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Leaving mechanic for lure of high MPG?

We have a great mechanic, who has helped us keep our 98 Caravan and 93 toyota pickup alive and happy for a long time. We want to replace the Caravan though, and are looking for a family wagon with good gas mileage. Thinking of a Jetta diesel, Prius V or ford C-Max. Problem is, our mechanic isn’t geared up to work on any of these. We don’t want to take a big hit on mileage just to hang on to our trusty mechanic, but it seems too bad. Are these cars just getting too complex for regular neighborhood shops to work on? Will they figure them out in time?

 You have listed several cars that may need tools and test equipment that many neighborhood shops will not have.  

 Have you asked your mechanic?  What did he/she suggest.  

  Other than avoiding any quick oil change place, I suggest you pick your car and then find a shop that can handle your choice.  

  I also will suggest not getting tied into the latest and greatest technology.  Often new technology is not all that great.  

  You are smart to do your research before you buy. 

  I drive a diesel, but I don't recommend it to all drivers.  Often the older, less efficient cars will turn out to be less expensive to own in the long run.

You don’t need to leave your trusted mechanic completely. You will still need work that most competent mechanics can handle. DONOT think under any circumstances that a dealer will necessarily give you the best service for all repairs. Think of car repairs in the same way as healthcare for your car and be prepared to go to a specialist for some repairs. I don’t trust my dealer for some repairs that even they refer out to someone else. That’s the big fallacy in car repair. Dealers are just as (in)competent as the next guy. Yes, a Prius will need only dealer available service at times…but certainly not always. If your present mechanic is that trust worthy, he (she) should be willing to tell when that occurs. Good doctors will refer you to a specialist when needed…expect a trustworthy mechanic to do the same, or be better off without them to begin with.

Has the OP forgotten about the fairly long warranty coverage periods on modern cars?

Any repairs that these cars might need during their first few years will be free repairs that are covered by warranty. Why would you even think of paying your trusty old mechanic to repair a car when it would be repaired free by the dealership? You can continue to use “trusty” for oil changes, tire rotations, and general maintenance, while relying on the dealership for the few repairs that these cars might need while they are still fairly new.

The typical warranty coverage nowadays is 3 yrs/36k miles on EVERYTHING, and 5 yrs/60k miles on the engine, transmission, and other “powertrain” components.

And, once the warranties have expired, hopefully your mechanic will have caught up with technology sufficiently to be able to do repairs on newer vehicles. Since you will not be the only people buying new technology, at some point your old mechanic has to either update himself and his equipment or close his shop.

A ‘normal’ option you might consider is the Mazda CX-5 with the Skyactiv high mpg engine. Nothing unusual, just very efficient, 35 mpg hwy.

I always seek the opinion of the shop tht maintains our vehicles. While gasoline mileage is a concern, I would rather have a vehicle that has a lower mpg that our mechanic can handle rather than depend on a dealer. In the long run, it may be less expensive to have a lower mpg vehicle than to go for the higher mileage with a vehicle that takes special tools to maintain.

Have you seen the price of the new ultra low sulpher diesel fuel lately?
Run some numbers. The “hit” might not be as big as you think. The new fuel standards for diesel have laregly eliminated diesel’s cost advantage.

Personally, I agree with Triedaq. An honest and good mechanic is worth his weight in gold. His honesty and competance can save you a ton of money and a whole lot of gray hair. Buy something that he can’t service and you just might regret having done so.

Fuel mileage is not that important…What counts is total cost per mile to own and operate over the time period you envision…One major repair on a high-tech automobile can wipe out any fuel mileage advantage…

Whatever you buy…
Don’t immediately ignore your local tech, Introduce your new vehicle to them for services not covered by the dealer warranty.
This gives them the chance to familiarize themselves with the up-and-comming and begin to reasearch the needed tools, software, and training that might be needed in advance.

Small indy shops can get all the tools, equipment, training and software they need BUT it’s often such a huge expense that they need to justify that capital outlay over their customer base.
SO- to assist to that end, introduce everyone you know with similar vehicals to visit that same local shop so as to justify their investment.

A small shop often narrows the lineup of automobiles to the makes that are very popular in the area. I found it unprofitable to work on any make that had no dealership in the immediate area and that included VWs. If a dealership had opened here and VWs became a popular model it would have made it profitable to take them on even if special tools and equipment were needed. There was never anything particularly peculiar in the FWD VWs. But when we could beat the book time on Buicks, Fords and Toyotas and stay a week to 10 days behind why add anything new?

