My new (to me) Ford C-Max Energi

2022-10-31 14:39 - General

As mentioned previously, I moved out of New York City in July. In the time I lived there, I didn't own a car. Saving the expense of the car itself, the gas, the insurance, and so on definitely helped with the expense of living in the city. Being able to live in America with no car is one of the things I appreciated most about the city. But now I'm moving away, to normal America where life with no car ranges from difficult to impossible.

Like lots of things, I've ended up going through life changes at an inopportune moment in history. The pandemic made cars expensive, shrinking the historically huge gap between used and new cars. And there's a big federal tax credit available for the purchase of a new EV (on top of this being the last year I'm confident I'll owe that much in taxes) to further help close the gap. So I started looking heavily into EVs.

Many of them advertise just under $40k prices, so after the tax credit it feels like $30k. But for anything I looked at (the Hyundai Ioniq 5 really caught my eye) it was hard to accept the base model at that headline price, especially hard to give up the larger battery (and thus longer range) that they all offer. The larger battery is never an option though, just one of the things in the higher level trim package. Then they all come with enticing optional features which made the next-higher trim level hard to turn down. Plus at most dealers the pandemic pricing has translated into over-sticker price bumps for new cars too. Suddenly, I was looking at around $60k rather than around $30k.

So I started looking back at the used market. I had previously heard interesting things about the Honda Element, a smallish SUV with fold-up rear seats that make the cargo area very capacious. But ...

A plot of price vs. mileage for used Honda Element vehicles

That's a plot of the 53 closest (within 300 miles!) Honda Elements for sale right now. It was only made from 2003 to 2011 so there aren't very many and they're all pretty old now. Only eight of them are under 100,000 miles, and the cheapest of those is over $13,000 (up to over $21,000!). As I looked further: this vehicle also barely gets over 20 MPG. I'm no longer excited about this. I looked into the Honda Fit as well (I was interested in the small car size with flexible-for-cargo interior), which had similar results: Made more recently so more availability, but also the prices are not so exciting when a new (e.g.) HR-V MSRPs for $24k and an under-100k-mile Fit is at least $10k.

So as I continued looking, I decided to focus on the used plug-in hybrid market. This gives me a bit of practice experience with what it might be like to plug in an EV, gets me good mileage overall, and avoids the new car purchase price. Having done so I can say I found it tricky to find such used cars. Most plug-ins are available in a plain hybrid version, which is generally much more common. So it's hard to find the plug-in varieties. Either way, I ended up picking a favored model.

My "new" 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

After looking around for a couple months, I picked this car. It's a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi. It's a light blue ("Ice Storm Metallic"), which I greatly prefer to a plain white or black. This model is hybrid only, "Energi" means it is the plug-in variety. This model was only made (in America) from 2013-2017 so there's not a lot of them out there. For the first few model years, Energi also meant the highest trim level. My particular one has several extra options as well: upgraded stereo/infotainment with navigation, hands-free including keyless entry and start, power lift gate (with keyless kick-to-open), rear view camera, and panoramic sunroof. And some cosmetic issues, but it's close to ten years old.

It's a rather compact car, but in a hatchback/wagon style which makes for decent cargo room. The plug-in battery pack takes up some of that cargo room, but this is a compromise I was happy to make.

Mine came from a trade in to a dealer. I picked it because of the color/price/options combination. The dealer experience wasn't so great -- I was there for about ten hours. I bought it in New York state, and ended up titling and registering it there as my license still had my New York City address on it. Some of the delay was trying to avoid this. This past weekend I came down to Maryland with all my documents in hand and transferred title and registration and license, here. (I'm moving here and insurance is half the price as compared to New York.) Now I've got to go back to New York, to surrender the unused registration (and the plates) for a refund.


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