybe $14,000 dollars — could be larger. That’s a big number to make up with meager fuel savings and hopefully lessened maintenance.

And, even as an added bone in favor of the newness, let’s say it costs $750 dollars more per year to maintain an old IS than a new Corolla (more oil leaks? more expensive tires? other stuff that breaks on an 18-year old car? Stuff like that).

Well, even with all of the above taken into account, it would take 5.79 years to break even (we assume less, as gas prices increase over time — but still!). That comes out 126,888 total miles. So obviously and shorter commute only extends that timeline. When you consider my current commute is actually only 17 miles per day, it would take much, much longer at my current job.

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Now — NOW, now — there are other factors not quite being fully captured:

  • peace of mind with a newer vehicle
  • new features and creature comforts with a newer vehicles
  • warranty, though brief and kind of useless on a Corolla
  • 18 years of less visible wear and tear — though I attempted to account for this with the difference in maintenance costs annually above
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Basically, I’ve just proven that buying a new Corolla is in fact an extravagant luxury.

Thank you.

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