Commuting should I use the newer car or the older car?



we have two cars
a 2002 Subaru Outback Sport that get 20-25 MPG with 108k miles
and a 2011 Honda CR-Z that get 35-45 MPG with 40k miles
we plan to drive both cars into the ground
we are looking at a new job with a 40mile commute each way and are wondering if it makes more sense financially to drive the newer car with the better gas mileage for savings at the pump vs the wear it would put on the car or drive the older car where the wear is not an issue but the pump would definitely be more expensive.

it seems pretty straightforward but complicated by the likelihood of my own greed. The newer car is mine and the commute is my spouse’s. Maybe I should just get over myself?


I’d use the new car. Highway miles are the easiest.


traffic does get super congested on the highway in question so calling it highway driving is debatable, it’s quite stop and go. However, that makes a good point. The subaru is a manual and that kind of stop and go congested highway driving is the one place where driving a manual is just miserable.



If I did the math right, 400 miles a week,
25 mpg = 16 gallons
45mpg = 8 gallons
So immediate savings potentially 8x$2.30 $18 per week.
So now you have to think of additional factors. For my wife and family it is nice to have a low mileage well maintained car for trips and gatherings, so instead of toasting the good car with an additional 20k per year, vs $20 per week, a real toss up. I would probably drive my car the newer one figuring in 5 years it will have 140k and still be useable, and in 5 years the 02 outback will probably be need to be upgraded.


I’m with @texases on this, especially after you described the heavy highway traffic. Hybrids get excellent mileage in traffic. The EPA estimates are 38 highway and 34 city. It doesn’t drop much. I drive 54 miles each day one way in a 2005 Honda Accord EX V6. I get about 30 mpg when I travel early to get low traffic in at least one direction. I have 183,000 miles and the car runs quite well. I want a new car, but mostly because it will need a new timing belt at 210,000 miles, and I’m not interested in putting $1000-$1500 into it at that point.

Anyway, you will get great mileage and it will be easy on the car. I’d go with the CR-Z. Get over your bad self if Mrs gleestuff wants to drive the Honda. If that’s 40 miles one way, it is a grueling commute, especially in heavy traffic. If she is willing to do that, give here the choice.


Whoa, disagree wear is not an issue. It certainly is an issue. The higher miles and long commute will conspire to make this car less and less reliable. The miles won’t matter much to its value but it will add to the maintenance costs.

That said, it makes more sense to drive the CR-Z for the lower fuel costs as @Barkydog lays out very clearly. Save that $18 tires and oil and such.


I’ve done both with a 100 mile commute. If you drive the newer car, you will have lots of miles on it in no time so I would drive the older one and rack the miles up on that. Then you still have a good low mileage car at home. To me the mileage is not a significant factor. The last commuting car I had got junked at 530,000. You don’t want two cars with high mileage. So I’d drive the older one into the ground. When I drove a new car, in a couple years I had over 100,000 miles on it which I think was a mistake. I like to have a good low mileage car at home but I’m retired now so could care less.


Actually I am Mrs Gleestuff. :slight_smile:
And the math that Barkydog put forth at about 20,000 miles per year makes me more inclined to agree with Bing

Yes both cars could conceivably live to 300,000 miles but at 150,000 repairs start to get pricey and debatable.Plus the cr-z would definitely need a new hybrid battery by that point which is a planned expense. But while my husband claims that he wants to drive the subaru into the ground we are already saving money to replace it with something less 2002 so replacing that in the next five years or so is already expected. If he drives the newer car then we would be looking at possibly replacing two cars in five years which is at least an additional 14-20 grand

of course if his new job is fantastic we would likely just move closer


Simply put the person with the longest commute should drive the vehicle that meets their needs. Don’t worry about the miles because any vehicle can just plain fail before it’s time or give really good service.

Side note: For a couple of years I drove our Corvette convertible every chance I had because after a frustrating day at work I just felt better on the way home.


I have always used the older car for high mile single driver commutes. This one being a manual and the wife having to drive it might change things though. My wife does not want anything to do with gears.

