Whoa. This was so not the picture I thought I’d be sharing with y’all. After nearly 9 years without a car, and my husband never ever having owned one, we…bought a car. The Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback. It’s nicely fuel efficient at 40 MPG freeway, keeping it competitive with it’s hybrid counterpart, the C-Max (which we were also considering, but found it too big for us…they did have an ‘Energi’ model that includes plug-in capacity and doubles the MPG, but that’s over $30K).

We did a lot of soul searching, and what it really came down to is the Zipcar expenditures in the past year and a half as a married couple going out into non-bussable areas (hiking, road trips, etc.) as well as for spring and summer in-town trips to get heavy/huge items that are either very tough or impossible be lugged by bike (mulch, big garden stuff, furniture, etc.) as well as Ruby to the vet. This analysis, matched with the upcoming year’s plans and Zipcar’s continually increasing rates (now in the $10-14/hr range – when I first joined in 2008 it was half that…we closed our Car2Go “rent-by-the-minute”  membership when the hourly total equaled $16/hr+), made it clear that buying a car would – ironic as it sounds – be ultimately more cost effective for our lifestyle.

Our homework has been pretty intense on wagons & hatchbacks (we are intensely anti-SUV), researching, looking and driving a bunch of them (several through our Zipcar membership). Here’s what we found:

  • We loved the Honda Fit‘s drive but were treated with complete apathy by the dealership we went to earlier in the week and their poor business model.
  • No offense to Toyota Prius owners, but I find it quite unappealing  aesthetically and having driven a friend’s, didn’t like how it drove.
  • Since we don’t need a commuter car (I work from home, husband bikes to work), as our car trips will mostly be for weekends away, road trips, etc., the beautiful all-electric Nissan Leaf and other competitors were a no-go since a most they have a 100 mile range and recharging takes several hours at the least.
  • When we heard about what VW has been doing to deliberately defraud the public about their emissions? Hell no. So the VW Jetta, Golf and Passat were off the table immediately. And honestly, after previously using the Golf on Zipcar, I liked the Fit better.
  • We test drove the super cute Kia Soul but while the headroom was great, the cargo space wasn’t very dog friendly without folding out the back seats.
  • And nope, we couldn’t go with the Subaru Impreza or it’s relatives in the hatchback/wagon family. Their resale value is high, which is great for them, but their MPG is actually not that impressive and for that, it’s not worth $20K. Our ideal was the older Forester wagon, as the new ones have become SUVs, but we’ve not found one under 100K miles. We had a neighbor with a cute Impreza coming up for sale – but with IVORY interior. Not in a dog-and-future-kiddo household! Plus, the same price as a brand new Focus.
  • We rented both a Toyota Yaris and a Chevy Sonic from Enterprise this past year and they were okay but both felt very brittle and not ones that would last for long.
  • Other cars like the Scion, Toyota Matrix, Nissan Versa, and Mazda3 either had lower MPG than we wanted or sub-par reviews.

So why the Focus? First, I used to drive one – the 2000 Focus wagon that they no longer make (major WAHHHH! I loved that and sold it during my first marriage only because my husband had a car for work and we didn’t need it. I’d totally have bought another one if they made it – but can’t find any with low miles 15 years later, LOL). Across the board, it has great reviews for safety, fuel efficiency, performance, and cargo space (which incidentally also fits our pup no problem -without putting the seats down). It also includes leather seating, backup camera (standard), heated seats and voice recognition (turn up the heat or turn down the music without fiddling with the controls? cool!). And? Because it was last year’s model but still on the lot, we got $6K off the price, and therefore get a brand new, never-owned car with 35 miles on it for the same price I paid for my wagon 15 years ago. Wheeeeee!

Honestly, until I actually signed the paperwork today, I didn’t believe I’d actually go through with it. I’ve been proud to live without owning a car for so many years! My husband could sense my anxiety as we were signing the papers (thanks to the dealership, they were able to get him onto the loan – we were going to pay cash but this was a great way to help him establish credit in the US, so we financed and will pay off in 3 months instead to prove some payment history), and we talked about my eco-guilt and what we can do to address this carbon footprint we’ve now created.

So, carbon offsets are on our shopping list next to help counteract the GHG from what we do going forward with our own car. Technically, it’s not like we’re driving MORE, we’re just driving our own car, but I still want to do better if I’m going to be a car owner. We have reached out to The Climate Trust about purchasing offset credits from their GHG reduction portfolio (supporting local agriculture that is taking concrete steps to reduce their own emissions) and scheduling trips that always include environmental volunteerism in 2016 and beyond. We’ve identified several green maintenance shops in the area and being that we don’t use this for commuting, don’t anticipate more than a couple thousand miles a year on the car. But the ecoguilt sits there in the corner of my mind, reminding me of who I am and what legacy I want to leave behind.

This Earth is what my husband and I believe in, and that is a feeling we want to instill in our children. Our travels will take us to wild places and to opportunities that allow us to give back more easily to our community and the region we live in. But we’ll still focus on doing more.

“We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
~Thích Nhất Hạnh

One thought on “Eco-licious…Car?

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. I love being without a car, it works for this stage of my life but it wouldn’t have worked when I had small children. Being that you want to start a family know that by having a car you will have peace of mind should you ever need to make emergency room visits or any number of unexpected trips that require a car for families.

    I’m saddened by your news that the zip car had become too expensive to justify continued use. I am always hoping the programs more environmentally aware cities have will come my way and be a viable option. Guess this won’t if the price keeps going up.


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