Looking for my next car

[Updated @ 3:50 pm with a line I forgot about changing needs.]

I currently drive a 2003 Toyota Highlander that has been treating me well since I bought it. I don’t drive that much and the car hasn’t had any problems. However, I’d like to get a new car before I start running into problems (based on my low mileage, that could be a long way off) and to get some more modern features found in cars. Another major reason to move away from the Highlander is that my needs have changed since I got it; I don’t haul around stuff and don’t usually haul people around besides my family. Earlier this year, I installed a new stereo which has been great and has breathed some new life into my car. Ever since my wife got her Honda CR-V 8.5 years ago, I’ve been interested in the Acura RDX which is kind of the luxury version of the CR-V. I had convinced myself that I was going to get this car and this was going to be the year. However, when the 2016 model came out, it didn’t have Apple’s CarPlay, so I put off getting a new car for another year.

A few months ago, I saw a post that Audi was going to start shipping it’s A3 plug-in hybrid in the US in October. I hadn’t thought about a hybrid, let alone a plug-in hybrid, but it looked interesting. As I don’t drive much and the touted range of this car on electric was about 30 miles, I could possibly do most of my driving on electric. (In a few years I’m going to look at solar which would make charging a plug-in a lot less.) I have been driving an SUV for a long time, so going back to a sedan was going to be a change. All the features on the Audi look like it would meet my needs (luckily it isn’t diesel :-)), except that it doesn’t have CarPlay and Audi won’t give me a straight answer on if the A3 will be upgradeable to it next year; other Audi models will get CarPlay, so I’d hope it is possible.

The styling on the A3 e-Tron isn’t bad and I’ve been noticing more and more of the older A3 sport backs on the road. A few weeks ago, I noticed I was driving behind an A3 and saw the e-Tron logo with Michigan plates. Interesting because the car hadn’t been released, yet. After a search online when we got home, I found out that Audi was test driving the A3 in San Diego and anyone could sign up. So the next day I took the car for a drive. Driving the car wasn’t bad, but I’m not used to a sedan. It was quiet in all electric and seemed to perform OK, but the Audi guy just had me go in a big circle and I didn’t get a chance to take it on the highway. I’m going to need more time with this car to see if it is all that I want; it didn’t wow me out of the gate, so maybe that is a bad sign.

Some plug-in hybrids have federal tax credits available and in looking at the chart, I can see that most of the manufacturers don’t make the plug-in hybrids every year. The number of choices for plug-in hybrids is quite small, so I may have to look elsewhere for my ideal car.

At the same time, I started looking at the gas mileage on the Acura RDX and it basically stinks. As I mentioned, I don’t drive much, but it pains me to spend money on a new car that gets gas mileage only slightly better than my 13 year old Highlander (thanks to my Automatic, I can see I get around 20 mpg on average). So now I’ve crossed the Acura off the list and my list of cars to look at consists of just the Audi. Looking at other plug-in hybrids (they really seem to make a lot of sense), they’re all ugly (what is up with this one)?

My needs are simple, my wants are more extensive. I definitely don’t need a new car, but my wife keeps saying that I deserve one (I’m not going to argue with her :-)).

The San Diego International Auto Show is coming in January, so I’ll use that opportunity to check out what cars could be on my short list.

Unfortunately I have a feeling that I’m not going to find exactly what I want and then I won’t get anything; that will be fine for my wallet, but my wife said I deserve a new car, so I can’t lose the opportunity!

5 Replies to “Looking for my next car”

  1. It’s an interesting “problem” or decision and the good news is:

    1. your current car is working and reliable so you’re in no rush

    2. you have the resources to consider lots of cars (a range of prices)

    3. your wife is behind you (well, for now)

    The car world seems to be on the verge of big changes but they never seem to happen the way I’d like them to (more electric cars). We could have a hybrid for my wife’s car but I need a truck so my 11 year old Tacoma is my vehicle for some time to come (or a replacement for it if it fails). But, I’ve considered driving it less and getting a hybrid making us a three car family but we don’t drive that much so that seems excessive.

    So, we talk about stuff, then do nothing because both of our cars (my wife has a 12 year old Jetta) work and are relatively reliable.

    My truck’s CD player busted a while ago and I’ve been putting off putting in a Crutchfields replacement but it would be fun to do. I wonder if you can get replacements that have Apple Play built in?

    1. You are right on all points! I am disappointed how slow the car world goes with respect to tech and the decision to not really go back and offer upgrades for the tech. The headunits should really just be displays and allow the firmware to be upgraded later. The cycle for designing cars, of course, is much longer than for tech.

      When I looked at CarPlay enabled head units earlier this year, the price was high and the reviews were mixed. I opted for one that has Siri EyesFree and have been quite happy with it. Bluetooth works well and I can hear driving directions and reply to messages as needed. Crutchfield is definitely the place to go as they tell you all the parts you need. Your Tacoma is probably quite similar to my Highlander; installation isn’t bad.

  2. I completely agree with car companies lack of ability or willingness to embrace new technology. It could be their very long development cycles however it can also be just stuck in their ways.

    A while back my wife and I were looking for ways to cut back on our fuel consumption. We were not looking to replace a car and ended up getting an additional car and just using our SUV much less. The car we got is full electric with no gas anything. Driving an electric car has been an extreme pleasure. The maintenance is nonexistent aside from rotating the tires. The energy costs have been much lower than we expected and it’s nice to do our part for the environment as well.

    As you are not in a rush it might be something worth looking at. Especially with the auto show coming up that will undoubtably be new models available. Driving an EV concerns lots of people because it is different however it has been beyond our expectations.

    As it is just my wife and I we currently have the Fiat 500e and when we our needs change we will have to get something different however we will likely always have a full EV from now on. I’m even able to justify a slightly higher purchase price due to the significantly lower cost per mile currently available generous government rebates. 10k off in California is not bad.

  3. Scott I’m not sure if you’re still car shopping, but I was last month after our move to TX and one of the cars I was very tempted by was the Chevy Volt. Couple-year-old used ones seem to start at $14-18k, and they’re widely available in SoCal (not so much in east TX). Buying used you don’t get the tax break but you’re also not paying >$30k for a car. They do require premium gas, but if you charge them at home/work you can get ~30 miles of all electric driving per charge. And if you run out of charge the gas engine kicks-in to keep you going, eliminating range anxiety. I also found the Volt much nicer inside (quieter, more comfortable) and more fun to drive than the Prius.

    I had a hard time constraint and since the nearby dealer here in TX wasn’t willing to budge on the price of the used Volt I ended up with a used VW Jetta 1.8T, based on price and performance: it’s surprisingly peppy even with an automatic, and I’ve been seeing >30MPG around town and almost 40MPG on the highway, with regular gas.

    1. Hi Josh,

      I am still looking for a car and the Volt is interesting in that it has a good range, has CarPlay, and big tax incentives ($7500 federal and I believe a $1500 California credit). However, the big downside is that it is a Chevy :-). The new Volt says it gets up to 53 miles per charge.

      It is really too bad that there are few plugin hybrid choices. I still like the looks of the Audi A3 e-Tron and the EPA estimates for it have been released pegging it at 37 city, 41 highway for gas only and 86 MPGe. So while it requires premium gas and the MPG isn’t the best (better than my current Toyota Highlander by a long shot), it may be the combination for me. However, I still wish it had CarPlay.

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