Saving Money with Credit Cards – a Tool of Frugal Living

Credit cards are one of the most ignored tools of frugal living.  This is so because the credit card, bless it, has an undeserved reputation as a bad guy in the world of consumer debt.  It is a most unfortunate (and costly) misperception because, when used properly, the credit card is a sure-fired way to save your hard earned money.

Now, let me pause here and provide a much needed caveat.  If you are new to the world of frugal living and carry a credit card debt, then this strategy is not for you.  The credit card naysayers are absolutely correct in their belief that few things are worse to a consumer than credit card debt.  If you are not paying off your entire credit card balance each month, you must knock that carry over balance out, in full, before making use of this strategy, as eighteen percent APRs have no place in a frugal lifestyle.

Now, having said that, lets explore some of the many benefits of the credit card.  First is the cash back rebate.  We can all thank the Discover Card for bringing us this wonderful benefit, which gifts to the consumer a rebate, typically in an amount of one percent, sometimes more, of the total purchase price.

Since Discover Card popularized the cash back rebate thirty years ago, other card issuers have felt compelled to follow suit.  In fact, a wonderful competition has resulted, with issuers boasting various nuances to the concept.  Some offer more than one percent.  Capital One, for example, offers 1.5 % back on purchases.  CitiBank gives you two percent, with one percent upon purchase and one percent on payment of the bill.  Still others, such as Discover and Chase Visa, offer, in addition to one percent on all purchases, a full five percent on purchases within a quarterly category.  As an example, for three months each year, these issuers provide fiver percent cash back for gasoline purchases.  Grocery purchases are a category during another quarter.  How great is that – five percent back on necessities of daily living?

It actually gets better.  With Discover Card, for example, you have the option of redeeming your cash back bonus credit for merchant gift cards of a greater value.  You might trade in $45 of cash back bonus for a $50 gift card to your favorite restaurant.  This used to be a better feature with greater benefit, but, still, that’s another ten percent bonus for you.

This cash back benefit alone makes it something of a no-brainer to use credit cards on virtually every purchase.  It’s like carrying around a one to five percent coupon on everything you buy — with no clipping and filing required.  And just think how large this amount accumulates in a given year.  At just one percent, if you spend $25,000.00 a year on your family’s groceries, restaurant visits, gasoline and vehicle maintenance, clothes and shoes, doctor bills, prescriptions, etc., you are looking at $250 back in your pocket.  Add in the rotating five percent categories, and that number can easily approach one thousand dollars of found money annually.  Pay attention and you will notice that credit cards can be accepted on just about anything you have to pay nowadays, and you should take full advantage of this option.

Again, this approach only makes sense if you pay the credit card off each month.  Obviously, an 18 to 20% APR will leave you in the red if you don’t.  But if you have sufficient income to cover your expenses (and any frugal person should), then this is the way to go.

There are still other benefits to the credit card that people overlook.  I’ll get into those and a few strategies for effective credit card use in my next post.  But for now, put your cards to use and maximize the savings.

 

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SUVs, Trucks, and Other Foolish Means of Transportation

IMAG0235I tell you, sometimes I see things that just shake me up.    Just check out this picture that I took from a downtown parking garage that I sometimes use.  It is a site I see pretty much any time I enter this garage, and recently I saw the person who uses this monstrosity to commute to an office job daily.  Surprisingly, the owner is a young, thin, female, very pleasant and seemingly intelligent enough.

But let’s see if we can quickly note the problems with this vehicle choice from just a basic intelligence standpoint.  Putting aside the tremendous difficulty that the owner experiences in trying to maneuver this behemoth into a fairly tight parking garage (can anyone say “ten-point turns”), we have to wonder why on earth a single person, of any gender, would even think about using such a vehicle for commuting.  Like you, I of course see an armada of them on the road each rush hour.   In almost each case I see a single person in each vehicle.

Do these drivers not realize just how much money they are blowing by this choice?  I’m not just talking about the $50,000.00 vs. $18,000.00 purchase price or the 12 mpg vs. the 35 – 40 that a Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra would feature.  I’m also thinking about the huge difference in insurance premiums and vehicle parts and maintenance.  Why would any reasonable person with hopes of ever retiring make such a choice?

One of the more popular justifications is that people are somehow safer in SUVs and trucks, for example in winter weather.  I’m sorry, but I and others have to call B.S. on that one.  You really aren’t any safer at all.  In fact, my experience has been that the people who drive these things tend to become overconfident, domineering drivers, thus increasing the risk of accidents.  Besides that, do you really want to make a huge purchase decision and manufacture a huge debt burden for the sake of being better protected in a major accident that you are unlikely to ever experience (assuming you drive safely and while sober)?

Another rationalization is the “well, I sometimes have to transport my kids and their friends.”  Really?  You’re going to buy an oversized SUV or truck for the once or twice a week occasions on which you drive your kid and his friends to a ball game and practice?  Does that make any sense at all?  Similarly, why buy a truck to use 4 – 5 times a year to haul stuff home from the home improvement store.  Wouldn’t you be better served making your decision on the basis of how the vehicle will be used 97% of the time, which is driving, alone, to and from work and related trips?

If you want to succeed with practical frugality, you have to be honest with yourself — especially with big purchases.  Most times, as here, you will find there is no rational basis for the purchase or that a MUCH cheaper alternative will do just fine.

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Emotions, Pride, and the Myth of Prius Savings

prius[1]Man, did I ever strike a nerve with my post that questioned whether a Toyota Prius really accomplishes significant, or any, savings in the long run. The post elicited a number of comments from a generation of Prius lovers who jumped on me something awful. There was plenty of name calling and sarcasm, but not one commenter has disputed the basic theme of my post – that the much higher purchase price of a Prius vis-à-vis other economical cars dwarfs the fuel cost savings.

Instead, folks offered a number of justifications, most of which my original post anticipated. For example, people fell back on the emotional argument that it is worth some financial sacrifice to “save the planet.” Others noted that used Priuses offer price savings, while ignoring the proportionate discount that can be found with any used versus new model purchase.

Others resorted to dubious hyperbole. The most recent commenter indicated that he has been “averaging” 65 to 75 miles per gallon driving in Boston. That’s quite a feat – exceeding the EPA fuel efficiency estimates by over 25% while driving in a large, congested, metropolis. Most experienced drivers will tell you that the EPA estimates are very difficult to match, much less surpass, without resorting to crazy hypermiling techniques such as driving down hills with the engine off. But this commenter, somehow, beats the EPA in a city notorious for its stop-and-go congestion.

Still others criticized my comparative choice of the Chevrolet Cruze on grounds that the Cruze fares poorly in crash tests. It was quite an ironic defense given the most recent crash test findings in which Prius was found to be one of the worst models.

Criticism of the comparisons was a recurring theme with another writer – from a Toyota dealership, by the way – arguing that the Prius should be compared with the Camry rather than the Corolla. Really? Look, I don’t care how Toyota chooses to classify the Prius, it’s just not a large or full size sedan. If you can drive a Prius and a Corolla and notice an appreciable size difference, good for you. For all practical purposes – and practical is what this blog is all about – they are similar cars.

I think my favorite claim was the writer who boasted that he regularly beats Mustangs from red lights because of the great turbo start. Seeing as how the 2013 Prius goes 0 to 60 in 10.7 seconds, (just a bit more than twice as long as the Mustang) I found that remark particularly entertaining. (By the way, doesn’t it seem odd that a frugal, gas saving Prius driver would be hot rodding from stops?)

What all of these hostile comments really show is how sensitive people are when shown that they really have not made the most financially sensible choice. Pride is a dangerous thing, and it can really get in the way with saving money. It is pride, after all, that prompts people into over consumption in the first place. In this case, I certainly credit Prius buyers with good intentions. I don’t think anyone buys a Prius to impress friends, clients, or business associates. People buy Priuses to save money and resources. But as my original piece amply demonstrates, the price of a Prius makes it a very difficult goal to achieve. If you have bought one, by all means stick it out. Continue driving it for 100,000 miles, and you may finally net some savings over the cheaper Corolla that you could have bought in the first place. For those considering a new or used car, however, there simply are better choices.

In a larger sense, you have to check your pride and emotions when living a frugal lifestyle. Strive to be practical, not stubborn, logical, rather than defiant. And when you find yourself arguing that a Prius regularly beats the Ford Mustang in acceleration and horsepower, it’s a pretty good indication that you need to stop, take a deep breath, and come down to reality.

In a final note, I do credit one commenter with making a good point that I did not know. Apparently, Priuses are allowed to drive in HOV lanes regardless of whether passengers are in the car. If true, and if you live in an area with HOV lanes, this is an added plus.

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Some thoughts on the Myth of American “Exceptionalism” and why I am not proud to be an American (and I’m not even a left-wing nut job)

Recently Fox News’ Megyn Kelly made headlines by interviewing Bill Ayers, one of the many controversial figures from Barack Obama’s past.   Ayers is a former member of the Weather Underground Organization who, even at the ripe, wise age of 70 offers no apologies for his participation in bombings and other acts of domestic terrorism during the mercurial decade of the 1960s.

During a debate segment of the interview, Ayers was candid in stating that he is “not proud to be an American,” and that he does not believe in the notion of American exceptionalism. Ayers represents the typical left wing extremist who seems to live for the purpose of trashing the country, (e.g., we are imperialist, self-centered hypocrites who regularly kill people for evil purposes.) It was apparent from the segment that Kelly was portraying Ayers as a left-wing nut job and that she felt she really drove the point home by obtaining these particular admissions from Ayers.

While I have no doubt that Bill Ayers is indeed a left-wing nut job (who should be in prison), I have to confess that I too am not proud to be an American. And it pains me to say that because, for most of my life, I have been. Sadly, what has happened to the once great USA over the past ten to fifteen years leaves little to be proud of. The reasons for my lack of pride have nothing to do with the points Ayers was making. The main reason I am so embarrassed by our country is the rapidity with which we have spiraled into rank financial irresponsibility at both the macro and micro levels.

Seriously, how can anyone with a straight face speak of “American exceptionalism” in a nation that is mired in a national debt of $17.5 TRILLION dollars? Have you ever truly thought about that number? Have you ever taken a brief moment to look at a national debt clock? If not, do so here, and you will be shocked to see how the debt amount increases by six figures every second or two. That is the measure of our shameful irresponsibility. And yet we still arrogantly assume that we are an exceptional world leader, one that stands head and shoulders above those inferior European nations like Greece, Italy, Portugal, and the other countries that suffered (and continue to suffer) through the infamous European debt crisis. Somehow we fail to understand that our own national debt is greater than the combined debts of all of these inferior European nations.

As bad as that fact is, we just continue to compound the problem as we demand more and more massive expenditures from an already bankrupt government. Armed with the destructive forces of emotion and political correctness, we have an entire political party that relies on promises of more and more and more spending. We listen as Nancy Pelosi emphasizes there is “nothing to cut” from a national budget that doles out food stamps to 45 million people and that continue to waste billions more on this train wreck known as the Affordable Care Act. We watch as our President requests billions of dollars of funding to assist with the sixty thousand illegal alien children who have been unlawfully dumped on our southern borders courtesy of foreign parents who know the children will be granted amnesty and gifted a lifetime of government entitlements. Liberal commentators like Kristen Powers indignantly proclaim how we as a nation have a responsibility to pay for these children, no matter how large the number becomes, just because they are children. When reminded that we already are $17.5 trillion in debt, Powers simply ignores the fact and returns to her theme: more and more money must be spent – regardless of whether we have the money at all.

Is this the stuff of responsible government? I’m sorry, but I can’t take pride in a country that caters to this level of mindlessness. We should be leading by positive example; instead, we lead the world in irresponsibility. It just gets worse as the legions of people who receive free cell phones, free food, subsidized housing, and free health care come to demand more and more. I watch in amazement as Sandra Fluke, a young woman who has just completed school and accomplished nothing professionally, commences a California Senate campaign. Her credentials? She whined on a national stage about the unjustness of not receiving free “contraceptive care.”

One of Benjamin Franklin’s many brilliant quotes was the following: “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” Little did we know if would take only a few hundred years for us to see that statement prove so prescient. Make no mistake – this is exactly what is happening here as prodigious numbers of people vote for incompetent leaders for no reason other than the promise of continued, elevated entitlement spending.

Equally appalling is that we see the same fiscal irresponsibility modeled by our citizens. Did you know, for example, that the average American family carries $38,000.00 in consumer debt? That the same average family lacks so much as $1,000.00 in savings? You wouldn’t know it from taking a walk down the street, where we see oversized SUVs, most occupied by a single person, dominating the roads. We have millions of people approaching retirement with virtually nothing saved, counting instead to survive on a social security system that is already irreparably over its head.

