Should I Trade In The SUV For A Mini Cooper or Prius?

…And Will I Really Save Money In The Long Run?

I confess that I own a gas guzzling SUV, but let me explain. I had a few valid reasons for buying a Ford Expedition back in 1997:

  1. Because I come from a large Filipino family, we needed a large vehicle for out-of-town trips to visit relatives and to go to Vegas!
  2. I’m a musician who plays drums and keyboards, so I really needed something large to carry all that equipment all over town to gigs.
  3. I admit that I feel safer driving an SUV home from gigs. I’ve had my share of close calls with drunk drivers in the wee hours of the morning!

It Would Be So Cool To Own A Mini Cooper, But…

That said, I’ve been keeping my eye on a Mini Cooper, or Toyota Prius, or some other Hybrid car in order to save money because of the rising costs of fuel. But, it would have to be something that had enough trunk space or could adjust so that I could load my drums (thus my dilemma).

Now, my SUV is paid-off. That is the big advantage, as opposed to having financed a newer vehicle that still has monthly payments, interest rates, higher registration fees, and higher auto insurance premiums because it’s new.

The Gas Guzzler Trade-in Calculator

So, I stumbled upon an online tool called the Gas Guzzler Trade-in Calculator, which basically determines if you actually save money by trading in your gas guzzling SUV for a more fuel-efficient car.

The results were pretty shocking!

Comparison No. 1 – Ford Expedition vs. Toyota Prius

I calculated the potential savings if I traded in my SUV for a Toyota Prius and here’s what the “calculator” came up with:

Price of a brand new 2008 Toyota Prius: $28,176
Trade-in price for a 1997 Ford Expedition: $2,631
Cost of fuel-efficient car minus trade-in: $25,545

MPG – Toyota Prius: 47
MPG – Ford Expedition: 15
Average Miles Driven per Month: 1,500
Price of gas per gallon: $4.25

Gas Savings Per Month: $289.36
Number of Months To Break Even and Begin Saving Money on Gas: 88 (or 7.3 years)

Comparison No. 2 – Ford Expedition vs. Mini Cooper S

The results for the Mini Cooper were even more dismal…

Price of a brand new 2008 Mini Cooper S: $26,050
Trade-in price for a 1997 Ford Expedition: $2,641
Cost of fuel-efficient car minus trade-in: $23,409

MPG – Toyota Prius: 25
MPG – Ford Expedition: 15
Average Miles Driven per Month: 1,500
Price of gas per gallon: $4.25

Gas Savings Per Month: $170.00
Number of Months To Break Even and Begin Saving Money on Gas: 138 (or 11.5 years)

I’d Better Keep The SUV

As the results appear to show, if I bought a Toyota Prius I wouldn’t begin to actually save money on gas until 7.3 years down the road. And, with a Mini Cooper I wouldn’t save until 11.5 years from now.

It would appear that we are saving at the fuel pump, but in reality, we are paying more money for having financed the car and making monthly payments that extend over a long period of time…

In my case, my SUV is paid-for and I don’t average 1,500 miles per month. I only drive my SUV to the gigs and very seldom do I use it for anything else. Well, it would be cool to be able to load my little jazz drumset into a Mini Cooper, but I guess I’m actually saving money already…

…it’s important to calm down, set aside our feelings and look closely at the dollars and cents. This calculator will show that the monthly payment of a new vehicle actually dwarfs even today’s high gas prices. In some cases, people who make a panicked car-buying decision could sacrifice thousands of dollars of value just to save a hundred at the pump. While they might feel better because they are getting more bang for their gas buck, their bank account is being raided by higher payments extended over a longer time period.

Something to definitely think about…

Comments

comments

Carlos Rull

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and Amazon.com.

20 thoughts on “Should I Trade In The SUV For A Mini Cooper or Prius?

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm
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    I personally drive a Maxima that has decent mileage for its size and power. But it fits five at most. When I need a vehicle for larger gigs–family from Japan, buying a significantly large piece of furniture–I rent a car. Of course, you probably have more gigs than I have opportunities to buy sofas. 😛

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 4:34 am
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    I personally drive a Maxima that has decent mileage for its size and power. But it fits five at most. When I need a vehicle for larger gigs–family from Japan, buying a significantly large piece of furniture–I rent a car. Of course, you probably have more gigs than I have opportunities to buy sofas. 😛

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm
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    This argument works if you’re strictly considering cost of fuel. But if you’re thinking of switching for “green” reasons, then you have to factor in emissions and much more.

    BUt in today’s economy, this argument stands true. Not only would the car payment outweigh the fuel savings, but you’re in a position where you don’t even have a car payment. Keep it that way for as long as you can (buy the mini or prius when you absolutely need to). Put that “car payment” in the bank for now (each month), so that you can put a much larger down payment (or even pay in full) when you do have to buy the car. If you can buy the mini in full, then that negates this calculator. Patience and savings.

