Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Three Cheers for Costco!

We decided to buy a treadmill. Elizabeth had had a gym membership and she was primarily walking on a treadmill there, so we decided that we should cancel her membership and invest in a treadmill because it should pay for itself in less than two years and because she'd be more likely to use it at home. So began the shopping odyssey.

I scourred the classifieds for better than a month. When a good deal showed up, it was snapped up before I called in the evening following the ad's appearance. We went to used sporting goods stores where we were offered new treadmills. We went to Sears and checked out their wares. Some of their higher end stuff wasn't too bad and there was a sale just before New Year's that I intended to, but failed to, take advantage of.

Then we saw what Costco was carrying (google cache), a more or less unnamed treadmill from Epic. It really didn't look that much better than what Sears had and it was more expensive by a couple hundred dollars. We couldn't try it out in store like at Sears because, well, because it was at Costco. I was a little skeptical because Consumer Reports hadn't reviewed any equipement from Epic. But when we hadn't found equipement we liked after over a month of looking, we were getting desperate. Then we noticed that the Costco treadmill had dropped by $100 to $800 and we jumped on it, even though it was more expensive, based primarily on our experience that stuff we get a Costco is a good deal.

Getting it home was tough. It's heavy at 338 pounds. In general that surprised and pleased us because it seems reasonable to associate thick metal with quality in exercise equipment. Once we got it set up, which excluding lugging, was about a 60 minute task, it was really pleasant. It's got a really nice display with lots of pretty, flashy stuff to distract you from the joy of running. Elizabeth watched me run on it and concluded that it was much more solid than Sears' rubbish; it gave, but didn't try to fold up around me. The closest comparision in terms of features that I can find is the Epic MX 1000 offered by Home Depot for 2 kilobucks. I believe that that model's only advantage is that it has fancy metal wheels instead of the plastic wheels that ours came with. For $1,200 less, I'm really pleased. I'm even more pleased that after we've both used it twice in two days, we really like it and seem to, so far, be forming good habits around using it.

Three cheers for Costco!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Standard New Car Warranties Compared

Manufacturer Powertrain Bumper to Bumper Hybrid Rust Through Roadside Assistance Tires
Chevrolet 3/36K 3/36K 8/100K 6/100K 3/36K 3/36K
Dodge I couldn't find the data.
Ford I couldn't find the data.
Honda 3/36K 3/36K 8/80K 3/36K 3/36K 3/36K
Hyundai 10/100K 5/60K N/A 7/unlimited 5/unlimited 5/unlimited
Kia 10/100K 5/60K N/A 5/100K 5/60K 1/12K
Nissan 5/60K 3/36K N/A none 3/36K for warranty issues none
Scion Website too annoying to use.
Subaru 5/60K 3/36K N/A 5/unlimited towing for any warranty work by manufacturer
Toyota 5/60K 3/36K 8/100K 5/unlimited none by manufacturer
There are a couple of noteworthy exceptions: also has a page about warranties, but my research doesn't always agree with theirs.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Why I'll probably buy a Prius

When I started thinking about buying a second car, I first looked at a Kia Rio or another equally basic form of motorized transportation. At that point I envisioned spending in the ballpark of $11k. Slowly it occurred to me that my tastes had become a bit more bourgeois; I really like power windows, locks, keyless entry, a tilting steering wheel, etc., which don't come standard on the most basic models. Alrighty then, I'll need to upgrade, which puts the price more in the 13-kilobuck range.

Now suppose I get really fancy and want a vehicle from a respected manufacturer in order to avoid rapid depreciation. That moves my thinking to something like a Toyota Corolla. That vehicle starts at $14,000, but to get to the model that has

then the price is within a few accessories (e.g. floor mats) of 20 kilobucks. An equally well decked out Prius will run about $24,130 (Yes, I've memorized that number; that's package HG, in case you're curious). Now remember that if you buy a Prius before July 2006, you'll probably be eligible for a federal income tax credit of about 3 kilobucks, so the Prius costs something like 21.3 kilobucks with reasonable accessories. So how many miles must one drive at the Prius' superior efficiency to make up that the $1,300 difference? Solving the equation

$1300 / gasPrice * (1 / (1/CorollaMPG - 1/PriusMPG)) = miles

where gasPrice = $2.50
where CorollaMPG = 31.0
where PriusMPG = 47.8

then miles=45,865

I think that's a reasonable time to ROI. Moreover, we like the Prius as a vehicle a bunch more.

OK, but suppose that I live in a snowy place where winter drags on. I still feel good about the Prius because it seems to handle really well on slick surfaces. When we test drove a Prius, I took it to the local high school's icy parking lot and attempted to put the vehicle into a spin or otherwise lose control. Without endangering the vehicle, I couldn't. I say I couldn't without hyperbole. After we returned the car, I took my current front wheel drive sedan back to the parking lot to get a quick comparison. It, and I, fared much worse; our car's traction was so poor my wife asked me to stop soon after starting to play, er, experiment. Honestly the Prius seemed more stable on slick stuff than Subarus I've ridden in.

So let me go back and revisit one assumption: suppose I was willing to stick with a Kia. At that rate, I'd want to at least look at the Rio 5, which, with the addition of a hatchback, appears more similar in space to the Prius. Decked out with almost every feature that I listed as important beside VSC, the Rio 5 is $16,000, a solid 5 kilobucks cheaper. To make up that difference you'd have to drive the Prius about 175,000 miles. Honestly, I'm expecting the Prius to last that long without need of significant repairs. However, I think the decision at this point has really come down to the quality of the vehicle and I think I'm going to spring for the nicer. Why? Well, for example, the Prius has

I think my final reason for picking the Prius over anything else is the fat check from the government. Naively assume that all vehicles evenly depreciate 2 kilobucks per year. If the federal government writes you a check for 3 kilobucks, they're covering the cost of 1.5 years' depreciation. If you trade in after 3 years, you're further ahead on that curve than you would be with any other vehicle. Now dropping a naive assumption: vehicles don't depreciate evenly; however, the Prius has held its value pretty well. I have a friend who bought an '02 Prius for, I'm guessing, around $22K. It's now privately salable for about $16K according to Blue Book. He lost $6K in 4 years, which beats my naive depreciation curve. I'll speculate that Priuses (my Latin teacher wife points out that the proper plural of the Latin word prius is priora) will continue to be well-demanded items because I'm pessimistic about the future price of gas, which seems to have a direct correlation to the demand for such vehicles.

Feel free to point out flaws in my logic or better transportation options that I missed. I've still got a few days before I'll make an irreversible decision.

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