No, I am not proud to be a citizen of this culture. I don’t see our country as an exceptional one – at least not in a positive sense. I fear it will not become one again in my lifetime, and it certainly will not if we do not escape these miry depths of over-indulgence, fiscal irresponsibility, and out of control entitlement spending and mentalities.  Until we remove our heads from the sand and reverse the destructive storm of political correctness that insulates our leaders who make these destructive policy choices, we will, as Franklin predicted, see the end of our Republic.

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Outgrowing the home — seriously?

I recently lost a second neighbor from my cul-de-sac to the utterly silly mythical belief that they had “outgrown the house.”  It kind of shakes me up because both of these homeowners were persons whom I considered fellow followers of the frugal lifestyle.  They drove old cars, performed their own home and yard maintenance, and, at times, seemed downright cheap in their lifestyles.  But one after the other, these families of four people each somehow convinced themselves that they just had to up and leave a neighborhood that they loved because “we’ve just outgrown the house.”

Let’s take a careful look at this nonsense with the goal of preventing you from taking this massive step backwards in your quest for financial independence.  As noted, each of these families had a total of four people living under their respective roofs.  Both lived in two story houses, and the last family had four – that’s right, four – bedrooms.  So that comes to one bedroom for each person, including the eleven and seven year old children.  Assuming the parents shared a bedroom (I’ve never asked), that actually leaves one unused bedroom to boot.  But regardless, there’s really no way anyone can say with a straight face that a family has “outgrown” a house when the ratio of bedrooms to residents is one to one.  Does anyone remember the good old days when kids actually shared a room?

To make matters worse, the most recent family to leave actually moved out before they had sold – or even listed – their house.   The home then sat vacant while they poured money into a variety of repairs and renovations that they had avoided investing in while they actually lived in the place.  They then got lucky and sold the house to a buyer, at a fire sale price, after six months of paying to maintain, insure, and own two dwellings.  It was enough to make any reasonably frugal person shake the head.

The problem, though, is far deeper.  When you really delve into the root cause of this foolish rationale for selling a home in a bad market, taking on a fresh, new, larger mortgage, incurring higher tax and insurance liabilities, and all of the other financial blows that this family incurred, you realize that the “we’ve outgrown the house” excuse is nothing more than the result of overconsumption and failure to maintain a disciplined, simple lifestyle.  Apparently, you see, these neighbors had simply acquired too much stuff to hold in their 2,300 square foot house with double door garage.

Wouldn’t a simpler solution have been to simply sell off some of those clothes that are busting out of the drawers and closets?  Or to toss some of those well-worn shoes that haven’t been worn in years?  Perhaps they could sell or donate the hundreds of books that line the walls, none of which have been read in a decade?  I bet those dinosaur computer monitors sitting in the garage could be dumped without notice.  And, after all of that, if they still found a lack of sufficient space, wouldn’t a storage shed in the backyard be a better step to take than to sell your home under bad financial circumstances and take on a bigger long-term loan?

The bottom line is that most families with no more than two children, and especially those with children within five to seven years of adulthood, should be looking forward to downsizing the house.  Think about it, and you will see that those kids will leave home before you know it, leaving you with a couple of vacant rooms.  At the same time, you will be drawing closer to retirement.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to sell the house in a good market, completely without pressure to sell at a loss, and then invest the capital gains while moving to a cheaper house with less space to heat and insure?  As an added bonus, downsizing forces a homeowner to purge the home, and the lifestyle, of those needless box loads of utter junk that do little more than add to the stress of life.

In the end, this is all another illustration of the need to think it through before you buy.  Please, adhere to this simple rule of frugal living.

 

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American Pickers and How Not to Negotiate

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If you followed Practical Frugal Living during the blog’s early days, you know my take on the popular History Channel program American Pickers.  It’s an entertaining show, mostly because of the likeable co-stars, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz; however, it is no place to master the true tenets of practical frugal living.  While the notion of buying rusted junk and turning it over for a profitable re-sale is appealing, the thought of traveling across the country in a full size van to scoop up junk that might or might not sell again at some unknown future point for $50 – $100 profit is no way to financial independence.

