I’m a retired female senior, currently owning a 2003 Sebring LXi convertible, 148,000 km. I love convertibles, but I am not aware of anything on the market that would suit my needs, within my budget of $35,000. My two baby grandchildren visit from time to time, so a four-door vehicle is a must. I’d prefer a compact higher vehicle for clearer views and easier accessibility and some bells and whistles, i.e. heated seats, steering wheel, camera, sensors. I’m also interested in dual battery/gas vehicles, for environmentally concerns. – Carol
Richardson: This is a lot to ask for with a $35,000 budget – maybe a convertible, maybe a hybrid, bells and whistles – but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Gentile: I was thinking the exact same thing – that’s a huge wish list! Carol certainly covered all her grounds. She probably should narrow it down a bit, but I guess that’s our job.
Richardson: Hybrids and convertibles don’t go together, for a start. A convertible is heavier, thanks to the machinery for raising and lowering the roof, and it’s also far less aerodynamic when the roof is down. These both bump up fuel consumption – exactly what hybrids are trying to avoid.
Gentile: But convertibles have the fun factor! Most hybrids, with maybe the exception of Teslas, lack that. When car shopping it’s so important to narrow down your wish list before you set foot into the dealership for a test drive. If you know a convertible doesn’t fit your lifestyle, then skip it, immediately.
Richardson: So let’s skip it.
Gentile: There aren’t many options in the four-door segment that cost less than $35,000.
Richardson: Okay already – forget the convertible!
Gentile: Okay. Okay. With only 148,000 clicks on her 16-year-old Sebring, Carol doesn’t drive much. So she could consider a fully electric car – maybe a Nissan Leaf? The base model has about 243 kilometres of range.
Richardson: Over her budget.
Gentile: Not any more. Because of the federal government’s new $5,000 rebate on EVs, the Nissan Leaf comes in around $35,000 with the green incentive. And depending on where Carol lives in Canada, she can qualify for up to $8,000 in provincial rebates, too. And never have to pay for gas again!
Richardson: She won’t have to pay for oil changes or spark plugs, either, and probably never for brake pads. Electric cars use their regenerating motors for much of the braking.
Gentile: Cha ching! More money in Carol’s pocket. EV drivers can save up to $2,000 on fuel and maintenance costs a year.
Richardson: But Carol never did mention wanting an electric car. Maybe her main mileage is a once-a-month trip to see her grandchildren 500 km away. What hybrid do you think she’d appreciate the most?
Gentile: One of my favourites is the Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid vehicle. You get the best of both worlds – 77 km of electric power and about 475 km of driving range with the gasoline engine. She’ll have all of the extra comforts, such as heated front seats, and room in the back for her grandkids. And with the $5,000 federal rebate, the price will come in around $35,000. Unfortunately, there is a premium to pay for going green.
Richardson: They’re also pretty scarce. There was a long waiting list for a Clarity last time I checked. It’s a very nice car, if Carol’s not in a hurry, and it might make more sense than an equivalent Honda Accord if Carol has fairly low daily mileage.
Gentile: Carol also mentioned she wanted a compact vehicle with a higher ride-height, but there aren’t many options in a hybrid CUV in her price range. Even with the $5,000 federal rebate, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is still out of her range. What’s your thinking?
Richardson: Frankly, I think Carol would be quite happy with a Toyota Prius. Not the plug-in, not an all-electric, but a gas-conscious sedan that’s reliable and safe with the bells and whistles she’s asking for. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. It starts at $27,990, so it’ll come in comfortably under budget.
Gentile: Carol can even save more cash and buy a used Prius. Most people don’t know there are a lot of good deals on used EVs from 2011-2016. And she can even qualify for a $1,000 rebate from Plug’n Drive in Toronto if she buys a used EV.
Richardson: There you go, Carol: take a test drive in a Prius to see if you like it. But if the predictable drive and fuel conservation don’t do it for you, write back to us and ask about a convertible. You only live once, you know.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at email@example.com with ‘What car?’ as the subject line.
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