Dr. M. Elizabeth Snow
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Why I Bought A Smart Car
I am a thoroughly cheap frugal person. I’m sure it comes from the many, many years I spent as a starving student1. So when I got a car that required me to have a car, “how much is a car going to cost me?” was one of the first things I wanted to find out. The two3 main things I considered were: (a) how much the actual car would cost and (b) how much gas would cost me.
I knew the following things:
- I will be using the car mainly for driving to work (35 km each way) and then driving around to various sites in the Lower Mainland for meetings. This driving will pretty much all be on my own.
- The other thing I will use my car for is to drive to hockey, where I’d either be driving on my own or with one other passenger.
- I don’t need any bells or whistles. Truly, the only requirements I have for the car is that it it fits me and my hockey equipment and has a cup holder for my ever present travel mug of coffee.
a. Cost of the Car
I have long had a crush on the smart. I also loved my old Honda Civic. And being a member of the Car Co-op, I’ve driven all sorts of different cars lately, so I know that I like the way the Toyota Corolla drives, but I hate the Toyota Yaris.
There seems to be a misconception that the smart car is really expensive (perhaps it’s because it’s made by Mercedes Benz?), as evidenced by the countless people who have said to me “Aren’t those EXPENSIVE?” when I say that I’ve bought one. But here’s a quick comparsion4 of the cost of each of the base model with no extra options added for each of these cars (and a few hybrids thrown in for good measure):
|Car||Cost After Taxes & Other Fees|
|Toyota Yaris Hatchback (2008)||$15,144.45|
|smart fortwo Pure (2009)||$16,227.75|
|Toyota Corolla (2009)||$18,070.85|
|Honda Civic DX Coupe*||$20,792.00|
|Toyota Prius (2008)||$30,591.65|
|Honda Civic Hybrid*||$32,385.80|
*Honda doesn’t indicate on its website to what year’s model they are referring.
And not all base models are created equal. For example, the Corolla didn’t include things that the smart fortwo comes with standard, like keyless entry, power windows and a first aid kit and the Toyota website allows you to choose the older model (2008 or 2009) of their cars, which may not still be avaialable, so if you have to go with a 2009 or 2010 instead, the cost would be slightly more than what I’ve listed here.
So, you can see that the smart is a fair bit cheaper than the other cars I’ve considered and significantly cheaper than the hybrids. (The only one that is cheaper is the Yaris Hatchback, which I *hate* driving).
b. Cost of Gas
The other big thing to consider is how much gas is going to run you. So here’s a comparsion of the fuel economy of these cars. The measure of fuel economy is given in litres of gas per 100 km. So the lower the number (i.e., the fewer litres of gas you burn when you drive 100 km, the better). The measure also gives you an easy way to see how much gas is going to cost you – for example, if gas costs $1/litre, then a car that gets 5l/100 km will cost you $5 in gas for every 100 km you drive.
Here is the fuel economy given for each of these cars on their respective websites:
|Car||Fuel Economy (L per 100 km)|
|City||Highway||City & Highway
|Toyota Yaris Hatchback (2008)||7.0||5.5||6.3|
|smart fortwo Pure (2009)||5.9||4.8||5.4|
|Toyota Corolla (2009)||7.5||5.6||6.7|
|Honda Civic DX Coupe
|Toyota Prius (2008)||4.0||4.2||4.1|
|Honda Civic Hybrid||4.7||4.3||not given|
You can see from this table that the one cars that get better fuel economy than the smart are the hybrids, which cost almost double what a smart costs to buy. I also noticed that all the cars except the Prius get better fuel economy for highway driving than for city driving – I dont’ know what the signficance of that is, but it kinda jumped out at my when I was compiling the numbers.
And then there’s financing…
There are a number of financial incentives to buy the more eco-friendly vehicles. My smart car had no Provincial Sales Tax (P.S.T.) due to a provincial incentive for buying an eco-friendly car and there was a $1250 “spring rebate.” The dealer was offering 3.9% financing, but I chose to go with the Vancity Clean Air Auto Loan, which provides lower loan rates for people who buy fuel efficient cars. Specifically:
Only the smart car, the Prius & the Civic Hybrid fall into that first category. The Civic, the Corolla and the Yaris, along with 13 other cars, get the slightly higher prime + 2% rate. Given that the prime rate is so low (2.25% on the day I got my loan), prime + 1% is a pretty sweet deal!
So there you have it. In addition to the fact that I’m totally in love with the smart – so cute, fun to drive, less impact on their environment than most other cars, parkable in the tiniest of parking spaces, high safety rating – it’s also a pretty good deal financially speaking.
Also, for the record, this blog posting is not paid for in anyway – I just love my smart and want to share my smart enthusiasm! Actually, I’m becoming something of a smart car evangelist… perhaps I should ask them for commission? 😉
.1People talk about the “ivory tower” of academia, but let me tell you – they must have spent all the money on ivory, because they certainly don’t spend it on grad student salaries2
2Assuming you are getting any salary at all.
3I assumed car insurance would be the same no matter what car I bought, since I knew I wasn’t going to be buying a Ferrari or anything.
4These prices are all taken from the car companies’ respective websites, which conveniently have a “build your own car” tool that allows you to pick whatever options you like and find out how much the car you want will cost after taxes and fees. The price for the smart fortwo is the price that I actually paid.