As I’ve mentioned before, from a practical frugal living standpoint, the real value of the show is in illustrating what we should not do.  In addition to the mind-boggling amount of carefree travel and fuel consumption that the show seems to glamorize, it also models some horrible negotiation skills every week.  (The same is true, by the way, for the History Channel’s other popular program, Pawn Stars.)  Time and again, we watch as people, on both sides of a given transaction, make terrible moves in negotiating prices.

Surprisingly, the all-time worst example came from Mike Wolfe himself during his first visit to “Hobo Jack,” a skinny, old, bearded man who lives out in the woods of southern Illinois amidst acres of tarp-covered, rotting junk.  During the show, Mike came upon a pre-1920 motorcycle chassis that was broken, rusted, pitted, and filthy.  Mike, taken by its age and rarity, made his interest in the rusted scrap metal crystal clear to the old fellow and invited a “crazy number” for which Hobo Jack would let it go.  Jack responded that he would “probably take $3,000,” to which Mike agreed.  Surprisingly, Hobo Jack then responded, “No, I can’t do that.”

Instead, he directed Mike to a two cylinder motor, devoid of markings, that Jack believed to be from a cycle car.  Mike, thinking it “could possibly be a motorcycle engine,” got excited again.  Still not knowing what the engine actually was from, Mike promised to make it easy for Jack by offering up $2,000.  When Jack balked, Mike said, “I’ll do $2,500 cash and then I’m at a dead end.”  Hobo Jack fingered his beard and said let me think about it.  With still no counteroffer even made, Mike offered $3,000 for the motor, and also decided to throw $5,000 at the earlier seen bike, for a total of $8,000.  The old man then invited Mike to “sweeten it a little more,” to which Mike responded with yet another increase to $8,500.  He assured Hobo Jack that this would finally be his top offer by saying “I’m done, turn me over, I’m crispy.”

At this point, Frank Fritz said you could really feel the tension between the two, and actually compared them to two rams.  Hobo Jack, finally, said he would “think about $9,000.”  Mike, of course, agreed, saying, “Let’s do it, I’m standing tall on this thing.”  (Seriously, he really did make this comment.)

So where do we even begin?  Let’s set aside the wisdom of bidding thousands of dollars when you are not even sure of what exactly an old old junk item is and focus only on price negotiating gaffes.

First, Mike should have held the man to his initial “crazy offer” of $3,000.  Under basic principles of contract law, there was an offer and an acceptance, which made for a binding contract of sale.  I suppose Hobo Jack’s qualifier that the first offered number would “probably” do it was sufficient to provide him with an out, but I personally cannot imagine letting a person renege on an offer so easily.

Putting this aside, a fairly basic rule of negotiation is to never bid against oneself.  Mike, however, a man who supposedly negotiates all the time, did this no fewer than four times before the seller so much as gave a number that he would “think about.”  The problem with this approach was perfectly played out on the show: it completely bolsters the other party, giving him all of the negotiating leverage.  Why on earth Mike would not have told the guy early on to give him a basic counteroffer – and one that he would be held to – is beyond me.

I see this boneheaded approach to negotiations all of the time on Pawn Stars as well.  The scenario usually comes from a person who asks the shop to pay a certain item for an item.  The store owner simply says, “That’s not going to happen,” and the seller routinely drops the price several times before the first offer is actually made.  Again, this is no way to approach a negotiation.  No matter how desperate to sell something you may be, please, always require the other side to come forward with clear numbers in response to each move you make.  Otherwise, you have completely exposed your underside, and you might as well give the item away.

It is also imperative to maintain credibility when negotiating.  Do what you say and say what you mean.  Mike violated this rule by falsely stating that he was “at a dead in” and “crispy done” before going up each time again.  When you do this, you send the message to the seller that the sky is the limit and that there is no reason to believe that any number is truly too high.

The other poor negotiating technique that we frequently see from the stars of American Pickers is a tendency to let the seller know just how eager they are to buy.  A sales negotiation is a game of poker, and it is essential to maintain a calm poker face throughout.  Mike, however, often begins the process by gushing over how great a discovered item is.  It’s far better to act coolly indifferent about the find and casually request a price.  Proceed then with the negotiation process.

Price negotiation is a vital skill for practical frugal living.  But it has to be done correctly in order to have positive effect.

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Myth Busters: Toyota Prius as a Money Saver

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People often wonder just how much money they can save by purchasing a Toyota Prius.  With the Prius’ famed EPA fuel consumption estimates of 51 miles per gallon city and 48 highway, everyone believes it is not a question of whether, but how much, the Prius will save you.

