My SUV Will Beat Up Your Hybrid & Save The World!

Why is it that some hybrid vehicle drivers eventually start looking down at non hybrid-owning drivers in disdain?  Is the “holier-than-thou” complex too hard to contain during flights of fuel sipping passion?  It’s natural to feel that whatever you purchase is the right purchase.  After all, if I overpaid for a hybrid vehicle (zing!) in hopes of saving the environment when a similar non-hybrid vehicle will do, I’d defend my decision and look down on others as well!  Don’t be mad, let me explain.

THE FINANCIAL SAMURAI VEHICLE

For those of you who have been following this site for a while, you’ll know that I’ve had plenty of cars over the past 10 years, and I now drive a 9 year older beater SUV which is MAYBE worth $6,000.  I love “Moose“, as I affectionately call him, because he adeptly takes us up the snowy mountains during the winter with its 4-wheel-drive capabilities.  Moose can conveniently carry up to  5 people with plenty of storage space, which is especially helpful when our parents visit.  Too bad Moose only gets 15mpg in the City, and 19mpg on the highway.  I can hear the hissing and booing now!

I bought “Moose” for $8,000 three years ago, from a woman who was in a hurry to dump her car before relocating to Amsterdam.  Special brownies anyone?  The hybrid craze at the time was dizzying, where seemingly rational people would spend $25,000 for a Prius vs. $15,000 for a comparable Toyota Corolla.  If people did the calculations, they’d realize the premium price paid for the car is much greater than the gas savings over an average 7 year ownership period.

Consumers weren’t adhering to our “1/10th” rule either, as I knew plenty of sub $100,000/yr income earners spending $25,000 for these hybrids.  I must repeat here again that it is absolutely financial destruction if you are spending more than 1/10th your annual gross income on a car.  Multi-millionaires follow this rule, why shouldn’t the rest of us?  Don’t give into your weak desires!

MOOSE GETS DISRESPECTED, I FIGHT BACK

Moose and I lived in harmony with the hybrids for a couple years until we encountered an evil man on a bike one day.  The bicyclist rides up to Moose, gives him a “thumbs down”, and rides away.  After five minutes, we see the same bicycllist in a parking lot loading up his bike onto his Prius!  Annoyed by the encounter, I drive up to him and explain his hypocrisy.

“Hey you, with the spandex, and shaved girly legs.  You got a problem with us?” I ask.

“Uhhh, no problem.  How can I help?” he answers in shock.

“You dishonor Moose here,” I say as I pat the dashboard. “Let me tell you why your hybrid is worse for the environment than Moose.  You think you’re all enviro friendly and cool just because you have a Prius, but you’re wrong.”

“Uhhhh?”

“By buying a new hybrid, you do more damage to the world than any second hand purchase car can do.  You see, unless you destroyed your old vehicle, you ADD to the world’s pollution when you buy new.  You encourage car manufacturers to pump up their production volume, emitting an incredible amount of waste in the process.  Your Hybrid has higher emissions than zero, compared to zero incremental emissions from my second hand car!”

“Hmmmm, I see.  Please don’t hurt me.”

“So quit with your superiority complex Steve, and hand me a beer!”

“Ok, Sam, you win.  I was just fooling with you!”

We hug it out and go for a ride together.  We’re actually not strangers, but buddies!

CONCLUSION

Good for you for owning a hybrid, just don’t look down on us who don’t.  We may not be able to afford a $30,000 level 4 Prius because we don’t make $300,000 a year like you.  More scientifically, now you know that if you don’t lead your old car to the slaughter house, hybrid owners are doing more damage to the world than us poor second hand vehicle user folks. If you’re considering a car to save the world, then ALWAYS buy second hand, and preferably make it a hybrid if you really care!

Don’t be a vegan who wears leather shoes.  It’s just not right.  Let us all continue to co-exist peacefully.  Ahhh, I feel better now.

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Updated: 5/2014

Regards,

Financial Samurai - “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

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Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I agree with you that you are purchasing the “hybrid term” – I am pretty sure there were cars in the 80s (albeit ugly) that had as good if not better gas mileage and were relateivly (taking into account inflation) cheaper. Here is a cool list from the late 70s up until 81:

    http://www.mpgomatic.com/2007/10/08/super-cheap-high-mpg-cars-1978-1981/

    I don’t understand your “not adding to the problem” argument. Unless you can guarantee that the person you bought the car from didn’t go purchase a new car it is all irrelevant.

