New Micra > Used Lexus

I’ve heard the argument before: Why not buy a used car instead of a new Micra? I’ve already addressed this in a general sense here and here, but this time someone provided me with a specific car: A Lexus IS250. Here’s the challenge:

For less than 10grand, you can get a roomier, more stylish, just as reliable, more fun to drive, V6 power, great efficiency for a V6, and a super luxurious interior with the IS250. Now I don’t like Lexus. I’m more of a German type of guy. I like my Dubs an Mercs. But you can get a 100% better car with the only sacrifice being fuel efficiency. And if you buy a car 2 gran less than the new one, fuel costs won’t be higher in the old one until 15 years of ownership! Who in today’s world will keep a car that long?”

To be fair, I paid more than $10,000 for my Micra. I got the SV trim with convenience package, which ups the price to $14,333, but also leaves me wanting for nothing, including roominess. I get all the goodies I want, as well as more headroom than I’d get in the Lexus IS250. We’ll just forget that he even mentioned roominess, and we’ll see how the numbers add up.

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I checked the AutoTrader for an $8,000 IS250; for $8,888, I can get a 2006 with leather, automatic transmission, and sunroof. This is an eight year old car with 208,000km on the odometer. That is extremely well used, but meets the criteria. To make this comparison 100% fair, we must include Freight & PDI on my car, which puts the total price at $15,733. We will also assume this Lexus isn’t a previous wreck being sold by a curbsider. My car costs $6,845 more than this Lexus; we’ll work with that.

First up is fuel costs. According to Fuelly, the Lexus will yield around 9.8L/100km, versus the 6.4L/100km I’m currently attaining in my Micra. I drive around 45,000km per year. We’ll use today’s cheapest gas prices, which right now in my city is at Costco. The Lexus requires high octane fuel, which now costs $1.424 a liter, and will have an annual fuel cost of $6,279.84. The Micra takes regular octane, which currently costs $1.324 a liter, and will have an annual fuel cost of $3,813.12. The Lexus, at today’s gas prices, will cost $2,466.72 per year more to run than the Micra at today’s gas prices. In less than three years, the gas savings of the Micra alone will make up the difference. That’s not all.

A Lexus is a premium high end car. How good do you think the tires are going to be on car that’s eight years old? At $8,888, you could probably count on replacing the rubber within those three years. The Lexus requires fancy 225/45R17 tires. The cheapest I found at the local Canadian Tire is around $200 per tire for all-seasons, and close to $300 each for snow tires, resulting in a $2,000 expense. Meanwhile, all-seasons and snow tires for the Micra are less than $100 each. All I’d be needing for the Micra would be snow tires. The resulting tire savings is approximately $1,600.

This doesn’t tell the whole story, though. We’re making certain assumptions in favour of the Lexus. Even with these favourable assumptions, when a person buys an 8 year old car, they are buying a car that’s in maintenance mode, no matter what the brand or level of luxury. They’re replacing worn out parts and components, flushing and filling critical fluids, and dealing with deteriorating trim. Meanwhile, my Micra is in new car warranty mode. This means regular oil and filter changes, a top-up of the washer fluid, and that’s it for the next long while.

All things considered, in roughly two years, the savings of the Micra makes up for the additional cost of buying new. By then, the Micra is two years old with plenty of life ahead of it, while the Lexus hits the 10 year old mark. The Micra’s going to continue to save me money, and by the time it’s hit the 10 year mark, it will represent savings so significant, I would be able to buy another brand new Micra with those savings with money to spare. That’s what makes the Micra such an incredible value. Micra, FTW.

Micra vs. Toyota Yaris

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One of the cars that renewed my interest in small cars was the Toyota Yaris. They are a very popular choice for Canadians, and their owners seem generally pleased with them overall.

In this category, the Yaris is one of the more expensive choices. For me to get the options I wanted (4 door hatchback, air, cruise control), I would need to get the 5DR LE 5M with the convenience package, priced at $15,995. This is $2,297 more than the Micra SV, and $1,797 more than the Micra SV with convenience package. While both cars are in the same class and compete against each other, the Yaris costs significantly more than the Micra.

yaris_hb_interior_more_space

Compared to the Micra, the Yaris feels a little cramped. It has 35mm less headroom up front and 22mm less headroom in the rear. The legroom also comes up short in the Yaris, with 19mm less legroom up front and 13mm less legroom in the rear. While the seats are comfortable, this car feels just a little too cramped for my 6’4″ frame. When it comes to cargo space, the Micra offers significantly more with the seats up, 121.8L more, to be precise.

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The Yaris, being a slightly smaller car, weighs 37 kg. (81 lbs.) less than the Micra. Its slightly smaller engine makes a very decent 106 horsepower, so each horse is charged with moving 21.217 pounds of Yaris, very close to (and just ever so slightly better than) the Micra’s ratio of 1:21.21.376. Given that the Yaris is slightly lighter with a slightly smaller engine, it yields slightly better fuel economy estimates; it beats the Micra by 0.8L/100km in the city and by 0.3L/100km on the highway. My opinion is that the slight improvement in fuel economy estimates is negligible and not worth the loss in headroom, legroom, and cargo space.