Sadly, the notion of the Prius being a sound frugal living choice is another myth generated by shortsightedness and tremendous marketing.  The myth is easily exposed by following one of the basic rules of practical frugal living of thinking it through.  When we do that, we can easily see that any sensible, traditional gas powered compact or economy class car will match or beat the total cost of the Prius.

The problem lies in the Prius’ starting price tag, which is a good thirty to forty percent higher than comparably sized non-hybrid models.  The Prius, you see, relies on two engines, one of which is powered by a hugely expensive battery, for power.  When you put two engines in a vehicle, the price rockets upward pretty quickly.

Let’s see how that increased purchase price negates the eventual gas savings even before you drive the first mile.  Start by looking at some “base prices,” (i.e., those MSRPs that are always a few thousand dollars short of the actual price needed for a car with basic options.)  The Prius Two weighs in at a starting price of $24,200 for the basic 1.8L four cylinder engine.  The Chevrolet Cruze LS automatic starts at $18,225 with the same size engine (and still gets you 35 miles per gallon on the highway, by the way.)

Just to give Prius the benefit of every doubt, let’s liberally assume that you will do all of your driving in the city, where the Prius’ fuel efficiency advantage is the greatest.  By comparing only city fuel efficiencies, you will average a full 26 more miles per gallon of gas with your Prius.  Let’s also assume gas prices of $4.00 per gallon.  That $6,180 in additional sales price and sales tax that the Prius will cost you equals 1,545 gallons of gasoline.  That’s how much you are in the hole the day you put the first mile on the odometer.  That means that you’ll need to drive your Prius for about 65,000 miles, entirely within the city, before you break even on the cost.  Yes, I realize that if gas prices soar above $4.00 per gallon, the breakeven point would come sooner.  But I think we also all realize that most of a car’s miles are driven on the highway, where the Prius’s fuel efficiency advantage shrinks to 16 miles per gallon.

Now let’s compare Prius to another Toyota, one with a well-earned, decades-old reputation for reliability, the Corolla.  The Corolla’s starting MSRP is $16,230, making for a roughly $8,240 difference in sales prices and additional sales tax.  Meanwhile, the Corolla boasts fuel efficiency numbers of 27 city and 34 highway.  With this comparison, you have a wider price difference gap and a smaller fuel efficiency advantage to work with.  The end result is that, even if you do all of your driving in the city, after 100,000 miles of driving, you will still be about $1,700 in the red with the Prius.  If you check the numbers on other sensible cars, such as the Hyundai Accent and Elantra or the Kia Forte, you will quickly notice that there are plenty of other opportunities to beat the Prius in savings.  Then there is the Nissan Sentra, which starts at $15,990 and brings you fuel efficiency numbers of 30/39.

So why would you do that?  Why pay over eight thousand dollars more for an uglier car?  And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for green living.  I recycle and reuse religiously, and I’m conservative with my consumption habits.  But, I’m sorry, I don’t believe in putting myself in the red for the sake of being environmentally friendly.

Some will respond that the Prius is cheaper when purchased used, and that’s absolutely correct.  So is the Corolla, the Sentra, and every car made, by the way.  The price gap between the Prius and a non-hybrid model might narrow a bit the older they are, but so will the opportunity to recoup the difference through gas savings.  In other words, if you buy your car with 80,000 miles on it, it becomes much harder to go another 100,000 without incurring substantial mechanical expenses.  The expenses that arise after 100,000 miles, by the way, are likely to be much higher with the Prius, as those expensive batteries and computer systems begin to fail.

I’m not sure why people are so quick to overlook the financially losing proposition of the Prius.  Some folks, I suppose, are just so ecstatic at the thought of 51 miles a gallon that they don’t even think of comparing prices.  Others will say that it is worth paying more in order to “save the planet.”  To me, it’s not.  And until hybrid technology reaches the point where comparably sized cars are comparably priced, the practical choice is a traditional model with better looks, better rear view visibility, and a forty percent cheaper price.

Update 07/25/2014: You might want to review my more recent post on Emotions, Pride and the Myth of Prius Savings, which discusses comments received on the above and how emotions and pride often prevent people from thinking through the financial wisdom of purchases like this.

 

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