Author Topic: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?  (Read 1611 times)

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Pondering vehicles...

We have a 2015 Mazda 3 - manual transmission, high trim level with the 2.5.  It's been working just fine, and does what we need.  We purchased it to last a long while, and so far, all is good on that front.

Two kids, both in child seats, and that works fine in the back of the Mazda.

We live out in the country, and my wife/kids generally do ~30 mile days when they go into town.  It's in the 20-40 mile round trip range most days, but they occasionally go further (60-100 miles), the car is sometimes used for multiple trips a day (usually one in the morning, one at night if we have things going on), and we do sometimes take longer trips up into the mountains.

My original plan was to buy a beater Leaf for the shorter stuff, and keep the Mazda 3 around for our longer trips.  And then I realized just how annoying it is to swap two car seats between cars, especially regularly.  Plus, having a car sitting, not being used, isn't ideal.  And I don't have a good spot for it (we have a big carport, but it fits the car, truck, and some other stuff in the center nicely, but would be really, really tight with three cars in there).

Further consideration of our actual use indicates that a 2nd gen Volt might be a really, really good fit.  It's got a ~50 mile range on battery, which would cover almost all the regular driving on battery, while still giving us unlimited range on gas (southwest Idaho is a big place).  Our power is cheap, and I'm putting a big solar setup on the house next year.  The car will typically be charging late morning/early afternoon when the sun is high, so it'll use some of our solar noon production when household use is low.

The other option would be to get a slightly longer range EV and use the truck for longer stuff, but I don't think this is a better option than the Volt, as it adds a lot of miles on the truck, which is not a cheap beast to run.  It's great for hauling large and heavy loads, but we try to avoid using it as a daily driver type vehicle.  I work from home, so one car-type vehicle is fine.

I think I can get $15k-$17k out of the Mazda 3, give or take a bit and depending on how I sell it.  On the other hand, a 2nd gen Volt is around $20k.  So, a bit more expensive, but comfortably within the price delta I was looking at for a Leaf runabout.

The Volt service manuals are available, and there seem to be some good forums, so I can probably do a lot of the maintenance work myself - I've worked on a lot of stuff, and high voltage electronics don't particularly bother me either (though that side seems reliable).

At ~8k miles/yr, the Mazda 3 (31mpg actual) goes through ~260 gallons/yr, for around $900/yr in fuel costs.  Plus other maintenance.  The Volt, at a pessimistic 300Wh/mi, would use 2400kWh for the year's travel, and at the absolute worst case power rate (summer high use tier), it'd be $288 in electric - but it's going to be far cheaper, especially with solar installed.  Probably closer to $200, plus a bit in gas for longer travel.  That's around $650/yr operating cost delta, going up if fuel costs rise (as seems likely - and right now, with cheap-ish fuel, it seems a good time to buy a Volt before prices rise).  That's... not a great payback period, but it also gives us independent ways to run around if there are gas lines or such.  Which is worth something.

Does this make sense?  I'd like to swap out the Mazda for a Volt and both save money plus be able to use (soon to be) locally produced power, but I'm not sure if that's actually a good idea or not.

Obviously the MMM answer is to sell the Mazda 3 and buy a beat to shit Fit, but... it's not like we're hair on fire in debt or anything.  Savings rate is good, debt is basically monthly float on CCs and some 0% laying around on a Lowe's card, and income is quite solid for the area.  My wife doesn't have a particularly strong preference, though she does like manual transmissions (which we have, and I enjoy as well, but cheaper operating costs are worth a good bit, and it's not like an electric drives like a cheap automatic or anything).

If I could find a way to do a straight up (or nearly so) swap for the Volt, I think that would be a very easy swap to justify, but I'm not sure with the fact that I'll likely have to pay more to get what I'm looking for.  Plus, I feel pretty stupid only keeping a car for 4 years. :/

Thoughts?  Reasons I'm an idiot for considering this?
« Last Edit: July 01, 2018, 10:21:32 PM by Syonyk »

Dicey

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 16022
  • Age: 63
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2018, 11:19:20 PM »
You've been hanging around here long enough that you might remember dagiffy01. He's the cool cat who lived in his Volt in order to slay his Abominable Student Loans. Just today, I found this message in my journal. The timing of this message from an old friend almost given up for lost is unreal, as there's a chapter of his story that pertains directly to your question. It's long, but interesting, so I'm going to cut and paste the whole thing.

Greetings Dye Sea and crew...someone formerly known as dagiffy and Baking Powder Jones would like me to pass on some information about his whereabouts, whenabouts, and fiscality. He remembers you fondly for various reasons (especially DC for her laundry and the best conversation and tacos he remembers eating...such kindnesses and largess on her part made a world of difference to him at the time they were bestowed) and, though he has an account he uses to occasionally post in these forums, he has developed a bit of a mustache count now and doesn't wish to start over to make another account should his identity be exposed and he be dramatically banned. I have created this account for this post in fear of being banned for just being associated with such an evil human being. I am ashamed of my association, true, but like a nicotine addiction I can't give him up.

