Sustainable Car Buying, Part 2

The part where I talk about the car I bought.

In part one of this series I outlined the parameters for selecting a car sustainably. Today we're going to look at what I ended up with, using those parameters.

There are a lot of resources available to do your research that can take into account what you are looking for; some you pay for, some are free.

I always like free. AutoTrader.com. EBay Motors and edmunds.com are my favorites but I advise patience. It's possible to punch in many of the parameters for your search but use those tools only to build your list of what you want to try out.

I had been doing my research for 4 months prior to my purchase and what I learned on those three helped me focus my research, not make the decision. When it came to narrowing it down to two or three choices, the Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) is the best tool of all. You just have to know pretty much what you want. The KBB has objective information about not only what the car can do and what it comes with, but it gives you the best ida of what you should actually pay for.

Don't test drive anything until you are absolutely sure that the data matches your parameters, otherwise you are going to be burning time and gas. In my search I looked at two cars in the end, a Toyota model and... The Chevy Cruze ECO.

Guess what I ended up with. I won't describe the Toyota model I looked at because a test drive is completely subjective. I'll just say that for a comparative the Toyota was mediocre.

Here's how I based my choice:

Overall price. I got the car over the President's Day weekend when dealerships have lots of incentives from auto companies to move product. The Cruze was pretty close to what I determined I could afford in my budget (and not cut into my savings program). The incentives the dealership had to sell me the car put it right in the sweet spot (more on this in part three).

Fuel economy. The Cruze ECO is specifically designed for this with modifications in weight and aerodynamics to get the best mileage it can. It's advertised at 38-42 mpg on the freeway, but on the test drive, on a flat surface and in cruise control I was averaging a mind-blowing 70 mpg which would translate to a non-stop trip to San Diego (if my bladder cooperated).

Environmental cost. Because of future plans my wife and I have, we don't plan to keep the car more than 5 years, possibly less. I needed to make sure that the cradle-to-grave environmental cost could be contained in three years. That ruled out electrics and hybrids. Amazingly, the fuel economy not only matched hybrids but in practice (I have driven a couple of hybrids) exceeded them.

Reliability. The Cruze comes with a 3-year bumper to bumper warranty and 5 years on the drive train, so anything major or minor that fails is taken care of. Plus the model I got comes with backup sensors so I won't be dinging the rear bumper as much as a do regularly. Plus, Edmunds rated the car as Number 10 in the top 50 small cars available in 2012 and one of the safest.

Driving needs. As I said in the last post, I don't to a lot of commuting, but on occasion I do take long trips. The Cruze comes with On Star for navigation and connectivity to electronics for hands free phone calls and my iPad (for music) allowing me to control everything from the wheel, which is pretty cool. The trunk is large enough for two large suitcases and some carry-ons. I was concerned that it didn't come with a spare tire, until I saw it has it's own air compressor. With On Star if I have a flat I can't inflate at least I can have someone come do the repair. Nice.

So that was the decision. A Chevy Cruze ECO. In my entire life I have never owned or driven a GM product, much to the consternation of some of my wife's family who have worked for decades for GM (this is for full disclosure) and was even offered a "friends and family" discount. However, the deal I negotiated didn't use the discount so there was no particular influence in the decision. Chevy got my business strictly on the merits of the car. But how I finally made the purchase was a horrendous experience. And I'll talk about that next.

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Sarah H. March 02, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Lou, I'm enjoying these blog posts about your car buying process. I'm looking forward to part 3.
Reality Check March 07, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Oops! The latest Consumer Reports gave the Cruze a black mark (their lowest rating) for "predicted reliability." Not sure why (perhaps because its a new model?), but this could negate lower sticker price and fuel economy savings ... not to mention hurting resale/trade-in value.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive March 07, 2012 at 08:10 PM
That's true for all small cars they reviewed. Which is why the bumper-to-bumper, three-year warranty is a plus, especially on a three-year lease.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive March 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
As I said, the Cruze was my choice for my needs. Not necessarily recommending it for everyone. But there are plenty of positive reviews for the car, including Edmunds which rated it 10th out of 50 cars reviewed.


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