Cool New Car or Free Gas?

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Want a year or two of free gas? Skip the depreciation hit from buying a cool car new and spend it at the pump instead.

Cars are one thing we recommend you never buy new. The reason is simple: We’re about making you richer, and new cars make you poorer by losing thousands of dollars in value before you can get them home.

Take a look at the vehicles featured in Kelley Blue Book’s 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000, released last week. In terms of dollars lost to depreciation, these cars cost the least, since they’re inexpensive compared to the record average price of new cars: more than $30,000.  But look how much you lose buying new vs. just 1 year old…

10. 2012 Volkswagen Jetta

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $15,490
Value after one year: $11,888 (76.7 percent)
Cool because: “European sedan at an econobox price…wrapped in clean, tasteful styling.”

9. 2012 Scion iQ

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $15,499
Value after one year: $11,037 (71.2 percent)
Cool because: “Featherweight fireball…remarkable maneuverability.”

8. 2012 Kia Soul

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $13,935
Value after one year: $12,453 (89.3 percent)
Cool because: “Funky style and practical packaging…better mpg.”

7. 2012 Honda Fit

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $15,499
Value after one year: $12,570 (81.1 percent)
Cool because: “Fun to drive, has a cool back seat that flips and folds for handy storage.”

6. 2012 Ford Fiesta

KBB Fair Purchase Price:  $13,382
Value after one year: $8,817 (65.9 percent)
Cool because: “Aggressive grille, big lamps, sharp lines, and pronounced fenders…highway fuel economy of 38 miles per gallon.”

5. 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $14,129
Value after one year: $10,425 (73.8 percent)
Cool because: “Sporty exterior styling, motorcycle-inspired interior gauges…a competent and cool urban runabout.”

4. 2012 Mazda3

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $14,786
Value after one year: $11,676 (78.9 percent)
Cool because: “Sporty looks and joyful driving…an optional ‘Skyactiv’ powertrain return[s] up to 40 mpg on the freeway.”

3. 2012 Fiat 500

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $15,241
Value after one year: $10,206 (66.9 percent)
Cool because: “Italian-designed cutie…first new Fiat to be sold in America in nearly three decades.”

2. 2012 Hyundai Veloster

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $17,269
Value after one year: $13,528 (78.3 percent)
Cool because: “Challenges the status quo to a duel…among the most distinctive cars available at any price.”

1. 2013 Dodge Dart

MSRP: $16,790
Value after one year: Too new to estimate
Cool because: “Exceptional interior space and loads of personalization potential.”

So buying one of these cars new vs. a year old will make your net worth decline by $1,482 (Kia Soul)  to $5,035 (Fiat 500).  But if the thought of becoming poorer isn’t enough to convince you, here’s another way to look at it…

Free gas?

What would be cooler than buying any of these cool cars new? Buying them a year old and getting a year or more of free gas.

The National Association of Convenience Stores says the average U.S. driver consumes 1.49 gallons of gas per day, or about 544 gallons a year. The national average for regular is $3.53. That’s about $1,920 annually – far less than you’d save by buying any of these (except the Kia Soul) used. In fact, you could afford to buy two years’ worth of gas with the savings on several of these cars.

Bottom line? However you look at it – in terms of free gas or net worth – driving even the least expensive new car is steering you in the wrong direction.  One-year-old cars may be slightly less reliable, and may have lost most of their new-car smell. But that extra reliability and aroma is mighty expensive.

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Stacy Johnson

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