Saturday, October 15, 2016

Part 2 - Our Search for a Cleaner Car

This is the second in a 5-part series about how buying a diesel vehicle in 2013 resulted in an electric car and renewable solar panels on our house in 2016. 

If you'd like to read all the parts of this series, you can see them here.
Part 1 - How Volkswagen is Helping us Repay the Planet for Its Sins
Part 2 - Our Search for a Cleaner Car
Part 3 - Buying a Used 2016 Chevrolet Volt
Part 4 - A Lesson on Creating Clean Energy at Home
Part 5 - Making the Decision to Add Solar to our Urban Roof

In 2013 while I was doing vehicle research to replace an aging 2002 Chevrolet Prism, I set several parameters:
Car buyers may start to wonder if they can believe carmakers' claims for emissions level

  • Compact vehicle, don't like big cars.
  • Small but not cheap.
  • A vehicle we could plan to own for a very long time, (I'm talking 20 years). 
  • 40+ mpg. 
  • I (stubbornly but not wisely) had my mind set on buying a new car (figured this was the one and only time I would do so)
  • Price range was not to exceed $30k. 
After 18 months of on and off research and test drives, in March 2013 I bought a VW Golf TDI.

The Golf TDI met all the above requirements, plus it's fun to drive and has a very useful hatchback. Then we learned it's literal dirty secret. VW laid out three options:
  • Keep the car and don't get the emissions fixed. Get a check for $5,500, which basically represented the devaluation of the car post-scandal. Not an acceptable option.
  • Keep the car and get it fixed. They'd still send us a check for $5,500. Then at some unspecified time in the neari(ish) future, they would install an emissions fix that would likely reduce performance and mileage, and would take up half the small trunk space. Not a great option.
  • VW would buy the car back. They offered us $23,000. This is the pre-scandal used car price plus $5,500 for the inconvenience. I thought the offer was fair. We chose to sell it back and use the money to buy another car.
Some might add there is a fourth option, and they'd be right. We could sell the VW back and NOT buy a second car. Jay and I talked about options to go to a one-car family, but we're not quite ready to make that leap.  There are too many things that take each of us in opposite directions, and things like going to the gym, at 5:30 a.m. in the winter is not not going to happen by bike or bus. I think with some serious thought and consideration, and preparing ourselves to make some tradeoffs we could do it down the road. In fact, I think when our 2004 Honda goes, we'll seriously consider it.

For now though, off to the car market we go. Come back for the next entry about the 2016 Chevrolet Volt.