    In the meantime, to curve the cost of fuel and be “green at the same time, start making adjustments to your driving habits.

    😉

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 7:18 am
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    This argument works if you’re strictly considering cost of fuel. But if you’re thinking of switching for “green” reasons, then you have to factor in emissions and much more.

    BUt in today’s economy, this argument stands true. Not only would the car payment outweigh the fuel savings, but you’re in a position where you don’t even have a car payment. Keep it that way for as long as you can (buy the mini or prius when you absolutely need to). Put that “car payment” in the bank for now (each month), so that you can put a much larger down payment (or even pay in full) when you do have to buy the car. If you can buy the mini in full, then that negates this calculator. Patience and savings.

    In the meantime, to curve the cost of fuel and be “green at the same time, start making adjustments to your driving habits.

    😉

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 3:25 pm
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    Also consider the resale value of the Cooper or Prius, they seem to hold value well. Now the Cooper has the Clubman version, more room for your kit!!

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 7:25 am
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    Also consider the resale value of the Cooper or Prius, they seem to hold value well. Now the Cooper has the Clubman version, more room for your kit!!

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 5:50 pm
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    Hi,

    Tokyo Rose passed this post on to me. If you are “only” doing 18000 miles per year, then the environmental argument for ditching your SUV and buying a new fuel efficient car might not stack up. You do need to take into account the environmental cost of a new Prius (which is quite high).

    From a truly environmental view point, if you do the calculations, it probably makes sense to keep your vehicle AND learn to drive it hyper efficiently (check out http://www.hypermiling.com/ ). This will save you money and also probably deliver the most environmentally sound solution.

    You need to find the right figures but here is an example of the environmental calculation as things stand for you today.

    Environmental cost of building a prius + environmental cost of running a Prius VS Environmental cost of running SUV
    1500+3000 (for PRIUS) VS 3000 (For SUV)

    This calculation does not include peer/social pressure and feel good factors which can trump plain environmental arguments!

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 9:50 am
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    Hi,

    Tokyo Rose passed this post on to me. If you are “only” doing 18000 miles per year, then the environmental argument for ditching your SUV and buying a new fuel efficient car might not stack up. You do need to take into account the environmental cost of a new Prius (which is quite high).

    From a truly environmental view point, if you do the calculations, it probably makes sense to keep your vehicle AND learn to drive it hyper efficiently (check out http://www.hypermiling.com/ ). This will save you money and also probably deliver the most environmentally sound solution.

    You need to find the right figures but here is an example of the environmental calculation as things stand for you today.

    Environmental cost of building a prius + environmental cost of running a Prius VS Environmental cost of running SUV
    1500+3000 (for PRIUS) VS 3000 (For SUV)

    This calculation does not include peer/social pressure and feel good factors which can trump plain environmental arguments!

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 11:20 pm
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    O-man: Maxima, nice ride! :o) We had to rent a mini-van a few times because I don’t really take our SUV out-of-town that much… afraid of it breaking down in the middle of nowhere (it’s 11 years old!) But yeah, I need something that will easily transport musical instruments and such.

    Fishlamp: Thanks for your suggestions. Just recently in the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on my driving habits. Driving slower, trying to consolidate errands into one trip as opposed to several and at a whim. But, yeah. I need to put some money away each month so I can save up for a full-efficient car in the future. It’s nice have a paid-off vehicle but it won’t run forever. But, I’m also not putting too much wear-and-tear on it and not driving it around as much.

    Pat: I was thinking about the Clubman version. I think it could hold my drums and keyboard. Especially now, I just use a smaller jazz kit. As I get older my drums and cymbals and hardware are getting smaller and lighter. ;o)

    Mr. Rose: Thanks for your comments and suggestions. And thanks for the link to hypermiling.com, Something I need to focus on, definitely. Yep, I don’t drive the SUV around much anymore. And 90% of the time I’m using it to go to and from gigs. So, I guess environmentally I’m helping by driving it less. Interesting you mention the “peer/social pressure and feel good factors”. I’m sure it would feel nice to be cruisin’ in a BMW convertible and just driving around in a new car. My SUV is old, old, old… but it’s still running. That’s about it. ;o)

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm
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    O-man: Maxima, nice ride! :o) We had to rent a mini-van a few times because I don’t really take our SUV out-of-town that much… afraid of it breaking down in the middle of nowhere (it’s 11 years old!) But yeah, I need something that will easily transport musical instruments and such.

    Fishlamp: Thanks for your suggestions. Just recently in the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on my driving habits. Driving slower, trying to consolidate errands into one trip as opposed to several and at a whim. But, yeah. I need to put some money away each month so I can save up for a full-efficient car in the future. It’s nice have a paid-off vehicle but it won’t run forever. But, I’m also not putting too much wear-and-tear on it and not driving it around as much.

    Pat: I was thinking about the Clubman version. I think it could hold my drums and keyboard. Especially now, I just use a smaller jazz kit. As I get older my drums and cymbals and hardware are getting smaller and lighter. ;o)

    Mr. Rose: Thanks for your comments and suggestions. And thanks for the link to hypermiling.com, Something I need to focus on, definitely. Yep, I don’t drive the SUV around much anymore. And 90% of the time I’m using it to go to and from gigs. So, I guess environmentally I’m helping by driving it less. Interesting you mention the “peer/social pressure and feel good factors”. I’m sure it would feel nice to be cruisin’ in a BMW convertible and just driving around in a new car. My SUV is old, old, old… but it’s still running. That’s about it. ;o)

  • Saturday July 19, 2008 at 6:11 am
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    Keep in mind that when you do trade in, you are getting a BRAND NEW CAR with ZERO MILEAGE.

    If your Expedition is an old clunker that is developing a lot of costly problems (such as if it needs expensive engine repair to stop oil leaks or if the transmission is slipping), IT MAKES SENSE TO GET A NEW CAR rather than keep throwing money at a problem car.

    Remember that a car is not worth keeping if it will cost more to fix it than its market value.

    If I have a 1997 Expedition that is nicely maintained and is problem free, I’m going to keep driving it.

    But if it’s a problem junker, I’m willing to pay the price for a brand new PROBLEM-FREE car.

  • Friday July 18, 2008 at 10:11 pm
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    Keep in mind that when you do trade in, you are getting a BRAND NEW CAR with ZERO MILEAGE.

    If your Expedition is an old clunker that is developing a lot of costly problems (such as if it needs expensive engine repair to stop oil leaks or if the transmission is slipping), IT MAKES SENSE TO GET A NEW CAR rather than keep throwing money at a problem car.

    Remember that a car is not worth keeping if it will cost more to fix it than its market value.

    If I have a 1997 Expedition that is nicely maintained and is problem free, I’m going to keep driving it.

    But if it’s a problem junker, I’m willing to pay the price for a brand new PROBLEM-FREE car.

  • Monday July 21, 2008 at 8:04 pm
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    The mini-cooper is cute but probably not convenient for your wife and sons–maybe when your boys move out of the house, you can finally own one. 😀 I’ll trade in my Beetle for your cooper.

  • Monday July 21, 2008 at 12:04 pm
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    The mini-cooper is cute but probably not convenient for your wife and sons–maybe when your boys move out of the house, you can finally own one. 😀 I’ll trade in my Beetle for your cooper.

  • Thursday July 24, 2008 at 7:30 pm
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    We have a MINI and SUV (1997 Grand Cherokee.)

    Surprisingly we’ve fit a lot into the MINI as we drive it 90% of the time now. I won’t ditch the SUV until the tires fall off and then worry about something else then — maybe a diesel as those hybrids batteries are extremely expensive to replace.

    In my opinion, having no car payment and low insurance trumps any other reason.

  • Thursday July 24, 2008 at 11:30 am
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    We have a MINI and SUV (1997 Grand Cherokee.)

    Surprisingly we’ve fit a lot into the MINI as we drive it 90% of the time now. I won’t ditch the SUV until the tires fall off and then worry about something else then — maybe a diesel as those hybrids batteries are extremely expensive to replace.

    In my opinion, having no car payment and low insurance trumps any other reason.

  • Monday January 4, 2010 at 7:46 am
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    Cand aveti nevoie de o masina de inchiriat de la oricare din cele doua aeroporturi (Baneasa sau Otopeni) apelati cu incredere la Rentacarfirst ce va pune la dispozitie cele mai bune oferte pentru inchirieri auto baneasa. Rentacarfirst are cel mai diversificat portofoliu de masini cu reviziile la zi si va asteapta sa va bucurati de experienta inchirierii unei masini.

  • Monday January 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm
    Permalink

    Cand aveti nevoie de o masina de inchiriat de la oricare din cele doua aeroporturi (Baneasa sau Otopeni) apelati cu incredere la Rentacarfirst ce va pune la dispozitie cele mai bune oferte pentru inchirieri auto baneasa. Rentacarfirst are cel mai diversificat portofoliu de masini cu reviziile la zi si va asteapta sa va bucurati de experienta inchirierii unei masini.

  • Thursday June 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm
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    Fine information, many thanks to the author. The usefulness and significance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and best of luck!

  • Tuesday August 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm
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    Chevrolet is asking its 3,000 dealers to prepare for the late September launch of the Chevrolet Cruze compact by purchasing competitors’ vehicles for test-drive comparisons.Chevrolet is encouraging dealers to have a Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic on site so prospective 2011 Cruze buyers can immediately measure the car against its segment competitors, said Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet small-car marketing director.

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