"Rising gas prices got you down? Maybe you should buy a new car"- this is the opening line to an NBC news article entitled- "Every Time You Buy a New Car You Become Less Dependent on Oil." The article presents data from a study conducted by Strategic Vision regarding fuel consumption in new vs. older cars. While the piece is, for the most part, factually correct it is implying some misguided consumer advice.

What you do mean by "foreign oil"?

I'll get the political stuff out of the way first. What is implied here is that some of our oil comes from countries that, to put it lightly, have an adversarial relationship with the United States, and that we should do our best to not give these countries our money. But how much of our oil really comes from these countries and does it matter? According to a 2012 NPR piece about 38% of America's oil is domestically produced the the other 62% is broken down in the following chart via Business Insider-

A sizable chunk of our oil comes from Canada, Mexico and "Other" is this necessarily a bad thing? And given the vast interconnections of the global oil market, how much of our usage really impacts the geo-global politics at the local level? According to some sources, not much. Also, anytime someone purchases a gas powered car whether it is new or pre-owned they are contributing in some way to our dependence on foreign oil. The article makes no mention of EVs as a way eliminate consumption. Because if using less oil is important, then why not get a vehicle that uses none at all? Sure Teslas are beyond the reach of most folks, but the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV all have various price points for car shoppers.

New Cars Aren't The Only Way to Save On Gas

"He (Sivak) thinks that in recent years, Americans have started to realize that instead of buying a big SUV, they could spend significantly less on a sedan that also offered the things many SUVs do: Seating for five with room left over for groceries and sports equipment."

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So are Americans saving on fuel because they are buying "new" cars or are they saving on fuel because they are buying smaller, more efficient ones? I'm not disputing that we have seen huge improvements in fuel economy over the past several years, but the implied message here is consumers should buy "new" to save on gas. As we have discussed before, sometimes the better value is in the pre-owned market.

Reducing Fuel Cost is Just One Metric on "Savings"

"Sivak said that the average driver of a new vehicle spends about $28 less per month for gas than a new car buyer just three years ago, based on his analysis of average miles driven, fuel efficiency and gas prices."

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When people say they want a car with better gas mileage what they are really saying is they want to spend less on money on their vehicle. However too many people fail to look at this from the big picture.

About once a month I have the following conversation with a potential client-

"Hey Tom, I think I should get a new car because the one I have gets crappy gas mileage."

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Me- "Is it paid off?"

"Yeah"

Me- "Do you still like to drive it?"

"Yeah"

Me- "Are you spending money for expensive repairs"

"No"

Me- "If you want to get a new car because you just don't like the one you have anymore that is fine, but don't buy a new car in order to 'save money.' Even if you are getting 15 mpg and you buy new car with 30 mpg, you still will have a car-payment so your total monthly vehicle expenses will be much more than you are paying now. So if you like your car and it is paid off I say keep it; even though it may be expensive at the pump, it is still cheaper as a whole."

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MPG Is Not Always a Top Priority, And That Is O.k.

"...fuel economy is a consideration when buying a new car, but consumers are more likely to say that reliability, durability, value for the money and even seating comfort are extremely important to their decision-making."

So you are telling me that car-buyers want more than just a box with four wheels to get them from A to B and use the least amount of fuel.

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If consumers want to buy the most fuel efficient car they can, that is great, but they choose to buy a vehicle for any number of reasons being performance, reliability, passenger capacity, style, etc...there is no reason they can have those as well. The reality is car-buying is a complex decision that is more than just monthly payments and MPG. Consumers need to make that choice for what is best for them, and not because their decision may have some minuscule impact on the geopolitical landscape.