My reasoning is that your 2002 is already depreciated most of its value anyway. It is probably gonna have to go in the next 2-5 yrs. The more miles you put on it the more use you have got out of your money.

I am also in the camp of keeping our better car for family trips/events. It is one thing to be late to work once because of a car problem, something else if you end up missing your cousin’s wedding.


I am curious about the “motivated by greed” so your spouse saving money is of no advantage to you? Sounds lik a recipe for financial disaster to me.


Been there, done that.

My wife commuted 40 miles (one way) to the west and I commuted 40 miles (one way) to the south every day for years and years.

We each drove older cars that got 25-30 mpg. We left newer cars at home and used them for less abusive driving on family outings so they wouldn’t max out on miles so fast.

I agree with Bing.

Pile miles on the one that has already depreciated, appreciably! Save a good one.


It’s the greed of keeping my nice newer car in nice newer shape. Yes it does get better gas mileage and it is an CVT while his is a manual and manuals are terrible to drive in gridlock it has a better stereo and hands free phone. So those are all worth considering.
However 80 miles/day 20k/year is not negligible wear. In three years the 2011 would have the same mileage as the 2002. (if i get the job i’m hoping for tomorrow i’ll be able to ride my bike to work so we would only be using the subaru for ski trips and bad weather) It would greatly speed up the timeline for replacing the newer car so instead of upgrading one car in the next 5 or so years it could be two cars for an addition $14k or more.


As we are already planning ahead for the eventual replacement of the 2002 subaru the wear on it is not an issue we would be getting our money’s worth out of it and driving it into the ground. Then the CR-Z would still be good for another decade at a minimum. Where putting 20k miles on the cr-z/year would have it matching the mileage of the Subaru within 4 years if not 3.


@ 108 K miles the Subaru is at that mileage when all the little things start to go frequently . . . Alternator , starter , water pump . . . I would rather she be driving the newer car for the commute for her safety if nothing else, You don’t want her to be stranded on the side of the highway. Not saying it WILL happen just the chances are slightly higher.


I don’t agree with this, but I drive GM cars, not Subarus. I usually run them for 200,000 or 300,000 miles or more. I don’t know Subarus. We have never had a car strand anybody.

But, if that’s what one worries about (“all the little things start to go frequently”) then just change those little things now and they won’t “go” at an inopportune time! Hey, they’re going to go anyhow, right?
Voila! Problem solved.


I used to drive GM cars too ( my dad built them ) I’ve been driving Jeeps for the last 15 years, got 300K out of one of them and 2 of them are 15 years old with well over 200K now. What cost me $1,000.00 dollars to fix on a Subaru Forester cost me $200.00 on a Jeep Grand Cherokee. and all it was … Exhaust cat back.
you must have had good luck with your cars but most cars I’ve ever owned this stuff starts to go around 100K miles to 130K miles. And replacing a bunch of parts that aren’t gone especially on a Subaru would be quite expensive


If I were in your shoes, I would drive both vehicles on a regular basis, swapping back and forth. Letting either one sit means your maintenance on one of them might be based on time intervals rather than mileage (if too few miles are put on the car). Letting either one sit undriven will increase your total maintenance costs per mile for both vehicles. This is one reason I try to balance out use of my three vehicles.

If the price of gas goes above $3/gallon, it’s time to do new math, because fuel cost might then trump maintenance cost. With gas as cheap as it is, maintenance cost per mile trumps fuel cost.


You know the old saying “Happy wife, happy life”, or as Tom once asked a male caller “which is more important, to be right or to be happy?” Let her pick.


All good debates, but since you already own both, and plan to drive both into the ground, at the end of it all you will have driven both to the maximum of their miles. So wear and tear is moot, right? Given the commute you describe that hybrid Honda will do way better than the Subie due to its hybrid regen abilities. I’d go with that and save the Subie for errands, adventure, and snow days. The stick shift really answers the debate though. If you want to go from loving a stick to hating it, commute with it.