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    William Maley

    Afterthoughts: What's the Right Size Vehicle?

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      A recent bit of window shopping has us wondering about vehicle size

    For the past month, I have been doing a bit of window shopping for a possible replacement for my current vehicle - a 2006 Ford Fusion with almost 270,000 miles on the odometer. Usually, whenever I go look at vehicles, I tend to have automotive ADD; tending to look at all kinds of vehicles with no set price or type. But this recent excursion caused me to notice that I had unknowingly set my sights on a certain group. All of the vehicles I was looking at were all compact cars and none were crossovers. Why is that?

    To get to the bottom of this, I began to look at my driving habits when I am not driving a new car for review. For the most part, I tend to drive in a small radius from where I live - about a 20 to 25 Miles. I don’t really carry passengers in my car and the back seat is primarily used for transporting groceries or other items. Plus, I only get about 22 to 24 mpg in mostly city driving. Looking at this information, it makes some sense as to why I happen to be looking at small cars. I don’t take advantage of all the space on offer for cargo and passengers, and it would be nice to get to some higher fuel economy numbers.

    You might be wondering why am I not considering a compact/subcompact crossover? There are two reasons for this. One is that I find crossovers to be a little too big for my needs and wants. Second is that I can get a better deal on a car than a crossover. For example, I have been looking at various Chevrolet Cruzes and have been surprised how much dealers are marking them down. I have seen price cuts ranging from about $2,000 to $5,000. That means I could get into a decently equipped Cruze for around $20,000 to $22,000. Can’t really do the same when talking about the Equinox.

    There have been a couple pieces flowing around within the past few months talking about how a number of us tend to buy the largest vehicle we can afford because we tend to think about the extremes that will happen rarely during the ownership of the vehicle. Having a big vehicle for when you decide to move or pick up some large items is a nice thing to have, but how often will that happen for most of us? Twice? Three times? We may think that we are using rational reasoning to try and justify buying something bigger, but the irrational parts of our brains ultimately color the final decision.

    All of us should buy a vehicle that fits our needs and wants. But that doesn’t always work out. Some of us enjoy driving a bigger vehicle such as a full-size sedan or pickup truck. If you get a sense of joy every time you get in, despite the faults and issues that will come up, then I don’t see any problem. For me, I would enjoy having a full-size sedan such as a Chevrolet Impala because of its comfortable ride and looks. But at the moment, it doesn’t make sense for me.

    I guess what I am trying to say is the next time you’re deciding on your next vehicle, try your best to keep the needs and wants in check. Don’t fall into those traps of thinking about the extremes. Who knows, you might be like me and find yourself surprised at what you are looking at.

    Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears

    Edited by William Maley

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    Very cool write up. Sounds like you could benefit from going with a BOLT Lease. Those deals are killer at least here on the west coast. With your average driving range, the spacious interior of the BOLT and low cost to power would go really well for you.

    I get the message you are saying, most people could so easily get along fine in a much smaller efficient packaged auto. 

    Then again, freedom of choice and those of us like me that are Shrek size does make down sizing an impossible thing.

    Good think we live in a free country at least for now and can drive what we want, spend what we want and enjoy the option of Choice!

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    ^^^^ Which BMW is that one? Looks like a 5 series, but I may be wrong.

     

    As for the original post, it dawns on me that William has a point.  The 2008 Lucerne I currently have is all well and good, but it may be a little too long for me these days.  While an Impala/XTS sized car would be great (and a CT6 would be near ideal), I am looking at the midsized crossovers because there are times where improved maneuverability (such as in tight spaces) makes the Lucerne feel like a 1980s land yacht.  (And historically, I really like large cars.)  While it makes sense for you to downsize to a Cruze if you can fit in it, that is not the case for me, at least not at my current size.  It is certainly true that the big savings are in smaller cars because of the demand for crossovers that now exists.  It reminds me of the SUV craze of the 1990s, only more so.  Buying a car for need rather than for extreme is great advice.   Now all of us need to execute.

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    Funny this comes up....I've been thinking about that as well. Though I have taken it one step further...

    Small cars are getting cheap, but the prices are even better on slightly used cruzes-I have already seen some 16 Limited (old style) floating in the low teens....not too bad for nearly new! Been shopping these and could pull the trigger on one, as my fleeting is aging (11, 13, 14 years) and a nice cheap ride makes it easier to get a new one next year .

    Now granted that thought could change, as FCA is having a tougher time inloading their CUVs right now, and leftover Compasses or Patriots might come as a nice deal as well.....

