Here is the latest reader Q, along with my reply:
I’m a big fan of your site and have been following you here and on the Tom Woods Show. You’re doing great work and I value your opinion immensely. I’m in the market for a new car, looking to purchase something in the next 6 months or so. I’m uncertain about what’s worth it these days. I’m coming from a 2009 BMW 535i that I bought used and have owned outright the last 5 years. It has 126k miles on it and I commute about 40 miles a day round trip for work. The BMW has been a money hole as far as maintenance and fuel costs, and I regret the purchase for that reason. But it is fun to drive and I enjoy the amenities like the highly adjustable seats.
In a new car, I was hoping to go electric to avoid maintenance costs and also eliminate the monthly cost of gas. I’ve heard Teslas have almost no maintenance costs. I spend about $1,500 a year in gas, too, which -combined with toll costs – really hurts. I was hoping the Model 3 would be more available, but it looks like I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on one until 2019 at the earliest and that’s a bit too far out. So it looks like I will probably have to stick with gas-powered.
To that end, I would like your opinion on what is the best option out there for a sedan. I’m looking for something a bit sporty, low maintenance costs (so probably no turbos), low fuel cost (hopefully avoid premium grade), affordable sticker price, nice styling, adjustable seats… I read your write-up on the Genesis G80 and it sounds awesome and checks all the boxes, but unfortunately doesn’t fit in my monthly budget. A Volkswagen diesel pre-“scandal” would have probably been great, too. I’m wondering if Subaru is worth looking at…
I’d personally avoid an electric car, for the following reasons:
Much higher buy-in cost vs. an equivalent gas-engined vehicle. This negates any savings on fuel and maintenance. Also bear in mind that while an electric car doesn’t require oil/filter changes, as an IC-engined car does, it will eventually require a battery replacement – and that can be extremely expensive. The EV math is simply not favorable for most people, particularly if we are talking about higher-end models like the Tesla.
The other issue with electric cars is not the range – which has improved – it’s the lengthy recharge times. Even if you have access to a “fast” charger, it still takes 30-45 minutes to recover 80 percent charge. A non-electric car can be refueled to 100 percent in less than 5 minutes. While it’s true you can recharge an EV overnight in the garage or while you work, if you are on the road, you will have to “pit” more often – and wait longer.
On non-electric alternatives to your current BMW 5:
I am a big fan of the Lexus ES350, for several reasons. It is superbly comfortable, first of all. Second, it comes with a non-turbocharged (and extremely reliable) V6 that has enough power to get the car to 60 in about 6 seconds. Third, this car is roomier than others at its price point (shared platform with the also-excellent and very roomy Toyota Avalon).
The chief downside – if it is one – is that the ES350 is front-wheel-drive. A rear-drive sport sedan will be better balanced and corner more adroitly – but this will only be apparent during very high-speed driving. Thus it may not be an issue for you. And the FWD layout is superior in snow, obviously, vs. the RWD layout.
If you prefer a rear-drive layout (and would like AWD) another really good option is the Infiniti G sedan. Very comparable, in terms of handling/performance to the BMW 5 and in some respects, superior. It’s under-rated and under-appreciated.
A third option is the Mazda6 (reviewed by me here).
It’s not a “premium” badge car but it is superlative car, both in terms of looks and driving verve. No turbo. And you can get it with a manual. Very reasonably priced, too.
I’d check all of these out!
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I concur with Eric on his recommended considerations. It’s not clear what your budget is, but you’d do yourself a great favor to take a look at the Mazda 6 sedan. It’s very stylish, gets great gas mileage, and is pretty luxurious for its class. Plus, it’s a pretty good value for the segment. Mazdas tend to be pretty reliable, on the whole, as well. Having been in a more recent BMW 5-series as a loaner for a week, you’ll find 90% of the luxury of the BMW in the Mazda for far, far less money, and it’ll be more fun to drive (though not necessarily faster in a straight line). Maintenance should be cheap, and normal wear items (tires, belts, etc.) will be simple and inexpensive to replace, relatively speaking. Think $60 or so for a routine service vs. $400-$600 for the BMW.
As for electric cars, I’d avoid Tesla if at all possible. In addition to Eric’s comments, I’ll also point out that Tesla has a pretty bad track record in reliability. It’s so bad, in fact, that even the left-wing Consumer Reports, who are otherwise insanely bonkers over the Model S, was forced to drop it from their recommended list b/c they got so many complaints from actual consumers who bought the things. If you don’t live very close to a Tesla service and repair center, or if you plan to keep this next vehicle more than 4 years or 50,000 miles (the warranty period), then you’re better off getting something else.