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Both cars are similarly equipped when it comes to safety features and options, with the exception of the lack of a back up camera option for the Yaris. The Micra also offers a few extras in the SV trim level that would require a step up to the even more expensive SE trim level in the Yaris, including steering wheel mounted audio controls and the intermittent rear wiper. When it comes to options, the Micra clearly has the edge.

Micra interior

While I like the outer style of the Yaris hatchback and can appreciate its slightly better fuel economy, the Micra is, in my opinion, a better buy with a significantly lower price, equally as appealing styling, more options, more headroom, more legroom, and more cargo room, while yielding similar performance characteristics. I would also argue that the Micra has a much nicer interior. While Toyota has a great reliability record, I believe the Micra’s own reliability record has been demonstrated all the way back to 1983. As far as I’m concerned, the Micra is the clear choice.

Micra vs Chevrolet Spark

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Before settling on the Micra, I shopped around and compared it to other cars in its class and price range. In this blog post, I explore my comparison to the Chevrolet Spark.

To get the features I wanted (air, cruise), I would need to opt for the 1LT Manual, with an MSRP of  $13,940, $242 more than the Micra SV at $13,698. Add in the backup camera and upgraded stereo options for the Micra to balance out the features and the Micra costs $258 more. Thus, I consider these cars to be comparatively and competitively priced.

Trying on the Spark
Trying on the Spark

In terms of interior space, the Spark is more cramped with 32mm less headroom in the front and 29mm less headroom in the rear. To its credit, the Spark does offer slightly more legroom, 16mm more in the front and 34mm more in the rear, but that’s in addition to an already adequate 1051mm front and 860mm rear legroom in the Micra. With the back seats up, the Micra offers 85L greater cargo space; with the seats folded down, the Spark gets a 64.1L advantage over the Micra, as the Spark’s seat bottoms tumble forward. When sitting behind the wheel, I found the Micra’s seats to be noticeably more comfortable than the Spark’s seats.

Spark's engine bay

The Micra is 28 kilograms heavier than the Spark, and has an engine that produces 25 more horsepower. Consequently, the Spark gets slightly better estimated fuel economy ratings (6L/100km highway on the Spark vs. 6.6L/100km highway on the Micra). Each of the Micra’s horses is charged with propelling 21.376 lbs. of car, whereas each of the horses in the Spark’s engine are charged with moving 27.012 lbs. of car, giving the Micra a significant power-to-weight ratio advantage. I believe this significant power to weight advantage overcomes the slight penalty in fuel economy estimates; a penalty which, I believe, will disappear in real world driving that involves hills and fewer downshifts in the Micra required to tackle those hills.

Both of these cars are very competitive when it comes to features and price. The Spark has a slight edge when it comes to legroom, seat down cargo space, and fuel economy, whereas the Micra has the edge when it comes to headroom, seat up cargo space, seat comfort, and performance. Feature content requires a deeper examination.

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A more refined look at the options shows that, while the Micra offers a fuel economy computer with real time and average fuel economy along with distance until the next refuel and two trip counters, the Spark includes this and an outside temperature sensor, oil life system, tire pressure system, driving time, and average speed. The Micra does tell the driver when the washer fluid is low, whereas the Spark has no such warning. Also, where the Spark offers only a tire inflation kit, the Micra offers a real spare tire, although the Spark gets alloy wheels versus the Micra’s steel wheels with hubcaps. To get the Micra’s heated power mirrors, I’d have to move up to the next tier of the Spark. Both have nice interiors, though I find the Micra’s interior feels and looks more upscale, with the buttons on the steering wheel for bluetooth, audio controls, and cruise control to have a better ergonomic feel to them. I do not consider the monthly OnStar subscription to be an advantage; instead, it represents yet another frivolous monthly expense and annoyance I can do without. The rear wiper on the Micra features both an intermittent and on setting, whereas the Spark appears to have a simple on-off toggle.

Micra interior

I opted for the Micra, as I preferred the more comfortable seats, style, power, performance, interior, and headroom. The Spark’s feature set seems to be geared more towards dazzling buyers, whereas the Micra’s features seem to be geared towards real world practicality; for example, knowing when the washer fluid is low is of greater importance to me than is knowing the outside temperature, and when the sidewall of a tire is shredded from a blowout, the real spare tire won’t leave me stranded like the tire inflation kit would. The slight advantage in the Spark’s estimated fuel economy did not compel me. Given that I do a considerable amount of commuting on the highway, I felt the power from a 1.6L engine would provide an advantage in terms of real world highway fuel economy and engine longevity over an engine with 1.2L of displacement. Finally, I felt as though the Spark was a very youth-oriented car, clearly targeted towards people under 25, whereas the Micra seems to target a much broader range with a classier interior and exterior style.

The Spark is a very compelling car, and with the rising cost of gas, I wouldn’t fault anyone for buying it. It really comes down to a matter of tastes.