After hitting the send button I saw that ken green had posted a more succinct answer.

Have you seen the price of the new ultra low sulpher diesel fuel lately?

Where I filled up this morning (Iriving Oil) diesel price was 1 cent less then the Mid-Grade.

OP - Your mechanic will be able to do all work except on the internals of the engine.

Thanks for all the great comments. I especially appreciate that it’s not an all-or-nothing thing with my mechanic’s ability to service a hybrid or VW diesel. Also, that shops may well pick and choose which cars they want to work on, depending on the cars in the area and the other shops around.
Our mechanic thought that VW’s were fine, just that he didn’t have the codes to do engine work on them. I have read several places about expensive parts and reliability issues with some VW’s, and figure it would simply be a more expensive car to maintain. He is kind of down on Prius, he says that they run into battery replacements and other expensive repairs. I haven’t been able to substantiate that in my own research, but hey, he sees cars all day and I don’t. Neither he nor I knows much about the C-max, but I’m curious about it.
Thanks also for the CX-5 suggestion. I think that one will be our next stop if we decide against the Prius, Jetta and C-Max.
Right now in NW Washington, diesel is running about 20 cents more than regular gas; not too bad of a premium.

“I have read several places about expensive parts and reliability issues with some VW’s, and figure it would simply be a more expensive car to maintain.”

A neighbor of mine just got his 2012 Jetta back from the dealership after 2 weeks+ for replacement of the automatic transmission. The car has only ~3k miles on it, and although the trans repair was completely covered by warranty, he is starting to worry about quality issues with the car.

On a positive note, at least he has improved his vehicle selection process to a great extent, because his previous vehicle was a Range Rover!

Compared to the Range Rover, the VW is super reliable.

To the OP, I’m not sure where you live and your driving patterns. Diesels are good if you drive a lot of highway miles, ie. a long daily commute. Hybrids are great if you do mostly in town driving with a lot of hills to capture energy when you brake. If neither is the case a conventional gas vehicle with good mpg numbers could be your best bet.

It is entirely possible you can get higher mpg’s in a new vehicle and still retain the services of your trusted mechanic. Forget marketing hype and look at where and how you drive to determine if a diesel or hybrid will really be suitable for you.

We live in Northwestern Washington State, in a pretty hilly area. This will be the main family car (for some reason, only the dog and I like driving around in my '93 Toyota pickup). My wife will be the primary driver; I would say that half of her driving is hilly in-town driving and the other half is trips to nearby towns 15-30 miles away. So, I believe we’d see some benefit from a hybrid.

On the other hand, we need the car to be at least basically capable on the highway. We’ll also use the car for family trips, which means occasional highway miles including passes up to 4700 feet or so. We like the throw-it-all-in convenience of our Caravan and the power and reliability of its 3.3 L V-6, but hate the lousy mileage (we average 21-22 mpg). Also, wife is feeling done with driving a vehicle as big as a front porch.

We get some snow and a lot of rain, and briefly considered AWD. We decided against it, as our own experience in upstate NY convinced us that good snow tires were more important than AWD. Wife drove daily through tough winter conditions in a FWD car with good snows, no problem.

VDCdriver, what a nightmare story about the neighbor’s Jetta! As his selection process improves, will he progress Range Rover to VW to Toyota?

It seems the OP is correct and would achieve the benefits of a hybrid. Perhaps more hybrid models will come out in the form of the “old fashioned” station wagon or as called today CrossTours. The new Fusion Hybrid (not yet released, but coming soon) gets great mpg would be very spacious and comfortable if you can live with a conventional 4 door sedan.

To the OP, I'm not sure where you live and your driving patterns. Diesels are good if you drive a lot of highway miles, ie. a long daily commute. Hybrids are great if you do mostly in town driving with a lot of hills to capture energy when you brake.

Diesels would also be better then a hybrid if you had a truck and used it for towing.

It depends upon how many miles you drive. Maybe pencil out the potential gas savings in dollars on the plus side; on the minus side, the extra repair costs expected with one the cars you mention, maybe add in something for the inconvenience of having to find and validate another mechanic, and that you’ll probably have to wait longer for repairs to be completed and parts to be stocked for these newer-tech cars, and then you’ll have a dollars and cents idea where you stand.

Thanks for all the comments and insights! I will check in with my mechanic to see just how much he can do on any of these (once they’re out of warranty), scope out the C-max once it’s in the showrooms locally and go from there