  2. says

    @Evan
    It’s the lesser of two evils, if we consider driving cars “evil.” If two consumers both rode bikes, and one bought a hybrid and another bought a 2nd hand vehicle, there mathematically is less net addition to pollution for the 2nd hand buyer whether the original seller buys a new vehicle or not.

    My point is: those who drive new cars or new hybrids shouldn’t look down on the rest of us until they know exactly what the manufacturer/seller has done.

  3. Larry L, New York says

    But they are saving the environment right?? But they saving money on gas right?? Wrong on both counts. The only reason they are doing this (like most purchases) because it makes them feel good.

  4. says

    You are right. The environmental impacts of hybrids are substantial, Sam. You and Moose aren’t doing any more harm to the environment, than a hybrid. (And you’re saving the destructive impacts to your wallet too.)

    The Hybrid’s Achilles’ heal vis-a-vis their environmental impact comes from pollution caused by their very complicated battery system used to power their electric engine. The caustic substances that power those batteries have to be disposed after they fail – eventually, those substances can leech into groundwater. On top of that, destructive mining is required to create those batteries in the first place.

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  5. says

    I understand you real well. I too own an suv, all paid off, and reliable as hell. Capable for any task! 2004 Ford Explorer 4×4 v-8. 43,500 miles. I liik forward to 5 or 10 years more of payment-free driving!

  6. Ken says

    I think we are better off carpooling and using public transportation (if your town provides). Hybrids are overrated in my opinion and the break even is so far in the future. Good post!

  7. BG says

    But you can grow a tree in your Ford Focus Hybrid (seen the commercials?). I agree with the premise, buy old beaters, and fix them up — much cheaper, and better for the environment.

    I have two vehicles: 1997 Ranger (120k miles), and a 1971 C10 (miles unknown, but probably more than 300k miles). I’d rather drive a museum piece than new plastic crap. Then again, the geek in me would love to have one of those sweet electronic dashes that the hybrids have. Wonder if I can retrofit it into the ’71…

    How in the world have you gone through 8 cars in 10 years?!?

  8. says

    Drive a 1987 Vanagon (18mpg) that is very secondhand and will not suffer much if I collide with a Prius. I reckon I’m saving the environment while being conveyed tastefully hither and yon.

  9. says

    @Len Penzo Really great point about destructive mining as well as disposal of the toxic batteries! I was thinking that at worst, a Hybrid vehicle would be net neutral to the environment, but you mentioning hybrids are damaging to the environment is a great angle. Thnx!

  10. says

    @BG Wow, a 1971 C10? That really is old school! I loved my 1987 BMW 635CSI… that is the most beautiful car in the world imo. Too bad it leaked steering fluid every time I stopped.

    How did I have 8 cars in 10 years? Easy, buy and sell a car every 14 months on average! Read the post, I’m sure you will enjoy it. I’m just glad I don’t have a 4 car garage… then maybed I’d have 16 cars in 10 years!

  11. says

    @Bobby Funny, before my buying my first property, I thought about buying a EUROVAN to substitute as my vehicle AND home since the world was ending back in 2001. Love the full size bed fold out and center table.

    Yeah, you probably will win against a Prius. But, you’re table might flight out the window in the process!

  12. says

    @Larry L, New York Feeling good is selfish ha! Good point though. It feels good to buy your hybrid thinking you are saving the world, and then it feels good to belittle non-hybrid owners as well I guess.

    @Ken – I agree, carpooling is great. There was a picture of how many vehicles a BUS would take off the road, and that # was 40! 1 Bus = 40 cars! Ever since I saw that picture 2 years ago, I started busing it to work every day.

  13. says

    Amen. The point of your post is the same reason I have heartburn over Cash for Clunkers – people were being encouraged to trade in their paid-for vehicles for a new car payment and maybe a few miles better per gallon increase in fuel efficiency. Clunkers only generated an additional 125,000 car sales above what they would normally be, and at $3 billion for the Clunkers program the cost/vehicle comes out to be $24,000 ($3B/125,000). The White House vehemently disagreed, but their counter-argument was based on predictions, not actual sales numbers. If you’re interested in reading more check out my article on Ford: http://mbabriefs.com/2009/11/is-ford-stock-a-bargain.