Yes, many of you have exchanged niceties with him the past few years without knowing it. Even the one who banned him. Anyway, this is the information, copied and pasted:

"Tell them that might be interested, and there's at least one stalwart individual who recently remembered me and my Volt discourses a few months ago, that I am alive and well and living with my wife. The Batcave, as he became known, suffered a birth defect which only recently revealed itself. Alas, the passenger side of the vehicle filled up with water whenever "it" rained..."it" being, I don't know, the vertically located general vicinity? Anyway, the Batcave was taken to the vehicle doctors for diagnosis. A machine weld failed miserably, a known defect for this car it turns out, which let water into the interior.

As luck would have it, I no longer habitated in the Batcave, being unable to convince my wife to go Late Retirement Extreme with me and move into it. I didn't notice it was leaking on the passenger side because Batcave was only used as a motorize wheelchair to get me to work and back. One day I convinced my wife to ride with me someplace else. Her sensitive nose picked up the dreaded mold and mildew odor, greatly offending her olfactory nerves. I couldn't smell it.

Gripped by curiosity, she used the hand/eye coordination developed over a lifetime to reach with her hand down to feel the carpet. Soaked! She communicated thus and such to me. We both exclaimed aloud and pondered the cause of such a shocking situation. I could find nothing, so off to the vehicle doctors it went.

Well, that was third week of January. As of today, I still don't have the Batcave back. Still paying on it, still paying the insurance, but reluctant to buy a third car. I've been called to come get it a couple times, but both times I found the vehicle in worse shape than I left it. Molding gouged, dented, or missing. Dash and center console put back together like a Picasso painting. Center console controls not working. Interior of the car reeking to high heaven of chemicals akin to rubber cement AND mold AND mildew. Both times I rejected their offering, entreating them to do better.

And still I sit, reading MMM forums, laughing and pondering, but without that singular Batcave which so endeared me to those frugal masses. But enough of that.....I retained Lemon Law lawyers and served papers. So much is wrong with California in so many ways, but one of those ways is not the Lemon Law here. I am told it is the best in the country. I am also told my case is rock solid. They will end up buying the car back from me, with interest, AND pay the attorney fees according to the letter of the law. But I'm still one car down but paying for two...yes, anyone who remembers will remember that I'm an idiot at heart, falling for the "but it's a brand new car for half price!" when of course it is much cheaper NOT TO BUY IT.

In more important matters, I first joined this forum...I think...in April of 2015. I was quickly encouraged to divorce my wife, so buttoned up that topic and went to the journals, where I found a much friendlier audience and fewer of the Vulcan-like emotionless strain of Mustachians.

I declared my life long idiocy and my financial situation: yes, I'm 180,000 dollars in debt. Punch me in the face! HARD!

Little by little I improved my situation, suffering dearly at times and sometimes just suffering. I lived in the Volt. I showered at 24 hour fitness, took mail at UPS store, stored food in my desk after thoughtfully purchasing a small fridge and microwave for the office. I stored a few belongings locally that I didn't want to buy again, going to it occasionally for things I purchased in bulk...Costco toothpaste, for example. You can't just buy one tube.

In six months of working 70 hour weeks on average, I paid down my ASL from 112k to 55k. Soon the OT disappeared. Not so soon I burned out and moved into a 1200 per month studio with no kitchen. Very cheap in San Ramon, though. Eventually my wife made her pilgrimage to join me in paradise, and here we sit today.

I'm not in the black, yet. Net worth has increased from -180,000 dollars to -45000 dollars. My hatred for this debt continues unabated. My hatred for the ASL, especially, continues unabated. My loathing for my job increases monthly, as I'm stuck making bank (for a blue collar guy) at a job I despise until this is over or I die.

Currently I'm entertaining taking a job that pays much better than I get now, out of state. I would go alone again. I would live in my car again. Not sure how it will pan out or if I'll take it if they offer it, but I just might. I'm tired, old, but respectful now of the power of compound interest and the life-suck it can cause to those foolish enough to be on the wrong side of it.

That's all."


So there you have it, my pretties. Actually he wrote all of this in his peculiar way, except for this sentence. Caio.

gooki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2553
  • Location: NZ
    • My FIRE journal
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2018, 02:07:56 AM »
In your case adding a Leaf isnít the answer as you have already figured out.

As for swapping the mazda 3 plus 3-5k for a volt, that a tough choice. Maybe put the Mazda on the market and see how close to 20k you can get?
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 03:33:47 AM by gooki »

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2018, 11:27:40 AM »
Leaking Volts would be a problem...

As for putting the Mazda 3 on the market first, that runs into the problem of "Well, if it sells, my wife is running around with the truck until I find a good price on a Volt."  That's pretty far into suboptimal.

