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Echo and Mister Two

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Echo and Mister Two




This month we've made some major changes to out fleet of cars.  We stopped driving the Toyota Camry and Mustang in the beginning of the summer.  They both had a lot of serious mechanical problems and I just wasn't willing to put a great deal of money into them.  I listed them on Craigslist, noting everything wrong that I was aware of.  A mechanic bought the Toyota for a song.  He fixed it and it is now being driven by a stripper.  Go figure.  I just sold the Mustang today for a song and a half.


I've spent countless hours shopping and researching their replacements; it's been an obsession really.  I've come to the conclusion that we spend way too much on fuel annually.  Everyone complains about fuel prices, but at our income bracket it really is a harder hit than it is on most people.  The Mustang, Mercedes and Odyssey each get 19 MPG.  With typical gas prices that works out to about $2.00 every round trip to IHM or Hoban.  The Mercedes uses Diesel, so it costs even a bit more.  The Odyssey minivan is a very useful vehicle when we need seats for seven passengers, room for a stack of plywood, or head off on a family camping trip.  We are going to stop driving it daily, however.  I love the 1985 Mercedes 300, but am also going to stop driving it daily.  It's a good reserve car and also has a roof rack for bikes, boats or garage sale finds.  My car shopping goal was to find the least expensive and most fuel efficient cars to use as daily drivers.  I still believe that for our lifestyle and income, we are best off driving 10-20 year old vehicles.  I've never had to pay for full coverage insurance and have never been forced to fix a car that needed thousands of dollars in repairs.  My philosophy has been to only buy cars that I could pay for in cash and walk away from or sell for scrap if they blew a motor.  I seriously considered a hybrid.  I think the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius are smart buys if purchased new or nearly new for people who put on a lot of miles.  When they get a lot older, however, all too often the hybrid batteries fail and the cost of replacement can exceed the value of the car.  It's pretty risky to buy a 12 year old hybrid.  When it comes to fuel mileage, the next best older cars are the most basic models made by Honda and Toyota and Volkswagen diesels.   Manual transmissions usually can get several more MPG.


Joan's brother John has a 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder.  The last time we visited them in Georgia I drove it and just loved it.  The MR2 (Mister Two) is a Mid engine Rear wheel drive 2 seat convertible.  Note the bold letters; that's where the name comes from.  Finding one in my price range didn't seem possible and the car really didn't seem practical considering that I drive two of our daughters to school with me every day.  When this one popped up on Craigslist at a remarkable price, I showed Joan, but was convinced it just wasn't possible for us.  Joan suggested that if we bought it, she could drive it, with Svea, to Hoban this year and next year I would only be driving Annika, so I could have it.  I got lucky and we managed to buy it for way under it's blue book before anyone else snatched it up.  I haven't loved a car thing much in decades and I've never had any car that drove so well.  Its performance is astounding to someone who has been driving dumpy old sedans for decades.  The mid-engine, low center of gravity, wheels at the corners layout and stiff suspension gives this car amazing handling.  The car wants to corner hard and does so without leaning at all.  It also has pretty decent acceleration.  When it comes to fuel economy the MR2 Spyder is rated at 22 city, 27 highway and 24 combined.  The average of what hundreds of actual owners are reporting however, is an average of between 29 and 31 MPG.  The car has less drag than a Prius (CdA of 5.68 to 5.83) and has a 1.8 liter engine, so I think high mileage is possible if one can resist driving it like the sports car it is.  It's fun to drive a manual transmission car again.  The top is also manual, which means that it is less likely to break. Perhaps the worst thing about this car is the cargo capacity.  A Mazda Miata has 2.5 times the cargo space!


A week after buying the MR2, we bought a Toyota Echo.  I didn't even know the Echo existed before I began my research.  It is the most ordinary practical car Toyota made in the early 2000's; it even has hand-crank windows.  The Echo seems to be the Toyota Tercel's replacement by name; it's still their least expensive car and is second in fuel mileage only to the Prius. rates it at is rated at 30 city, 38 highway and 33 combined.  Actual owners are reporting 40 MPG; that's 84% as good as the mileage reported by Prius owners.  At $2100, I think our Echo is the most sensible car we could have bought.


Svea just had her first stick and clutch lesson in the Echo yesterday; it was a hoot. She made some pretty huge burn-outs and did all the typical newbie clutch things. She's getting the idea though and started to get the hang of it within 30 minutes. We were laughing pretty hard. My favorite exchange was, "Why does it smell like butt?" followed by: "That's the clutch burning sweetie."


Note to self: the Spyder had 149,000 miles and the Echo had 114,000 miles when purchased.  MR2 original price was $24,920 and the Echo original price was $12,552.  We purchased each car from the original owners.









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