    My complaint about holier-than-thou hybrid drivers is they don’t take into consideration ethanol requires more energy to produce than you get out – a negative energy equation. I have to confess to being slightly prejudiced (I’m an engineer for an oil refinery) but consumers don’t consider the big picture, how efficient is their alternative energy fuel and what affect does all those old cars and the carbon emissions from producing those new cars have on the environment? As soon as a decent alternative fuel car makes its way to a used car lot near me at the right price I’ll be the first in line to buy it.

  14. says

    @David Cash For Clunkers = Personal Finance BOMB! The average $24,000 new car purchase (and cost) in the program equates to a $240,000 year annual gross income, but the average GDP/capita is only $50,000. The government has unwittingly delayed thousands of impressionable consumer’s retirements! No worries, b/c the rest of us will bail them out! Whoo hoo!

    Interesting angle regarding ethanol requirements and the negative energy equation.

    David, 18 years in the air force huh? Well done! Do you get a pension or anything? What are your thoughts on my other article regarding “Why Are There Homeless Veterans In America?”

    For the record, I’m NOT anti-hybrid buyers, I’m anti-arrogance! :)

  15. jj says

    Just use the public transport, morons.
    You come up with any kind of excuse to not stop driving those monstrosities.

    Of course buying second hand *may* be better than buying new, but if you are going to buy new, it’s better if you buy something that burns less petrol than otherwise. Best would be to realise that, after all, you don’t need a truck to go to the shop around the corner.

    But I doubt that buying 9 cars in 10 years, whether they’re second hand or not, can be considered “eco-friendly” (whatever that means).

  16. says

    @jj Are you saying you walk to work and never drive? You’re completely missing the point. The post isn’t about being eco friendly, it’s about going against snobs like you who think they’re better than others because you drive a more fuel efficient car, which so happens to be worse for the environment if you bough new.

    The Genius

  17. says

    1/10 rule? I thought I was familiar with the rules of thumb, never caught this one. That’s 1/10 every year toward transportation? Not that a car cost shouldn’t exceed 10% of one’s income. Right? Interesting post FS.

  18. says

    You’re argument makes a lot of sense if we assume that people have two options:

    1) Buy a new hybrid
    2) Buy a used car

    However, if someone is absolutely stuck on buying a new car, sometimes buying a hybrid is the financially AND environmentally wise thing to do. Just gotta do some math to see where the break even point is to see if it justifies the hybrid premium.

  19. says

    Joe – Our rule of thumb is simply to spend no more than 1/10th your gross annual income on the purchase price of a car. If one can stick to this rule on the initial car purchase, everything else will take care of itself.

    Want a $50,000 bimmer? Make $500,000 first.

  20. says

    Ahhh but it gets worse… “the nickle in the batteries for the most popular U.S. brand is mined in Canada, the raw material is shipped across the pond to Europe to be refined. Then this base material is sent to China to be turned into a foam only to be forwarded to Japan to be made into a battery. It has been said that that the process in making the batteries does more environmental damage than an Landrover Discovery”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqVNKlbP9OU

    I’ve had the pleasure of the opportunity to drive a Lexus RX400h for a period of time. The torque from the electric motor is killer sweet, more fun than a hemi’. Honestly, unless you are real gentle on the accelerator the gas mileage is not all that great. My 1998 Accord mileage is nearly as good but does not come with a $600/mo+ payment or outrageous insurance payments….

    I can also park it wherever I want!

  21. says

    @admin Transferred into the Air National Guard and ended up deploying more than if I’d stayed on active duty. Guardsmen don’t collect their retirement until 60 and I don’t have my 20 years in.

    I guess I’ll have to retract my stated about ethanol having a negative net energy balance. New studies show it’s not negative anymore due to improvements and is now a positive 1.25, although other studies show it to be more like 0.70. I don’t know who’s doing these studies, but gasoline has a BTU rating of 18,400 BTUs/lb, and ethanol is actually 47% less @ 9,750 BTUs/lb, so my guess is the number finagling is over the efficiency of the production process.

    And you can’t fuel airplanes with ethanol yet. The Air Force is testing a 50/50 blend of jet fuel and ethanol but we won’t be using 100% ethanol anytime soon.

  22. says

    @LeanLifeCoach very interesting data on the implication of nickel and the process of production in batteries. Thanks for that insight! These are the tidbits of info that I will include in my weekly wrap of what we’ve learned.

