Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Three new developments in the car world promise cheap rides in the near future.
First up, the Tata Nano that sells for less than $3,000 in India will be coming to the United States with an increased price tag. For the U.S. market, it will be designed to be a cheap urban runabout that costs less than $8,000 and should be in production by 2015.
The increased cost includes the expense of making government-required safety and emissions tweaks.
At $8,000, it will be the cheapest car sold in America, competing mainly with used cars and motorcycles. Of course, nobody’s yet sure if Americans will turn their noses up at the Nano, or if it will create a new car class.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lincoln’s new MKZ comes in a hybrid version that’s priced at no mark-up from the gas engine version. Both versions cost $36,000 so that means no additional payback period buying the hybrid versus the gas engine.
Ford sure is causing heartache for Toyota. Its Lincoln gets better fuel economy than a Lexus hybrid — and it’s cheaper.
Also, Ford’s new C-Max Energi has excited a lot of people. It’s a hybrid minivan that drives the first 20 miles each day as an electric car and then becomes a gas/electric hybrid until the next charge.
The Energi comes in two flavors: hybrid for $25,000 or a plug-in hybrid for $29,000 ($33,000 minus $4,000 in federal tax credits).
The plug-in hybrid just earned an EPA rating of 100 mpg. By contrast, the typical car today gets about 22 mpg. Expressed in today’s gas prices, getting 100 miles per gallon would be like paying 70 cents a gallon at the pump.
Meanwhile, the hybrid gets 47 mpg, which is the equivalent of $1.75 at today’s gas prices.
– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog