That Gas Guzzler Might Actually Save You Money

Ever since gas prices got above the $3 mark, fuel efficiency has been one of the most important factors influencing car buyers.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, “when it comes time to shop for their next new car, 37 percent of survey respondents said fuel economy is the leading consideration, trumping other important factors including quality, safety, and value.”


While fuel economy is certainly an important aspect of both reducing your environmental impact and saving money at the pump, the fact is that chasing after the best MPGs may be costing you money.


If you are looking to buy a car in the next year, here are some solid financial reasons why you might want to look at a gas guzzler rather than a sipper:

1. The purchase price will be lower. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. Since fuel efficiency is paramount to most car buyers, the cars that rarely top 15-20 miles per gallon are necessarily going to be harder to sell, so dealers and private parties alike will be willing to negotiate on price.

This is especially a concern for anyone looking to purchase a used car. According to a recent Polk analysis, the average age of America’s fleet of cars is now 10.8 years. After the Cash for Clunkers program in 2009 removed more than 690,000 used cars from the roads and the recession caused more drivers to hold onto their cars, there are a lot fewer quality used cars available for purchase.

Gas Guzzling SUV Riverbed Mountains

If you are bent on buying a fuel efficient used car, expect to pay close to new car prices, even if the car has high mileage or even some damage. For example, used car dealer Steven Lang who writes for The Truth About Cars recently bemoaned the prices at auto auctions for cars that, at first glance, would not seem to be good buys. He describes a 2007 Toyota Camry with 197,000 miles and interior issues selling for nearly $8000 and a 2004 Toyota Sienna with 153,000 miles and a huge crack on the dash selling for $8600.

Part of what is driving these prices up is the expectation of fuel efficiency from Toyota vehicles.

2. You will pay less in insurance. Insuring your gas guzzling car will save you a great deal of money over a more efficient car. In part, this has to do with the lowered value of less popular cars. If it will cost very little to replace your car, then you pay less for insurance.

In addition, driving a quality but underappreciated gas guzzler will often mean that you can drop your collision coverage. uses this example to show that collision coverage on inexpensive cars is generally not necessary:

“If your vehicle is worth $2,500 and your collision premium is $500 per year, you’re paying 20 percent of your vehicle’s value for one insurance coverage. On top of that, the most you’d receive in a total loss settlement would be $2,000, and that doesn’t factor in the amount you’re paying for collision coverage.”

Finally, the metrics for determining the long-term depreciation of a gas guzzler are well established, as opposed to those of a hybrid or electric car. What that means is that you will pay a lot less in insurance for a car whose risk is easier to assess.

As Rose Hardy of the Examiner puts it,

“since they [hybrid and electric cars] are new, there is no track record to determine how they will age and how they will stand up to accidents in the third or later year. The new batteries and engines just have not accumulated enough data to determine what the exact risk is to the insurance company.”

In short, sticking with an old standby which is not as fuel efficient can save you a lot on insurance.

3. Parts are cheaper than on hybrids. This particular money-saving aspect of gas guzzlers is not necessarily borne out when comparing them with other internal combustion engine vehicles that happen to have better mileage. However, a gas guzzler beats a hybrid or electric car hands down when it comes time to take both into the shop.

When it comes to maintenance, hybrid cars may cost about the same or possibly even less to maintain than their gas counterparts. And though hybrid owners may have had a difficult time finding mechanics who were willing to do routine maintenance on their vehicles in the early days of this technology, it has now been around long enough that many more mechanics have the training to handle it. No, the real problem with hybrids going to the mechanic is if there is something wrong with the car.

As Linda C. Brinson reports on HowStuffWorks:

“there is…always the possibility that some part of the special hybrid system, most often the large battery pack, will fail. Hybrids sold today usually have warranties on the hybrid system that are good for eight years/100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers) or 10 years/150,000 miles (241,402 kilometers). But if you’re unlucky and your car’s hybrid battery dies after you’ve passed those milestones, the costs can be staggering.”

The other issue with the specialized parts necessary for hybrids is the fact that they must be purchased new. If you are a dedicated penny pincher, mechanically inclined, and environmentally motivated, you can find many of the parts you might need for repairs on your gas guzzler at your local junkyard.

This is especially true if you are driving a car with a long history—like the Ford Crown Victoria, for example. The parts are pretty much interchangeable throughout the different model years, so you can easily avoid paying too much for replacement parts if you need them. Even if you are unwilling to go junkyard diving yourself, you can still find the necessary pre-owned parts at websites such as

In the pursuit of fewer fill-ups, many car buyers have forgotten that there are many more costs to car ownership than just fuel. Before turning your nose up at a gas guzzler, remember that driving one can save you a considerable amount.

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  1. These are fine points. I feel that the rising costs on fuel made most of us ignore other essential factors such as your point on insurance, maintenance and purchase costs. When others feel of making a good deal, they will realize in the long run that they are actually spending more.    

  2. I love skiing, so having an SUV is important to me.  The good thing is I don’t use it as my main form of transportation (yeah city buses!) so therefore my insurance is lower and people give me cash to drive them up to the mountain.  Win / win!

  3. Yeah – all definitely true points… Especially when you figure that car manufacturers and dealers are likely to try to capitalize on the demand created by the perception that better fuel mileage automatically equals lower total cost of ownership. I will say that I drove a Corolla for years before getting an Infiniti G37x (I really wanted the power of the bigger V6). No question – the Corolla was a heck of a lot cheaper to own and maintain. Simple parts, little computer involvement, 35MPG and 87 Octane fuel. The G37 gets a lot more “fun per gallon” though 🙂

  4. Avatar W at Off Road Finance says:

    For a “typical” 10K mile driver the difference between a maximally efficient and worst case efficiency car is usually about $1000 of gas per year.  So you can compare that to the vehicle cost make an intelligent decision.

  5. Avatar William_Drop_Dead_Money says:

    Absolutely true. When we lived in California we bought a Ford Crown Victoria for less than a Civic of the same vintage. It turned out this vehicle had (at the time) the absolute lowest insurance classification. What we saved on insurance per month was more than the total gas guzzling gas bill.
    Old rear wheel drive American cars are as close to bullet proof as they come, so we never found out about the cheaper parts, but that’s a good point.

  6. Avatar OneSmartDollar says:

    These are a lot of great points.  We are in the process of searching for a midsized SUV and the though of getting 15-20 MPG when I am used to 30 MPH is painful.  While the gas might cost me more I think I will have to do even more homework on the price I am willing to spend.

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