    I love the 1998 Honda Accord!

  23. says

    @MLR If someone must buy new, and no other choice for some reason, sure, buy a hybrid. But I don’t agree it is the financially savvy thing to since the break even is so long.

  24. says

    I hope that someone didn’t already mention this and I overlooked it but you should check out the cover story from the issue of Wired Magazine a few months back where they covered a lot of environmentally oriented myths. Your article is right along the same lines of one of the common myths.

    I definitely agree with your 1/10 rule except for when you take it to the extreme then a college student or someone who does not yet have an income but needs a car to drive to work then that may make for a legitimate exception.

    Whenever I think about that rule I always picture driving by some run down apartment complex and seeing a fancy Escalade with expensive rims on it parked out in front in a residents parking spot and just wondering… :)

  25. says

    @jj

    Naturally there are more environmentally friendly options available like using public transportation as you mention or of course buying a second hand car that gets great gas mileage like a Honda Civic instead of a large SUV (or a car with a 6.1 liter HEMI like mine – yea, I know I couldn’t resist lol) the intention of the post just appears to be trying to prick a pin in the arrogance that many people that buy brand new hybrids seem to have as if their decision is the absolute #1 most environmentally friendly decision possible. FS just showcased via this post that they are in fact wrong to think this.

  26. says

    @admin

    Naturally – of course not according to their 1040 but nonetheless you are probably right :) Although, you might be surprised at how many probably are not making anywhere near that amount but rather it’s just very important to them to give off that impression.

  27. Neal@wealthpilgrim.com says

    I had to break my vow of staying “unplugged” when I saw this title.

    I love it…….pass me a brownie while you’re at it.

    I used to drive a Prius and then I saw the error of my ways. Now I drive Larry the Lexus – thank you very much. It’s big and bad. I love it.

  28. Larry L, New York says

    @jj

    You assume everyone lives in an area that has great public transportation. In my case NYC it completely makes sense. On Long Island, where I live, by car is the best method. Any other method (via bus, LIRR or taxi) would double or triple the time it takes to get somewhere.

  29. says

    @Larry L, New York True story, I drove all the way out to Bethpage Golf Course once, parked my car up front, left it, and proceeded to LOSE my car keys somewhere on the course! I had to take the damn train back to the City, and of course my car was towed given cars couldn’t park overnight.

    Damn I hated public transportation that day! There’s no way in heck i’d use public transportation as my main means to commune on Long Island. NYC, SF, Chicago, Boston, yes. Elsewhere no!

  30. says

    Kosmo – It’s just a rule to go by, and isn’t the law. It’s just good to have rules on big ticket items, esp with no return policies.

    It’s great you are getting the max out of your car. There are so many factors to consider with a car, that I found if one can follow this one rule, one will generally be safe from financial destruction.

    The rule helps curb my car desires, and motivates me to earn more.

    Flipping cars can be quite profitable actually. I sold 4 cars for 1-3k profits each over the past 8 yrs. Of course I also lost thousands on the other 4 cars due to depreciation and bad timing.

    I used to have a car weakness, and that’s why it’s important for me to develop this guideline!

  31. Kosmo @ The Casual Observer says

    @admin
    Do you have any corollaries to your 1/10 rule? I tend to get 130K+ miles out of a car before getting something different (basically, I drive them to the point where big things start failing). Clearly, if I exceed the 1/10 rule, it’s not as bad as someone who flips cars every couple of years – because the percentage of my LIFETIME income that gets sunk into cars is still lower.

  32. BG says

    @David
    There is still a major issue with ethanol and the majority of the US auto fleet. Older cars with electronic emissions (O2 sensors, etc), were designed for 100%-pure gasoline. When you run a 10% ethanol mix in these cars, they actually end up burning _more_ fuel due to the computer not understanding the exhaust characteristics of the blended fuel — they run rich. Practically all gas pumps in the US serve up a 10% mix of Ethanol now.

    Ethanol has a lower BTU rating than gasoline, so Gasohol / E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) would expect to have a 3.2% reduced fuel economy, yet people are seeing 10% (or more) reductions in fuel economy in some cars (early Prius is an example).