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    48 minutes ago, riviera74 said:

    ^^^^ Which BMW is that one? Looks like a 5 series, but I may be wrong.

     

    As for the original post, it dawns on me that William has a point.  The 2008 Lucerne I currently have is all well and good, but it may be a little too long for me these days.  While an Impala/XTS sized car would be great (and a CT6 would be near ideal), I am looking at the midsized crossovers because there are times where improved maneuverability (such as in tight spaces) makes the Lucerne feel like a 1980s land yacht.  (And historically, I really like large cars.)  While it makes sense for you to downsize to a Cruze if you can fit in it, that is not the case for me, at least not at my current size.  It is certainly true that the big savings are in smaller cars because of the demand for crossovers that now exists.  It reminds me of the SUV craze of the 1990s, only more so.  Buying a car for need rather than for extreme is great advice.   Now all of us need to execute.

    E90 3 Series.

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    1 hour ago, riviera74 said:

    ^^^^ Which BMW is that one? Looks like a 5 series, but I may be wrong.

     

    As for the original post, it dawns on me that William has a point.  The 2008 Lucerne I currently have is all well and good, but it may be a little too long for me these days.  While an Impala/XTS sized car would be great (and a CT6 would be near ideal), I am looking at the midsized crossovers because there are times where improved maneuverability (such as in tight spaces) makes the Lucerne feel like a 1980s land yacht.  (And historically, I really like large cars.)  While it makes sense for you to downsize to a Cruze if you can fit in it, that is not the case for me, at least not at my current size.  It is certainly true that the big savings are in smaller cars because of the demand for crossovers that now exists.  It reminds me of the SUV craze of the 1990s, only more so.  Buying a car for need rather than for extreme is great advice.   Now all of us need to execute.

    Glad someone else finds smaller cars easier to drive and park..living in a large city...the difference is stark.

    1 hour ago, daves87rs said:

    Funny this comes up....I've been thinking about that as well. Though I have taken it one step further...

    Small cars are getting cheap, but the prices are even better on slightly used cruzes-I have already seen some 16 Limited (old style) floating in the low teens....not too bad for nearly new! Been shopping these and could pull the trigger on one, as my fleeting is aging (11, 13, 14 years) and a nice cheap ride makes it easier to get a new one next year .

    Now granted that thought could change, as FCA is having a tougher time inloading their CUVs right now, and leftover Compasses or Patriots might come as a nice deal as well.....

    With a family like you have a compass or patriot would make a lot of sense.  But yes, Cruze as a used car is the deal of the century IMHO.

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    I think the absolute best packaged cars on the market right now are compact hatchbacks. Whether your preference is the sporty Mazda 3, the well rounded Civic, or the expert commuter Cruze, you won't find a more practical car on the market. I'm sure some excellent deals can be found for the aging Focus as well, if value is a deciding factor. These cars have looks that won't embarrass you and flexible cargo space that shames a midsize sedan.

    I have been endlessly impressed by my wife's Cruze hatchback. She consistently gets 40+ mpg highway going 75 mph. None of these cars are slow anymore, either. Most of them zip to 60 mph in 8 seconds or less, with higher trims of the Mazda and Civic sneaking in under 7 seconds and they offer slick manual transmissions if that's your thing.

    As dealerships look to unload straggling '17 models, some great bargains could be found. Keep an eye on local listings and email dealers about final pricing.

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    I once sued a 71 Chevelle SS as a daily driver for my family with 5 children...I am not real oriented towards the practical.

    I find myself moving in the opposite direction...a BRZ is impractical but might well be my next car...but I find myself asking how much of a ticking time bomb a 30K 911 is...

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    I think it makes more sense to have a car that suits your needs but isn't larger than you need.  Large cars/SUVs are hard to park, if you drive in urban areas or parking garages they can be a pain.  If you don't need a 3rd row or a cargo area, there is no point in buying it.  

    I have a mid-size car and hardly ever use the back seat, maybe 5 days a year, the other 360 it is empty.   I could drive a 2 seater with no real impact.

    I think you have to look more at performance, fuel economy and features that you want at your price point.   And small cars especially the used ones are fairly cheap, people overpay for crossovers, and dealers usually price cut those small cars.

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    After 17 years in them, I find the 2 row mid size 4x4/AWD SUV-- specifically Grand Cherokees--are the ideal size of me...not too big, not too small, comfortable for 2, room for hauling dogs and content.  They have all the creature comforts and gadgets I need, and the winter traction. 