Ecky

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 310
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2018, 12:08:37 PM »
My understanding of Volts is that they're very reliable, but if something does go wrong, it can be very expensive and require specialized tools to fix. Chances are good you'd come out ahead.

neo von retorch

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3814
  • Location: SE PA
    • Fi@retorch - personal finance tracking
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2018, 12:33:44 PM »
I have almost the exact same Mazda 3 6MT as you. Love it. Bought it almost exactly 1 year ago w/ 8k on it (for a little under $20k), and put about 10k on it this year. My one year MPG is 29.8 mpg. (Last 9 months doing this awful 17 mile stop-light commute has been bad for it.) Financially, it's probably a wash or a little better considering your solar after 5 years... basically recovering the unnecessary transaction costs. Your financial situation is such that it probably comes down to lifestyle preference, environmental considerations, betting on reliability, etc... win-win as long as you're happy with your decision and things go as you expect.

Personally, I'm sure I would get a "it's neat" feel from driving a Volt, but I love driving the 3, so I doubt I'd make the switch.

Bird In Hand

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 773
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2018, 01:38:19 PM »
This is only mildly facepunch-worthy IMO.  You're talking about spending $4k that you don't need to spend, and slowly recouping it over maybe 5-7 years via fuel savings.  $4k isn't much on its own, especially if you're maxing your pre-tax accounts, have high income, etc.  That $4k isn't going to make or break anything for you, but just beware your attitude lest it becomes a habit.

I would recommend comparing your insurance and registration costs for the Mazda vs Chevy to help you get a more accurate idea of the payback period.  Compare the expected long-term reliability of both as well.  You might also want to think about the expected residual values over time.  Will the Volt value will plunge very quickly once the battery goes, or as newer EVs make the 2nd gen Volt's technology obsolete (or at least highly undesirable) by comparison?  Roughly when might that occur?

Personally I'm averse to the hassle of buying/selling cars, so I tend to put off these types of decisions until the value of our beater gets close to $0.  Then when the maintenance costs start to escalate in its old age, it forces my hand and I buy a new (used) vehicle to suit my expected needs.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Replacing a Mazda 3 with a Volt: Good idea or facepunch idea?
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2018, 03:21:01 PM »
My understanding of Volts is that they're very reliable, but if something does go wrong, it can be very expensive and require specialized tools to fix. Chances are good you'd come out ahead.

That's what I'm finding.  On the plus side, I'm capable of doing things from engine rebuilds down to board level repair (perhaps not quickly, but I've done all of those before), so I can do a lot of the work myself.  And I have access to a four post lift.  And rebuild lithium batteries for part of my income.  As long as I can get the shop manuals (which it seems like I can), I can do most of the work myself.  It seems the CAN interface is at least somewhat documented as well for diagnostics and the like.

Financially, it's probably a wash or a little better considering your solar after 5 years... basically recovering the unnecessary transaction costs. Your financial situation is such that it probably comes down to lifestyle preference, environmental considerations, betting on reliability, etc... win-win as long as you're happy with your decision and things go as you expect.

Hopefully.  Another non-financial aspect it gives (with the pairing of the Volt and solar) is that I'll have useful transportation regardless of shocks to the oil markets - almost all the year, I'll be able to charge purely from solar, because I'm designing my system such that it has extended grid down capability (doing it myself, this still comes in cheaper than quotes I've been getting).

This is only mildly facepunch-worthy IMO.  You're talking about spending $4k that you don't need to spend, and slowly recouping it over maybe 5-7 years via fuel savings.  $4k isn't much on its own, especially if you're maxing your pre-tax accounts, have high income, etc.  That $4k isn't going to make or break anything for you, but just beware your attitude lest it becomes a habit.

Pretty much.  Or less, if fuel prices rise significantly.  I'm more or less locking in transportation costs instead of letting them flex over time.

I've been trying to angle for early retirement via "capex now to reduce opex later."  And, in the process, building in antifragility/robustness.  We'll see how it works, but it seems a solution that's less dependent on market returns than the typical approach here.  I've certainly got stuff in the markets as well, but if I can spend money now to get a return in the form of long term lowered ongoing expenses (regardless of what happens), that's useful.  IMO.

Quote
I would recommend comparing your insurance and registration costs for the Mazda vs Chevy to help you get a more accurate idea of the payback period.  Compare the expected long-term reliability of both as well.  You might also want to think about the expected residual values over time.  Will the Volt value will plunge very quickly once the battery goes, or as newer EVs make the 2nd gen Volt's technology obsolete (or at least highly undesirable) by comparison?  Roughly when might that occur?

I'm not sure how to compare long term reliability of new cars... the 1st gen Volt was pretty solid in terms of pack management, but there's far more than a battery pack in them, and they are a fairly complex car.  There's a lot of guessing in there, sadly.  If fuel prices skyrocket, the Volt will be worth far more than the Mazda, but if fuel prices crash, the opposite is likely to be true.