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Dude should look at the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris. Both under $14,000. Both fuel efficient. Neither a hybrid, though.

Posted by Wells | December 26, 2006 1:08 PM

Get away from the Jetta. Unless you're buying a cool old VW for fun (or unless you can afford a newer one as a second car), they should never be a primary mode of transportation- WAY too unreliable and expensive to fix when - too early - they begin to go downhill.

The Honda Civic has gotten more expensive, but is still the best bang for your buck, in my opinion. Plus, you may be able to save a few grand by getting a 2006, which had the best new body style in ages. Honda changes the look of the Civic so often that car buffs will know it's not new immediately, but most people will think it looks like a newer car for a decade. Also, it's a Honda, so guaranteed reliability.

As a Stranger reader, maybe you're interested in the environment? Do what I did and buy a vintage diesel Mercedes. They run for hundreds of thousands of miles, and biodiesel fuel actually improves their performance. In Seattle, biodiesel is very convenient and usually costs the same (and sometimes less!) than regular diesel fuel.

By the by, doesn't it suck that you could almost hit Bellevue with a rock from UW, and still it's nearly a two hour commute on the bus? 1:45 isn't much of an exaggeration: it usually took me 1:10 plus back when I would commute from Ballard to Bellevue. If only we could show the then-Seattlites a picture of Seattle today when they voted on the subway back in the 60s.

Posted by sniggles | December 26, 2006 1:10 PM

Btw: the fits and yaris' rule, but are hard to buy right now. Plus most dealerships are charging thousands more than the MSRP because of the demand.

But, especially the Fit, they are cool.

Posted by sniggles | December 26, 2006 1:11 PM

Gee, how about just forgoing the car sign up for the local short term car rental service, get a bus pass and purchase an electric scooter?? And there are some great options for an electric Vespa on line.

Posted by Andrew | December 26, 2006 1:15 PM

It's worth thinking about a used Corolla, Civic or Focus. My sister has been driving a Chevy Malibu, and gets about 30mpg even with the V-6. Should be cheap right now...

Hybrids are a fraud, in my opinion. When one factors in the disposal of the very limited life, highly toxic battery pack as well as the penalty of carrying around all that weight, the environmental pros get outweighted by the cons.

Posted by golob | December 26, 2006 1:23 PM

Andrew, your suggestion is nice, but is impractical. Did you read his letter? He's not willing to commute on the bus, and he's not being unreasonable.

Posted by sniggles | December 26, 2006 1:29 PM

Outside of the cars already mentioned, finding a stated 30+ mpg City rating is going to be very tough. If styling isn't important (and I'm sure it is) try the Toyota Corolla or Hyundai Accent. Both very safe cars and stated 30mpg City. The Mazda3 has always been a fave of mine and is rated at 28mpg. Styling is good, and handling is better than most of the other models that have been considered.

Posted by Investigatory Journalist | December 26, 2006 1:41 PM

to Golob:

Hmmm, let's see... toxic battery vs. global warming. Supporting the current regime of oil conglomerates vs. showing them that you actually care about developing alternative energy sources. Yeah, that's a tough one.

Posted by han | December 26, 2006 1:42 PM

But Han, the real world milage (rather than the fanciful EPA-rated milage) for hybrids really isn't better than that of a small regular car.

Aside from NYC taxi cabs, there really isn't *that* much energy to be recovered during typical driving. While there is some energy to be recovered by regenerative breaking, for most drivers it gets eaten up with the additional energy costs of repeatedly accelerating that heavy battery pack. Physics at work.

For most people serious about reducing their carbon footprint, they'd be way better off buying a small car and a bicycle rather than a hybrid.

Posted by golob | December 26, 2006 1:49 PM

I would second the Honda recommendation. I've had a Honda for 10 years and it has never given me any trouble.

The other thought is perhaps doing a vanpool or carpool. My friend vanpools to Microsoft every day from Seattle for about 50 bucks a month, which includes gas and insurance. He gets to work early, but also gets home early. Seems to work out okay. I believe there are carpools, too. He hasn't reported any problems with it.

Posted by car talk | December 26, 2006 2:03 PM

I like my Honda Fit. It goes zoom. In my real-world driving I've been getting about 25mpg.

The Yaris sounds like a lawnmower and I hate the Scions for no real reason other than that I see so damn many of them (and the folks at the local dealership were really annoying when I went to check them out).

Posted by Josh Santangelo | December 26, 2006 2:12 PM

20 MPG isn't bad at all for real-world Seattle driving. EPA ratings are full of crap; there's no way any of these cars do a legitimate 30 MPG in stop-and-go Seattle hill traffic. The Jetta is a perfectly good car. I'd stick with it. There's no such thing as an environmentally-correct NEW car; you've GOT a car, and it's less than four years old, and should easily carry you for another fifteen if you maintain it at all.

Posted by Fnarf | December 26, 2006 2:12 PM

re Comment 9: I drive Flexcar's hybrid Honda Civic regularly. For short trips around town, I get between 30 and 35 mpg. Anything with freeways, over 40.

Posted by Ronald Holden | December 26, 2006 2:14 PM

Shit, my 20+ year old Accord w/close to 300k on the odometer does better than 20MPG - it's about 24 or so in-city, and considerably better on the highway.

(Of course, it does smoke quite a bit until it warms up in cold weather, so I'm not claiming to be saving the earth or anything.)

Posted by Mr. X | December 26, 2006 2:19 PM

If you can find a used Toyota Echo, get one. The lowest ours has averaged is around 30, and that's with low tire pressure and when we were using it for very short in-city trips. The usual overall average is in the high 30s.