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    1 hour ago, cp-the-nerd said:

    I think the absolute best packaged cars on the market right now are compact hatchbacks. Whether your preference is the sporty Mazda 3, the well rounded Civic, or the expert commuter Cruze, you won't find a more practical car on the market. I'm sure some excellent deals can be found for the aging Focus as well, if value is a deciding factor. These cars have looks that won't embarrass you and flexible cargo space that shames a midsize sedan.

    I have been endlessly impressed by my wife's Cruze hatchback. She consistently gets 40+ mpg highway going 75 mph. None of these cars are slow anymore, either. Most of them zip to 60 mph in 8 seconds or less, with higher trims of the Mazda and Civic sneaking in under 7 seconds and they offer slick manual transmissions if that's your thing.

    As dealerships look to unload straggling '17 models, some great bargains could be found. Keep an eye on local listings and email dealers about final pricing.

    My daughter is 21 and drives an aging Mazda 3....it has held up rather well. Very impressed with the Cruze and liking the Civic...

    Now where were the keys to that 911....?

    In all reality I have no idea what I am going to do when I finally get rid of the Cooper S.

    1 hour ago, smk4565 said:

    I think it makes more sense to have a car that suits your needs but isn't larger than you need.  Large cars/SUVs are hard to park, if you drive in urban areas or parking garages they can be a pain.  If you don't need a 3rd row or a cargo area, there is no point in buying it.  

    I have a mid-size car and hardly ever use the back seat, maybe 5 days a year, the other 360 it is empty.   I could drive a 2 seater with no real impact.

    I think you have to look more at performance, fuel economy and features that you want at your price point.   And small cars especially the used ones are fairly cheap, people overpay for crossovers, and dealers usually price cut those small cars.

    The fairly cheap thing cuts both ways...my daughter is an automobile insurance claims adjuster, and she tells me that depreciation is so bad on the Focus that they rarely repair them because the value drops so rapidly, even on the ST model.

    And yes, five grand more for a Crosstek over an Imprezza without much if any more real world function...is overpaying..

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    1 hour ago, smk4565 said:

     Large cars/SUVs are hard to park, if you drive in urban areas or parking garages they can be a pain.

    I am going to DISAGREE with you. Most drivers have gotten very lazy lately about driving their auto's. They do not take the time to know where their corners are, they cannot even on a Jelly Bean shaped auto envision where their corners are. 

    Large cars or full size SUV's especially today drive just not much different than a small or compact auto.

    People who complain about driving, driving large auto's are usually ones that also have a banged up compact or small size auto. They are more interested in their facebook time line and what is going on in their smart phone than in actually driving.

    I cannot tell you how many people I have talked with that have seen me drive and be it parallel park or back into a parking spot all on the first time, square and straight in the parking spot and they are in awe how easy I park and it always comes down to they do not want to learn or bother being in a parking spot square, not hit anyone, etc.

    Lazy drivers = damaged auto's, complaints about large auto's, etc. This has nothing to do with them being a pain to drive or park even in a parking garage. Very easy all the time as long as you pay attention to your ONLY JOB! Driving.

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    47 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    I am going to DISAGREE with you. Most drivers have gotten very lazy lately about driving their auto's. They do not take the time to know where their corners are, they cannot even on a Jelly Bean shaped auto envision where their corners are. 

    Large cars or full size SUV's especially today drive just not much different than a small or compact auto.

    People who complain about driving, driving large auto's are usually ones that also have a banged up compact or small size auto. They are more interested in their facebook time line and what is going on in their smart phone than in actually driving.

    I cannot tell you how many people I have talked with that have seen me drive and be it parallel park or back into a parking spot all on the first time, square and straight in the parking spot and they are in awe how easy I park and it always comes down to they do not want to learn or bother being in a parking spot square, not hit anyone, etc.

    Lazy drivers = damaged auto's, complaints about large auto's, etc. This has nothing to do with them being a pain to drive or park even in a parking garage. Very easy all the time as long as you pay attention to your ONLY JOB! Driving.

    You are also not trying to text and drive or put on makeup....

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    9 hours ago, dfelt said:

    I am going to DISAGREE with you. Most drivers have gotten very lazy lately about driving their auto's. They do not take the time to know where their corners are, they cannot even on a Jelly Bean shaped auto envision where their corners are. Large cars or full size SUV's especially today drive just not much different than a small or compact auto.

