3 years ago I bought my beloved Honda Insight… a 2001 5spd with 54k miles on it. I have absolutely adored that car -it was literally the only car that could have broken by affair with Big Speed and my modified 330hp Mitsubishi EVO 8 race car. The Insight was everything I wanted -wicked huge mileage -peaking as high as 102.2, rolling poster child for “a Better Way”, and a nice slice of minimalism in a life that is not yet bike friendly. But in the past year our need for a second car that can either tow a trailer for our Eco LLC business or have a backseat for the kids has increased as our little uns begin to get Involved: swim and ballet lessons, sports, play dates, etc. Out here in the rural suburbia seemingly everything, be it groceries or a pool, is 10 miles away. So we began to look at options.
4 Months ago I was completed smitten with Plug In Priuses. Sure the $30k buy in ($20k + $10k conversion) was uber steep, but I had a plan to sell 160 rain barrels in the next two years to cover at least the cost of the conversion. Then oil hit $140+ and inflation crested 5%. That Prius became $35k as used hybrids appreciated and we struggled mightly to sell our first load of rain barrels as America (finally!) tighten her belt. We’ve sold most of the barrels, but just barely and selling another 100 is not likely since the majority went to one buyer.
But we still need a high mileage 4 seat car. So 3 weeks ago I began to look very seriously for a used VW TDI. There were never a ton of these on the road (thought the 2006+ are MUCH more common!) and they are also in demand. Prices are ranging from 10-30% above Kelly’s Blue Book -and most buyers are flying in to get them and driving them 3 states home. I had 4 semi local cars slip through my fingers -even calling within an hour of the ad posting is not enough to get these. Then just this week I found my new car. I had email Mia my “Dream Ad” and don’t you know it, I came home from work to find a new Ebay listing that matched it perfectly. Its a 2000 Golf TDI GLS 5spd with about 110k miles on it. I am as vain as the next guy so I wanted it loaded -moonroof, premium sound, and heated seats (these little diesels take like 20 miles to heat up in the winter) and I found it on Ebay. 4 doors, super clean, and I bought it for $4k less than I am selling my Insight for so the budget is uber happy. Its in MN so I am bumming a ride with family on their return trip to South Dakota this weekend.
More on why I bought a TDI -this paragraph gets more than a little Car Guy. Most guys driving them are getting 42-48mpg every single tank -and the hypermilers are getting 60mpg! Second, they can be turned into nice little tow vehicles. In Europe these engines have about 20 more hp -and the only part change is larger fuel injection nozzles-about $300. You can also add a “chip” that remaps some of the boost parameters for the turbo and get another 10-15hp. More importantly you can also get another 80 ft/lbs of torque making the Golf a better tow vehicle than our Forester. Open up the exhaust with a bigger down pipe off the turbo and you can keep your Exhaust Gas Temps down too and add a few more ponies. Here is the kicker -there are many guys with these mods still getting over 50mpg every single tank. You only use the extra fuel and boost of the mods if you push the engine hard while accelerating/towing. Even still, I have yet to see anyone on the forums at TDI CLUB getting under 40mpg in a modded 5spd. Nice.
Are hybrids more efficient? You bet. But they can’t tow, cost over twice as much, and I can’t make my own fuel in a pinch. I am very happy with my decision and will likely start doing some home bio-diesel processing using Journey to Forever’s 5 gallon “Test” kit this Fall. Making 5 gallons a week actually would cut my Dino Fuel use 100 gallons anually over a standard Prius. I have already found a source for grease, just need to build the kit. In my “spare” time.
Very sad to see my beloved Insight going away, but also excited for the future!