Our ’96 Toyota Corolla, occasionally known as “Nellie,” has been very good to us. We bought it used, twelve years ago, and it has served us faithfully ever since.
Nellie is feeling her age, though. The engine is still chugging along enthusiastically, but the body is beginning to show some rust. When idling at a stop light, the driver’s side door has developed an annoying rattle. She’s lost two of her hubcaps over the years, and the two that remain are looking pretty ratty. The ride has been pretty rough for the last year, owing to the fact that she’s needed new rear struts, and some other things were showing signs that they would soon need expensive repairs as well — too expensive to justify, given how long she’s likely to last. In other words, nothing is really wrong yet, but if we wait much longer, there probably will be. We decided that she’d earned her retirement.
With that in mind, we went out yesterday and started looking for her successor. Our requirements were pretty simple. I demanded a hybrid (because we do most of our driving in the city, and hybrids are ridiculously fuel-efficient for city driving), and a few conveniences like cruise control, power windows, power steering, and power door locks — things we’d gotten used to on Nellie, nothing ridiculous, all stuff that’s pretty standard these days on all but the cheapest vehicles. GoddessJ wanted something with a decent amount of trunk space and more leg room. We had some other preferences as well: any color but white, NO leather seats, that the audio system had a way to plug in an iPod, and the like. We would prefer to buy a two- or three-year-old used vehicle, if we could find something we liked. And given my experiences and what I’ve heard from friends and relatives and on the ‘net, my first choice was another Toyota (with Honda and Nissan being tied for second place).
Some ‘net research showed that there were two official Toyota dealers in the area. They’re both pretty large, but only one of them had any used hybrids available. Coincidentally, it was the one we’d bought Nellie at, and they had three — apparently they’re so popular that people rarely trade them in. I was also surprised to see that car prices were pretty much the same as they’d been twelve years ago… if we’d wanted to, we could have replaced Nellie with a two- or three-year-old Corolla for almost the same amount of money we paid for her, but of course they don’t make hybrid Corollas.
We test-drove a 2012 Prius C first. Not a lot of storage, though I was otherwise impressed, but GoddessJ found it uncomfortable. We moved up to a hybrid 2012 Camry, and both of us liked it, but the price was pretty high. Then we asked about used, and took one of those for a short spin. We didn’t tell the salesman, but he pretty much had a sale before we got out of it, despite our plan not to buy anything immediately. 🙂 We tried one of the others, a year older but with less mileage on it, but we got out almost the moment we got in — it had very bland coloring, and a leather interior, and we both hated it.
So we ended up with a 2009 hybrid Camry, with a LOT more features than I’d have otherwise paid for. The Prius C is lower on the Toyota totem pole, but we ended up paying significantly less for the slightly-used Camry than for a new Prius C, even before they gave us $1,000 off for Nellie (which is far more than either I or the salesman thought she was worth). I went in wanting a metalic dark blue, but this one is what Toyota calls “magnetic gray,” and I was surprised to find that I liked it.
Gas mileage… I was getting about 21MPG on the Corolla at best, usually closer to 17MPG (it’s rated at 23MPG in the city). The Camry is rated at 33MPG in the city, and being a hybrid, will probably get pretty close to it. That’s between 50% and 100% more bang for the buck, and on a larger and much more powerful vehicle! (The ’96 Corolla is rated at 100 horsepower, and Nellie didn’t have the pep she used to; the Camry is 187.)
If all goes well, we’ll pick it up on Monday. I’ll write more after that, if it warrants it.