    I agree with this, DF, and I believe I pilot the largest daily driver on this board: wheelbase 153", overall length 240".

    Today I parallel parked in downtown Princeton NJ, and I've had this truck in an inner city parking deck more than once (antenna scraping the overhead concrete 'beams'). I also have frequently slipped in between obstacles I've waited & waited & waited for a smaller CUV to decide if it could fit thru. Some folk blame the size of the vehicle rather than their lack of dedication to improving their skills.

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    11 hours ago, A Horse With No Name said:

    Glad someone else finds smaller cars easier to drive and park..living in a large city...the difference is stark.

    With a family like you have a compass or patriot would make a lot of sense.  But yes, Cruze as a used car is the deal of the century IMHO.

     

    Very true....though the good news it whether this year or next, something bigger will show up the the family I am figuring. Losing my auto suppiler job limited my choices this year to more of a budget than I wanted. And between that and the economy, not sure I want anything near 30k right now. Kinda why a used Cruze makes a good choice. (and focus would have too, if not for the dual clutch) Though I do have a soft spot for the Patroit (love boxy jeeps)-the fact the FCA is struggling to sell them makes them a nice choice as I figure the rebates are going to go higher the the 4500 on them now...

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    9 hours ago, smk4565 said:

    Patriots have to be selling a 50% off at this point.  

    Not so, they are a very popular model so they built a lot out before they quit building them. 

    I used to prefer big fullsize cars.  Whether when I was 18 driving a 91 then 93 T-Bird, or 22 driving my Roadmonster or 24 in my Caprice.  I have been downsizing since and find the bug basically perfect in size, mostly thanks to it's hatchback configuration and massive amount of front seat room.  I rarely have even a second passenger and there is enough cargo room for the weekly 52 bag of dog food and groceries.  At 168 inches long, it is also so maneuverable and great for zipping through traffic.  If the quality was there I would be keeping this car for a long time. 

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    I think the needs can be very individual, a single guy or a woman, young couple, a family with three of four kids have all very different needs and wants.

    Also, people here criticize size of the vehicle but then would choose biggest and the most power engine while half of the power would be more then sufficient :)

    I guess that's why we are car enthusiasts.

    However, I agree that it is better to try to go for the lower range of your particular wants and needs.

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    13 hours ago, smk4565 said:

    Patriots have to be selling a 50% off at this point.  

    Not yet, but unless people come in looking for it, everyone id getting the new Compass anyways. Doubt they will go that high, but 35% off could be quite possible......

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    3 hours ago, ykX said:

    However, I agree that it is better to try to go for the lower range of your particular wants and needs.

    I have to disagree with you on this statement as dreams and desires is what should push us to perform better, work harder and achieve what is for most people unachievable. If we always settle for the low end, then why bother having nicer things as we can all settle for government housing, minimal quality of food, etc.

    I challenge you and everyone here to always push for the best for themselves and their family. Only through Drive of one's own dreams and desires do we make this place a better world.

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    I think for my family lifestyle and location the Golf Sportwagen/Alltrack is probably the perfect size for our needs.

     

     

     

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    14 hours ago, smk4565 said:

    Patriots have to be selling a 50% off at this point.  

    You got my curiosity going and so I checked, 63 new Jeep Patriots in washington state that I could find and all are priced between 32K to 22K. Discounts are not that big but financing is. Maybe they are not hurting that much to move them yet.

    JeepPatriotDiscounts.jpg

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    27 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    I have to disagree with you on this statement as dreams and desires is what should push us to perform better, work harder and achieve what is for most people unachievable. If we always settle for the low end, then why bother having nicer things as we can all settle for government housing, minimal quality of food, etc.

    I challenge you and everyone here to always push for the best for themselves and their family. Only through Drive of one's own dreams and desires do we make this place a better world.

    While, I absolutely agree with you, I think you misunderstood me or maybe I didn't present my idea very clearly.  I meant, for example, there is no reason to buy Expedition for a family of three or four unless they have some special needs that require such large vehicle. For example my family: just few times a year we need a lot of space for a trip, either camping or some beach vacation which we drive to.  Now, we could buy a large SUV to fit everything for these few trips but then we would have to drive huge vehicle all year around. I choose to have mid-size CUV, and to have a roof basket for the few times I do need extra space for cargo. 

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      This year was to be the final Detroit Auto Show to take place in January before the big move to an indoor/outdoor festival of sorts next June. Despite a number of manufacturers announcing they would not be at the show, there was some hope for there be to a surprise. Something that would allow the current incarnation of the show to go out with a bang.
      That did not happen.
      It was thought that Chevrolet would roll out the long-awaited and rumored mid-engined Corvette. But those hopes would be dashed as rumors came out that the project would be delayed up to six months due to a problem with the electrical system. It also gave Toyota a sigh of relief as the Supra wouldn’t be overshadowed by the Corvette - see the Ford GT eating up the attention from the Acura NSX a few years back.
      Even with the anticipation of the Supra coming to Detroit, there was nothing that could be described as being memorable. Most of the vehicles that were revealed seemed to be somewhat phoned in.
      We knew a lot about the Supra including how it would look and what would power it before it arrived on stage. CEO Akio Toyoda actually mentioned in the press conference that it was “one of the industry’s worst kept secrets.” The refreshed Volkswagen Passat was eclipsed by news that a second plant and 1,000 jobs would be added at Chattanooga, along with becoming a sponsor for U.S. Women’s, Men’s, and Youth National teams. Infiniti’s QX Inspiration concept didn’t actually appear at the presentation. It was stuck in the lobby of Cobo Hall due to some sort of malfunction.
        The announcement talking about Ford and Volkswagen’s new alliance? The stage appearance was canceled late on Monday. Instead, we got a conference call and press release providing the details. The big talking point at the show wasn’t about the show. Over the weekend, a water main broke which put most of Downtown Detroit under a boil water advisory. This caused a lot of headaches for visiting media and automotive executives as would have to use bottled water to brush their teeth or wash their hair (this was something I heard a few people mentioned on the show floor). Luckily, I saw this new before heading down to the show and brought a couple liters of water with me to use for tea and brushing my teeth.
      But the water main break serves as a good metaphor for this year’s Detroit Auto Show. It felt a bit discombobulated with a number of manufacturers being MIA and organizers trying to figure out what to do. There was also a noticeable lack of energy surrounding the show. Going into the media center at Cobo, I was expecting to be filled with various journalists and other media. To my surprise, it looked and felt the second day of the show where there was a surprising amount of open space to sit down and begin working. Being on the show floor was the same story. I was amazed at how easily I was able to get photos of cars that had been unveiled only 20 to 30 minutes without having to fight a number of people to get a decent shot.
      There is a lot riding on the move to June next year with organizers planning something like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. There promises to be the ability to ride and drive various new vehicles, self-driving vehicles being demonstrated on public roads, “dynamic vehicle debuts,” and much more. A number of automakers and executives have praised this move.
      "I always thought it made sense for Detroit to showcase itself when the weather's nice. All the international press comes here in perhaps our worst weather month of the year. I don't know how many rodeos we can have coming down the street in January,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford earlier this week.
      I wished that shared the same enthusiasm as a number of people with the show moving to June. Call me skeptical or cynical, but I get the feeling that the move will not solve the issue that face a number of automakers; making the case to spend the money to attend another show. A recent piece in Wards Auto says it costs more than million dollars to hold a 25-minute press conference according to sources.
      “…due to exorbitant rates for sound and video production, lighting, drayage, special effects, food, drink and union labor to set up chairs, lay carpet and build ramps for drive-on vehicle unveilings.”
      The past few years have seen more and more automakers hold their own events off-site as they are not only cheaper but allows them to control the message.
      “We can go and create an atmosphere on Sunday night at the Garden Theater for less money and for what we think is an equal or better return on our investment,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director of communications at General Motors to Wards Auto.
      I think back to a conversation I had last year on the show floor with a friend. I was mentioning how I was feeling somewhat bored and he asked how many Detroit Auto Shows I had attended.
      “I think this is my fourth or fifth,” I said.
      He paused for a moment before saying that was usually around the time someone begins to feel burnt out and wanting something exciting to happen. This popped into my head while walking around the show on Monday as nothing really grabbed my attention in terms of new debuts. There were some bright spots such as Kia Stinger GT police vehicle from Australia and the Toyota Yaris WRC on the show floor. But aside from these and few other vehicles, I felt a bit down. Maybe I had grown weary of the show itself and the noticeable departures of various automakers only compounded it. Or maybe this was the manifestation of a trend that the auto show I had come to know was coming to an end and was only beginning to realize it.
      2020 will be an interesting year to say in the least as organizers begin a new chapter in the auto show’s legacy. Whether it works out or not remains to be seen.
      Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears
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