New Car Math

I just bought a new car, or more accurately, a pre-owned car. A 2017 Prius-V, the uber-sexy wagon* that Toyota doesn’t make anymore that gets 45-50mpg**. Suffice to say, my friends’ jealousy is spiking. Don’t hate me because you ain’t me.

I paid $23,100. It had 13,662 miles on it and was in near new shape. Taxes, fees, and registration brought the total to $25,700.

This damn car review of the 2020 Prius Prime makes wonder if I made a mistake that you should avoid if in the market for a new car. Start at the 12 minute mark.

For some reason I can’t explain, in my upper lefthand corner of the world, car prices are lower in Portland, especially when I add in the tax savings since I live in a county with a lower than average rate and they use my home address for the sales tax calculation. Dig this 2020 Prius Prime car listing. Note, importantly, it’s the base model recommended by the Savage Geese.

Purchase price $27,201. For me, taxes, fees, and registration are going to push that to right around $30,000. Then, crucially, subtract the $4,500 federal tax credit that comes with it for an out of pocket cost of $25,500. Two hundy less than I paid for my lived in 2017 that I can’t plug in at night for 25 miles of electric range. I could stop right here, but let’s extend the case study for potential new car buyers unaccustomed to car math.

We’re going to own it for 8 years. Since it’s a Toyota, and we’re going to take great care of it, and not use it for ride sharing, let’s assume it depreciates slowly at 7.5%/year for a cost of approximately $1,900/year. Let’s fully insure it for the first six years at an approximate cost of $1k/year and then remove comprehensive and collision for years 7 and 8 for a savings of $300-$350 in each of those last two years. So total insurance costs is approximately $7k for the 8 years or $875/year.

Because we mostly use it in and around town, and use juice to do that, let’s assume 6 trips to the gas station at $25 a pop for a total outlay of $150/year. Same with maintenance, $150/year on average. The first two years are free, then we’d probably average $200 a year because we have an independent mechanic we trust and the car is bullet proof.

The final equation $1,900+$875+$150+$150=$3,075/year or about the same TOTAL cost my nephew paid for his beater Corolla. The big differences of course are the considerable safety and technology enhancements, superior ride quality, and convenience of only having to do regular maintenance.

$3,075/month is $256/month, or if you make $25.60/hour, 10 hours of work a month. Not too bad.

I am aware I failed to factor in electricity costs, not quite sure how to calculate those. Finally, my car has one distinct advantage over the new Prime, its vo-lu-mi-nous cargo space.

*with me in it

**because the RAV-4 Hybrid has cannibalized sales.