My fiancé is in the market for a new car, and he wants a brand-new one.
I listed cars as something you should never buy new, but this is not a battle I want to fight. His mind is made up: he’ll buy a new car with zero miles on it, and he’ll drive it for at least 100,000 miles. Happily. Great. That’s fine with me, but one thing that really interested me was his thought process. He thinks about things rationally, and doesn’t have any particular affinity toward a brand or model.
He has made up his mind about one thing, though, and it’s a seemingly small decision that will save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the car.
That one decision? He’s going to buy a 4-cylinder car. This got me thinking.
How Much Money Can You Save by Opting for a 4-Cylinder Car?
For this math exercise, we’ll need to make some assumptions. I’d like to stick with arithmetic and stay away from the “you never know when you’ll need this in real life” advanced Calculus.
- 4-cylinder cars take regular unleaded gas
- The cost of gas is $3.20, and remains constant for the life of the car
- Cars cost exactly what they say they cost on the internet
- We only ever drive in town, never on the highway
- We drive exactly 10,000 miles per year
- The lifetime of the car is exactly 10 years/100,000 miles
We’re already straying from reality, but this is still interesting.
The next thing we need for this math problem are two real cars. Let’s take two similar Honda Accords: a four-cylinder .
2014 Honda Accord EX-L ($28,270)
According to Honda.com, the EX-L costs $28,270. This trim comes with a lot of excellent features, which is why it’s pretty expensive for an Accord. It gets 27 miles per gallon in city driving (which is all we ever do, remember?) and has a gas tank with a 17.2-gallon capacity.
2014 Honda Accord EX-L V6 ($30,345)
The EX-L V6 with automatic transmission costs $30,345. It gets 21 miles per gallon in city driving and has a gas tank with a 17.2-gallon capacity.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Just a few thousand extra dollars for all that extra horsepower.
But that’s not the whole story. The 4-cylinder version gets 30% better gas mileage.
So, let’s see how it plays out.
We’re saving $2,075 at the dealership by choosing the 4-cylinder car, but how much more are we saving due to gas mileage?
- Based on our assumptions, the gas cost of the EX-L and the EX-L V6 are 12c/mile and 15c/mile respectively.
- You’ll head to the gas station for a fill-up 22 times in a year if you buy the EX-L, and 28 times a year if you buy the EX-L V6.
- Total gas cost for the year (both cars take regular gas) is $1,211 and $1,541 for the EX-L and the EX-L, respectively.
- That’s a difference of $330 per year, which is a total of $3,300 over the lifetime of the car.
So, How Much Do We Save?
Over the lifetime of the Accord, we save $5,375 if we choose the 4-cylinder version over the V6.
Sure, $5000 over ten years doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But if you don’t care about horsepower (and I can honestly tell you, I don’t!), you could save money without sacrificing a darn thing.
And this is an apples-to-apples comparison to show you how, if you opt for the slightly cheaper option, you can save big in the long term. In this example, we’re only comparing the engine to isolate that variable.
Think of how much you can save by changing the variables! There are six trim options for the Accord, and every step down saves you plenty. So if you don’t care about leather (I don’t — it gets too hot and too cold!) or you want to dial down the features, you could save up to $6,300 more at the dealership.
And if you ever drive on the freeway? Or you drive more than 10,000 miles per year? Or you drive more than 100,000 over the lifetime of the car? Your savings will be higher.
It just goes to show you that a seemingly small decision can have a bigger impact to your family’s bottom line than you’ll think of when you’re at the car dealership.