Posted by: nickgerlich | January 22, 2008

Get Smart

Green is cool. No doubt about it. Regardless of your views on global warming, the environment, recycling, etc., if you put on a green face, you are hip.

So the timing is perfect for importing the ideal green car to USAmerica. Of course, that would be the Smart Car, the tiny 2-seater from Mercedes Benz that has been available to Europeans for years.

Oh yeah…those guys have been paying out the nose for their gas for as long as I can remember. Long before Al Gore ever prophesied the end of the earth as we know it, or Greenland’s southern tip suddenly becoming beachfront property.

Smart CarAnd you, too, can get on the cool bandwagon by ordering your Smart Car online today for a mere $99. Once your car arrives stateside, you will be notified. The only irony is that, while it comes in six different colors, it is not available in green.

At 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway, the Smart fortwo is certainly a gas miser, and good for the environment. The question is, does purchasing a fuel-efficient vehicle with a carbon (and real) footprint the size of a child’s Radio Flyer wagon make economic sense?

To be honest, probably not. Try out my online calculator to see the painful truth. You can play with the various inputs to see what the payback period would be (and to see how much you are paying to be oh-so-cool).

In the default example, I have traded in a hypothetical old gas guzzler for the Smart, offloading a 15 mpg freeway barge on my 15,000 miles of annual use, in return for this supposedly cheap-to-keep econobox. Using the parameters I provided, the Smart fortwo would cost me $1450 per year for the first five years (the fuel savings all going to pay off the car…and then some!). The payback period would be a little over 11 years.

With apologies to Al Gore and Greenland, me thinks this doesn’t make much sense. Unless you are ethically driven to save the environment, or just want to be really hip and cool, this is a losing proposition in a financial sense. Sure, there are exceptions, like if you absolutely, positively have to buy a replacement vehicle right now. But in a general sense, replacing even your gas guzzler with a miser will probably wind up costing you a lot of dough…even though you think you’re saving it at the pump.

I will not deny that it is pretty cool to be able to reserve a car online. This part is not much different from reserving a rental car for use while on travel. We just need to think clearly about the implications of this purchase. And we need to think about other options, like simply trying to drive less.

Easy? Not at all. But easier than going into the red for the appearance of being green.

Dr “I’d Rather Be In The Black” Gerlich

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