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Is it worth it to downsize my ride to save gas?

I have a Ford F-150 purchased last year. Since then, I have taken a job requiring a daily 100-kilometre commute. I would like a vehicle that will deliver much better gas mileage. My used truck is likely worth more than a new, economy model. How would a dealer view a trade in this situation? How do I get rid of my truck without taking a huge loss or are the savings in gas worth the loss in the long run? -Mike in Madoc, Ont.

The time comes when many of us have to face the facts of practicality and modify our dream drives. The extended commute might seem like an opportunity to spend more time with your "baby" at first, but the novelty soon wears off when it begins to take a bite out of your wallet.

You purchased the F-150 last year, and I'm going to assume that it's a reasonably new model as your prime concern is taking a loss. Essentially you want to be able to get to work and back in something that isn't costing you an arm and a leg. The good news is that with the advances in engine performance, and improvements in fuel efficiency over the past few years, there are many options which are affordable to purchase, and to run.

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Let's start with the current market value of your truck. The condition is important of course, in addition to the make, model, year and how many miles you've done. You're best to start with a visit to a Ford dealership (or two), and find out what they'll offer. No matter what the condition of your vehicle, you won't escape a hit from depreciation. The good news is that in a dealership trade, you only pay tax on the difference in price (if your new vehicle is worth more than the one being traded).

One Ford sales associate in Ontario says, "My best advice, and the only answer to that question is to go to a dealer and have a Car Proof, a formal appraisal, and what's called a Trade Tracker done. Trade Tracker is a program recommended by OMVIC [The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council]that some dealers have elected to go with. By the time we've done those three steps, we have a really good idea of what the real value for your trade is. It doesn't necessarily make everybody happy, but we're not far off, ever, following those three steps. That's the only answer that's fair, because everything else is philosophy. We deal in concrete pieces of metal, so it's not just about the kilometres, the condition is important too."

You must decide what you really need in your next vehicle – which options and extras, how much trunk space you require, etc. – or perhaps your sole aim is fuel efficiency. If your truck is in top shape, you'll probably receive some cash in a trade, along with your new economy model.

So how much can you expect to save in fuel costs? To give you an idea, the Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption rating for the F-150 5.0 is 9.8 litre/100 km on the highway. A subcompact car, such as the Ford Fiesta for example, is rated at 5.1 L/100 km. On a total of 500 kilometres of commuting per week, using a price of $1.25 a litre, the difference in cost between the fuel consumed by these two vehicles is $30 – and that's not including weekend driving or holiday trips.

As long as you can handle being at eye level with the majority of other drivers, the switch to an economy model should pay off in both the short term and the long.

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About the Author

Joanne Will is based in Toronto. She has been a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail since 2009. In 2014, she was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. More

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