Best mpg car for commuting

Hey folks! A friend of mine just changed jobs and she now will be driving a lot more . . . . 600 miles a week minimum. She will be commuting alone to her job and then driving a bit on the job. She currently drive a Subaru AWD wagon . . . think it’s an Impreza, and it gets lousy mpg, maybe 17-20. Suggestions? I suggested that she trade the Subie (a 2005) for a small econobox, like a new KIA or a Hyundai for the mpg and because she’ll probably trade again in 2-3 years due to the miles she puts on the car. Ideas? Thanks! Rocketman

The mileage seems excessively low for an Impreza or Legacy. They typically will get close to 30 MPG if driven on highway however she may have a WRX wagon which is low 20’s overall. She may want to clock the mileage out with her 600 mile/week drive and see if its worth it to trade.

If her mileage is truly 20MPG I have a feeling an ultra efficient car will only yield in the low 30’s for her given her driving style/habits.

There are a number of small cars on the market now that get very good gas mileage, and are durable and reliable as well. The Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, all with stick shifts, will get much better mileage than the Subaru, and will be less expensive to maintain and repair. I would not recommend the new Smart Car by Mercedes, since it is basically a city car and easy to park, but not good on expressways.

I assume we are talking about highway miles?

Personally, I would go shopping for a used TDI. Even with the high cost of diesel at the moment, it’s hard to argue with 40+ mpg. Maybe the prices on those cars will come down a little if diesel fuel prices scare the current owners. I would plan on keeping a car at least 5 years (150K miles).

Well she certainly can look for a car with better mileage. However when comparing compare 2007 and prior apart from 2008 and later. The testing standards have changed and the 2008 cars will show a more realistic MPG estimate than the older cars that generally were overly optimistic.

However I suggest she may want to work with what she has. Her mileage seems low to me. She likely can do better with the car she has. First step is to make sure it is working as it should. That likely will mean getting all the scheduled maintenance done, like air and fuel filters plugs and wires etc. Have it checked out to make sure there are no mechanical problems. Next and maybe most important is her driving style. Aggressive drivers pay. Driving fast or aggressive will take a big hit on the mileage. Driving at or below the speed limit (don’t drive slower than safe or so slow you are blocking other divers) will make a far larger difference in mileage than many drivers wish to admit. They like faster.

If she got a car that did 40mpg…and drove 800 mi/wk…the cost difference of 20mpg (difference between what she gets now and what her new car will get)…and gas prices at $3.50/gl…the savings would be about $120/mo…Would that cover the difference of car payments??? Doubtfull!!!

I certainly wouldn’t trade “up” from a 2005, I would be looking for something of similar age miles with improved economy. I would also avoid “car payments” if at all possible, even if that meant buying something older/cheaper.

BTW, I believe the savings would be $280/month, but I agree about the car payments.

I agree economics dictate keeping the current car. Make decisions when it has to be scrapped or traded. In the meantime try to maximize mileage by doing what is posted here along with keeping tires properly inflated, less agressive driving, and removing anything from the car that adds unnecessary weight.

Actually that was 140/wk…

800 / (40 - 20) = 20
20 * 3.5 = 140/wk

It’s close…but I still don’t think it’s worth it.

I’ll throw my hat in the same ring. The mileage on the Subaru seems abnormally low. I can maybe see if if she lets it sit idling to warm up and then only does stop and go city driving. If she switches to mostly highway driving, she should be getting at least 25 mpg even if it’s a 6 cyl Subaru. I know there is an appeal to having a new car, but if you run the actual financial calculations, they don’t pay off. If the friend really wants a newer car, take a look at 1 & 2 year old slightly used vehicles. They’ve already taken the biggest depreciation hit and you can usually find them with low miles, less than 20k.

We bought a used 2007 with 10,000 miles on it for about $8,000 less than it would have sold for new. We had no choice in buying a different vehicle because one of the existing vehicles could not support the change in family quantity. Your friend does have a choice.

With more monthly miles driven, she’ll be facing much higher maintenance costs. About an oil change a month plus she’ll need new tires more often. New car on top pf all that? Plus buying new and putting a lot of miles on it means in 2 or 3 years she’ll have a 2-3 year old car with 60k to 90k miles. She’ll take a ding on trade-in value. A 4-6 year old car with 60k - 90k miles takes less of a mileage ding.

Just many things to consider.

The math doesn’t work like that; you can’t just subtract mpg values to determine the difference because it’s not linear:

800 miles/20 mpg = 40 gal. 40 gal x 3.5 = $140/week at 20 mpg

800 miles/40 mpg = 20 gal. 20 gal x 3.5 = $70/week at 40 mpg

$140 - $70 = $70/week savings (about $280/month)

If she is getting 20MPG with a Subaru (city mileage) there is no way no how she will get 40MPG(highway mileage) with an ultra-efficient car with her driving style/habits. She’ll get city mileage only making the difference 10MPG.

I was in a hurry and didn’t write it down correctly.

What I meant to write…

800/40 - 800/20 = 20 gallons

20 * 3.5 = 70.

The difference between a 40mpg car and a 20mpg car is 20 gallons/week (based on 800 mile commute). That equates to $70…I for some reason multiplied 20 * 3.5 and got 140…I didn’t check it.

So we both came to same conclusion…Doesn’t make sense to buy a new car that gets better gas mileage…unless the car is like 10 years old and you plan on buying a new one anyways.

Regardless of the model chosen…that many hours spent driving, ultimately involves a personal choice you can live with instead of someone elses alone. Choose wisely, but choose something you can live with.

“So we both came to same conclusion…Doesn’t make sense to buy a new car that gets better gas mileage…unless the car is like 10 years old and you plan on buying a new one anyways.”

I agree, I would not buy a new(er) car just to increase fuel mileage, the fuel cost is too small a percentage of the total cost of ownership. If I was shopping for a car anyway, I would take mileage into consideration.

Good seats are as important as good mileage! Try an extended test drive before you buy!

I agree, I’d rather have a comfortable car that gets decent mileage as opposed to a car that gets good mileage, but is cramped as all get out. Unfortunately, most new vehicles are uncomfortable to sit in for me. A new Honda S2000 has more legroom in it than the Civic sedan. the most comfortable vehicles I’ve sat in have been trucks/SUVs, the SRT-8 Charger($42k) and the Acura RL($50k). Even some of the Mercedes have felt kinda cramped that I’ve tried.

I do at least that every week and the worst thing you can do for your body is buy a little econo box. Actually a good ole Buick would be comfortable, reasonably cheap to repair with parts available, and will get close to 30 on the highway.

I think that she should wait and see whether the mileage improves with the new commute. She currently gets acceptable city mileage and should improve to 24 to 27 MPG with mostly highway driving. It’s got to be mostly highway at almost 90 miles per day average, including weekends. It won’t cost much extra to see if the Impreza will work for her over the next few months. After things settle down at the new job, she won’t be so distracted and can make a better decision.