    If your car can go 1000 miles on 40 gallons of pure-gas (25mpg), and you suffer a 10% (or more) reduction in fuel economy with Gasohol, then the same trip now takes you 44.44 gallons of gasohol (of which 39.996 is gasoline, and 4.44 is ethanol). Basically, you just burned 4.44 gallons of ethanol, and the exact same amount of gasoline for the same damn trip if you had just been driving in pure-gas in the first place. How much energy was wasted in producing that 4.44 gallons of ethanol that had ZERO positive effect? Answer: ALL OF IT.

    For these cars, having Ethanol in the gas is actually _worse_than_water_. There are other really bad things about having anything higher than E0 in your fuel: rubber seals breakdown, water saturation, etc.

    This is why 10% Ethanol blends are not allowed in Germany.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/e85-boondoggle-of-the-day-ttac-prius-driver-says-ethanol-sucks/

  33. Charlie says

    new cars are SO expensive. I like the idea of hybrids but I don’t think I’d ever pay for a new one. I’m just happy using public transportation and getting around that way. I’ve never even owned a car actually and have saved so much money that way!

  34. SanFranciscan says

    Admin said: “If people did the calculations, they’d realize the premium price paid for the car is much greater than the gas savings over an average 7 year ownership period.”

    How do you measure “gas savings”, exactly? I bet you just multiply gallons consumed * price per gallon. This is wrong. It does not measure the real cost of burning those gallons — that is the cost of the greenhouse gases you put out. This cost, unfortunately, takes a while to accumulate and is harder to measure, but is a very real cost.

    Admin further said: “You see, unless you destroyed your old vehicle, you ADD to the world’s pollution when you buy new.”

    This is only true if you could still drive your old car but choose to buy a new car just because. If your old car was no longer functional or falling apart, then buying a new car makes sense. There is a natural rate at which cars die and have to be replaced, and this does not create artificial demand. At that point, given the choice between hybrid vs. non-hybrid, it absolutely makes sense to carefully consider your options.

  35. says

    @SanFranciscan I was hoping more people from green San Francisco would chime in, thnx!

    I don’t want this to be a post ganging up on hybrid-vehicle owners. Au contraire, this is a post to DEFEND non-hyprid vehicle owners from those who attack us and think we’re polluting the environment worse than them.

    We learn that batteries are deadly, and the 30% price premium is also hard to swallow. Net net, who really is polluting more?

  36. says

    @BG I’m glad to see someone else shares my opinion on ethanol. The other point we haven’t touched on is we’re a corn-based society and can’t just turn one of our major food sources into a fuel. Try reading the ingredient labels on the food in your kitchen and put all the food with high fructose corn syrup on one end of your kitchen table and the food without on the other. Your table will probably tip over from the imbalance before you can finish.

    It’s one thing if a car is designed to run on ethanol, but if isn’t don’t force us to buy the stuff anyway. Thanks for the link to the article.

  37. BG says

    @David
    I agree, I don’t own any “Flex Fuel” vehicles, but the only thing they sell our here is flex-fuel Gasohol / E10.

    Having ethanol in our gas makes no sense environmentally or economically for many reasons, so how did we end up in this position? — All we are left with is “follow the money”, and that leads to corn-industry pushing this crap on us.

  38. Matt SF says

    Reminds me of that bumper sticker that one ups the “my kid is an honor student” with…

    My bad ass son just kicked the s**t out of your honor student.

  39. Geek says

    I would be interested in seeing results of a real study-maybe consumer reports?-about buying new vs. used, and cost of repairs vs. age of car.
    Buying new is often worse for the environment though. Sadly. I like new.

    • says

      Geek – Don’t buy new, no matter how intoxicating the new car smell is! :) Just go to the car dealership every so often and sit in the models and breathe it all in. Afterwards, thank the salespeople and walk away.

  40. Geek says

    2000 Jetta 2.0litre. Bought him in college, used, for more than 10% of my income but in cash. Come to think of it, I guess I was still in my parents’ household at that point and could fall back on them, so it was <10% of their income. I paid rent, bought the car, and ate a lot of rice though.

    I can keep it running for another 80k (7 years?) with my good mechanic with no problem, it's not as expensive to fix as everyone says German cars are. And I still like it.

    But the itch!! I'm considering a house so I will NOT get another car for a few years yet anyway.

    • says

      Geek – Scratch that itch and just visit your local Ferarri dealer (or Honda) and go for a test drive! Enjoy the new car smell, thank the salesperson, and WALK AWAY! It really is a free form of fun, with no oblgation to buy. Buy a house before a car for sure, esp now! Sam

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