Posted by Levislade | December 26, 2006 2:22 PM

I accompanied my girlfriend on her quest for a new sub-compact (a.k.a cheapest cars that will fit in SF parking) and mainly acting as a prop to fit into back seats (I'm 6'2"), she settled on the Nissan Versa. By far the biggest interior of the little cars, and the only one (aside from the sky-high marked up Mini Cooper) that didn't feel cheap and gutless (the Focus is supposed to offer a few more HP, but the one we drove was horrible in every way). She loves it so far.

Posted by Dougsf | December 26, 2006 2:26 PM

If I remember the research correctly, on total energy spent (manufacturing cost + fuel + maintenance + disposal cost) per mile driven over vehicle lifetime, the Scions where near the top of the heap. So, I suppose if Dave can fit in one comfortably, that's a considerable data point.

Posted by BC | December 26, 2006 2:26 PM

I am fond of the Toyota Echo; my '01 gets 50 mpg hwy and is just as safe a vehicle as the person driving it is safe.

But if something cool looking is more important, why not just go with something you want, then exercise will-power to drive less... like doing the weekly shopping on your way home from work, not going to stores out-of-the-way, never driving in-city for a destination under two miles, using better octane gas, coasting to stops, not always hitting 0-60 in 10 secs when 20-30 secs gets you going just as well... driving less, and stopping/starting the car less will always save gas.

Posted by Phenics | December 26, 2006 2:33 PM

Phenics, your post reminded me of this story in the new Mother Jones (which I haven't read yet, but has been summarized to me by my roommate):

Posted by Levislade | December 26, 2006 2:37 PM

It should be noted that hybrids are actually perfect for stop and go traffic... If you're idling on the 405 but your engine's not burning gasoline, you're doing pretty well for yourself.

Also this was interesting:

Posted by John | December 26, 2006 2:39 PM

Sniggles @ 2 has it right.

I purchased a 1987 Mercedes 190DT a year ago and have never regretted it. I get 25MPG city and 35MPG freeway. I burn 99% biodiesel April - Oct and 50% the rest of the time. It's a fun, comfortable ride and I feel better not send additional dollars to repressive Arab and South American regimes.

Check out: for lots of options.



Posted by David In Wedgwood | December 26, 2006 2:40 PM

You do pay a lot in the short term for longer-term savings with hybrids, and it's not clear that it's worth it; but, the benefits in a hilly city like ours are greater than anywhere else. As long as you optimize your driving habits for the car (basically, always engage the regenerative braking when going downhill), the fuel savings should be dramatic if you're driving up and down hills all the time. And the batteries used in today's hybrids are nickel metal hydride, which are among the least toxic rechargeable batteries out there, and also the only ones that are actually profitable to recycle. See

Posted by Noink | December 26, 2006 3:04 PM

If you've liked your Jetta, you can get a good diesel VW Jetta well within your price range, run it on biodiesel - you'll get 35-50 mpg and have much lower greenhouse gas emissions, battery waste, and toxic byproducts than a hybrid or fit or whatever. I've driven a 2000 Jetta TDI for a few months, and it's been great.

The Green Car Company in Kirkland is real helpful in finding TDI VWs. And there are usually a few on craigslist.

Posted by BS | December 26, 2006 3:15 PM


The "real world mileage" on my hybrid stands at 57.5 mpg after having been driven for over 80,000 miles now. And I'm not some hypermiler trying to squeeze every last yard out of my gallon of gas. If anything, my speeding habit is lowering my efficiency beyond what the average driver would get.

Posted by Real Worlder | December 26, 2006 3:38 PM

Thank you all for the advice, I appreciate it.

#18 - That is a good idea, but the look isn't so important though it is a consideration. I basically want something safe, affordable and good fuel efficiency. The only optional "luxury" feature that I'd really like is a jack to play my iPod...

#23- When I was at the VW dealer, they mentioned they aren't making TDI's for the near future until they can get past new emmissions standards (I must've missed that news flash) and only had a couple of '06 TDIs left and I wasn't ready to commit at that point.

In the end, I'll probably re-up with the Jetta - it is just so much cheaper in the short run. Even with the commute, I probably don't drive enough to justify the cost of a new car, but man I just hate getting 20mpg. A couple months ago I was hoping to rid myself altogether, but I'd need a new job to do that.

Thanks again for the advice.

Happy Holidays,


Posted by D-Willy | December 26, 2006 6:28 PM

I just bought a Scion xB and I love it and its ugliness, especially the MP3 jack. That's all I need, plus the great (33+) mileage (it's a standard transmission). It also got good reviews in Consumer Reports. Good luck!

Posted by stephanie | December 27, 2006 8:59 AM

fuel economy, schmule economy.. What you need my friend is size! As somebody who actually owns nine cars and keeps them littered about the city in various neighborhoods in various working order, let me tell you it all comes down to cubic capacity. He with the most volume wins! Forget the Scion Element Prius Cube Orb of the day. See, I got this van for sale and would be PERFECT for you!! I just know it, my gut tells me so! Trust me, I know like, 9x more about cars than you do.. I'm practically a professional. Call me, we'll cut ya a heckofa deal!

Posted by David | December 27, 2006 4:05 PM

Echo! (Or Yaris, which is the new Echo). I absolutely love mine, and I second what others have wrote. You can get a used one for fairly cheap, and more reliable than the Jetta.

Posted by meggo | December 27, 2006 9:18 PM

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