My next car

I drive a 1996 GMC Sonoma pickup truck that we bought new in February 1996. The truck has about 190,000 miles on it. It’s been wrecked and repaired twice, and I put a new engine in it at 120,000 miles. I keep up on the maintenance so the truck still runs well, and it looks much better than you’d expect an 18 year old truck to look. A few minor dents here and there is all.

Debra drives a 1996 Nissan Maxima that we bought new in December 1996. It has about 235,000 miles and is starting to show its age. She has to drive around town for work sometimes, so the car has to be reliable. We’ve kept up the maintenance on this car, so it runs well. But we haven’t fixed the dents from the minor wreck she had a few years ago. We had planned to replace the car by now but every time we think of getting something new we decide to wait another few months.

Debra’s new car will have to be something with four seats. We really like the Maxima and might get another. We both have a tough time with the price range, though: $30,000 to $40,000 for a car just seems crazy. There are lots of good cars in that price range, and even some nice ones in the $25,000 range (the Nissan Altima, for example). Debra wants four doors and plenty of space. Other than that, we haven’t narrowed it down. A 4 door sedan? Minivan? SUV? We’ll be looking for a long while.

I on the other hand just need basic transportation. The truck is handy for hauling things, but in truth I don’t often carry anything in the back. So I’m looking for something small and inexpensive to take me to work and back. I looked at the all electric Nissan Leaf, but can’t justify the $30,000 price tag for a basic commuter car. Even the Smart and the Fiat 500 are pretty expensive for what you get, but they’re less expensive than the Leaf and I can actually go places if I want to. The Leaf’s 100 mile range is a real drawback.

About six months ago I ran across Elio Motors, a company that’s gearing up to produce a small, affordable, and high mileage car. Last I heard (earlier this week), they expect to start shipping cars in the fourth quarter of this year.


It has two seats (front and back) and gets 80 MPG on the highway. City mileage will be about 50. It’s a 0.9 liter, 3-cylinder engine. The best part: $6,800. Yes, $6,800. It’s the perfect little commuter car.

I’m sending in my deposit to reserve one.

2 comments to My next car

  • RH in CT

    I think that such a three-wheeled vehicle is not classified as a car, and so does not have to comply with any of the automobile safety standards. Things like airbags, crush zones, collapsing steering columns and so forth. For me that would rule such a car out from the start.

    For less than twice that price you can get a used Versa or Mazda 2 that is about two years old and has under 50k miles. You won’t get 50 MPG, but it sure would beat your truck! You should be able to get 150k miles out of one.

    Of course tastes differ.

    RH in CT

  • Jim

    Whether it’s classified as a car depends on the state. Regardless, the Elio does have the things you mentioned. On their specs page it says:

    Each Elio comes equipped with a Safety Management System that includes three airbags – a reinforced roll-cage frame, Anti-Lock Braking System, and 50% larger crush zones than similar vehicles.


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