Due to the current craziness in the used car market, Javi has some serious equity in his SUV. He wants something smaller and more fuel-efficient for his 40-50 mile commute. However, he still needs it to be spacious for his stuff. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario -
I currently have an SUV, the use of which I vastly overestimated (I know, I know...), and I am looking to sell it and downsize to something smaller to save on gas. I drive about 40-50 miles daily for work, so the gas is KILLING me, and need something that can still haul stuff since I am a comic book artist/writer on the side and need to be able to transport my chest o’ stuff for various comic book conventions and shows (assuming we ever get back to that?) as well as hopefully haul baby stuff in the near future (fingers crossed!).
Key priorities are space, and fuel economy. I spend a lot of time driving, so I would hopefully like something that isn’t too boring to drive around freeways and such. Something reliable would be great too, since I don’t really have money to be throwing at frequent repairs and stuff.
Budget: up to $18,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Los Angeles
Wants: Fuel economy, space, reliability
Doesn’t want: A gas hog
Javi if you want to minimize the fuel costs you probably want to consider some form of hybrid, EV, or plug-in. In order to fit all your stuff some kind of hatchback or wagon body style would be best. Although, combining those two at the $18,000 price point is tricky in this market.
The best car for your situation seems to be the Kia Niro. It’s a spacious hatchback that can get up to 51 MPG on the highway and while it’s not a hot hatchback it’s reasonably fun to drive. I feel like the Niro is a car that I consistently recommend to people because it’s such a good car. There was a time when you could score a nice Niro easily for around $18,000, those days are gone. Within 200 miles of Los Angeles, I found only two Niros for sale and I had to spread the net out to 500 miles to locate a car with reasonable miles.
I’m in the L.A. area as well and as a former commuter, I know what you’re going through—I used to commute from the inland valley to Culver City. That’s 81 miles one way. You need something that’s going to be comfortable to sit in while in traffic and good on gas.
I’d suggest the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. It’s a hatch, so it’s versatile if you need to carry things. While not as roomy as some other cars, I think getting nearly 59 mpg on the highway can make up for that. They can be found pretty cheap with lowish miles, like this example in Orange County for just $19,000.
We’ve already covered two great options for maximum fuel efficiency Javi, so I’m going to switch things up a bit and raise the Kia Soul here. It isn’t a hybrid and, at 33 MPG highway, it doesn’t compare favorably to the Niro in terms of savings at the pump. But it sure as hell is quirkier, and its boxy proportions make it useful for hauling stuff around. Especially like, big plastic Sterilite containers full of things. I imagine those are useful for comics as well as baby stuff!
The Soul is just a solid all-around compact not-quite-car, not-quite-crossover-type thing with lots of interior space and a techy interior. We’re finally getting to the point where the latest-gen version, which released for the 2020 model year, is falling within the top end of your price range. I found loads of examples around LA on AutoTrader. The only problem is that many of these happen to be S base models, though there are some LXs in there as well. I also came across a new 2022 Soul that’s priced a little out of your budget, at $18,970. It’s not a guaranteed price, because dealers tend to post these including incentives that customers may or may not qualify for, but you might be able to negotiate down to it regardless.
Javi, time to unshackle yourself from the chains of dead dinosaur juice! It’s time to get your ass to and from work with the same stuff that powers your belt sander and personal massagers: electrons! Streams of electrons, flowing at the speed of light! And you can pump those electrons into a genuinely interesting car, a BMW i3.
The BMW i3 was a really innovative design, looking like nothing else on the road, a novel rear-motor/rear-drive little space-pod with a fantastic interior filled with interesting materials and a surprising amount of room.
I’m thinking you could get one like this one in Chatsworth that’s within your price range with $410 to spare: a 2014 BMW i3 with a range extender.
The i3's MPG equivalent is almost 140 MPGe, double that 60 MPG shitbox up there, and should be enough to go about 150 miles per charge, well within your daily to-and-from commute limits, with a bit of play for safety and detours in between.
Plus, this one has a range extender, so when you’re hauling all your comics to a convention, you can refill at regular gas stations to make it to that conventional hall full of horny cosplayers, even if you likely will be stopping pretty often if you do that, thanks to the i3's oddly small 2-gallon tank.
Still, you’ll get there, and while long trips aren’t necessarily where the i3 will shine, the complete lack of any money spent on gas for your daily commute should feel pretty good.
The interiors of these are pretty roomy, and with seats folded down you should be able to carry all your crates of comics, and there’s plenty of kid room in there, too, should you be so lucky. It even has a little trunk up front for a little bit of extra storage, too.
The i3 is not boring, it’s a clever combination of unusual materials, design, and construction methods, and I feel like a lot of thought went into it as a transportation machine. I bet it’d serve you well.
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