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Buyers Remorse on my Bimmer

Posted by: David Kiley on June 3, 2008


Last January, I bought a new car after months of dithering over the possibilities. I ended up buying a 2006 BMWXiT. Having written a book about BMW, I was pleased to own my first Bimmer.

That was then. With fuel economy rated at 16/26, I figured I would get an average of 22mpg. Not a chance. But it’s not all BMW’s fault. The fact is that a car so well tuned for speed is impossible for me to keep under 75-80 mph on the highways I normally travel. That puts my combined gas mileage around 16-18 combined. Ouch. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even enjoy driving the car knowing how fast I am burning gas at $4.25 a gallon. When I drive, I can hardly take my eyes off the gas gauge.

So, I have decided to trade it in for something much more economical. So far, though, it’s not going well. I stopped at my Honda dealer, from whom we bought a 2004 Odyssey minivan. I was seeking a Honda Fit, which will net me over 30 mpg. He is out of them. I hear it will be a six week wait, at least. Worse, the dealer tells me that the auction price for my BMW is about $2k less than I paid for it in January, and $2k less than says I should be able to get in a trade. I thought I had gotten a great deal on the car back in January. Not so much.

Indeed, auto sales are going to be severely impacted in the coming months by car owners’ iniability to trade in their vehicles without losing big money. My Honda dealer told me that the auction prices for Odyssey minivans had dropped $3,000 in just two weeks. Two weeks!!And that’s a Honda, whose resale values have held up better than almost anyone’s. Imagine if you own a Chevy Trailblazer or Ford Explorer, and took out a six year loan three years ago. Forget it. You are stuck with that baby until it is paid off, and probably beyond.

Two weeks ago, Ford said that it had seen a tipping point with the American consumer when gas went passed $3.50 per gallon. That seemed to trigger people laying off vanity purchases of trucks and SUVs. The shame of this is that we couldn’t, as a country, get behind gas taxes after 9-11 that would have driven gas prices up right away. That tax revenue could have been used to speed infrastructure and investment in new sources of energy for transportation. It could have been used to subsidize some new and badly needed investments in mass transit. It could have been earmarked to subsidize conversion of power plants to cleaner technology. Instead, the steady escalation of oil prices has simply lined the pockets of oil states and speculators.

My BMW is listed for sale. I’m going to see how close I can get to the original buying price, but I’m prepared to take a hit. If I drive my next car—a Fit, Focus or Versa—closer to 65 mph, my annual savings will be around $1400-$1500 per year. Since I figure to own the car for seven or eight years, that will add up. Insurance will be cheaper too. When I get the new wheels, my eyes will still be fixed on the fuel indicator, but this time it will be to see how far I can go before the needle moves off Full.

Reader Comments

June 3, 2008 12:39 PM

Gas prices are hard to take, but the real cost of owning and driving has been buried from view for many years. In other words, yeah, gas prices hurt, but did you ever consider what the whole package costs? Car payments, insurance and routine repairs have become something that is just "factored in" our lives, taken for granted, when they shouldn't be. Gas hurts because you notice it every time you fill up, but the payments and other costs never end, too, since by the time you pay for one car you probably need a new one. The only way to get the per mile cost down below 50 or 40 cents is to buy a car and use it till to breaks into pieces.

Instead of carefully considering the costs of driving, we buy cars based on what we make and reason backward from there that we have to have them. Living closer to public transit can reduce the need for a second car. There's a real savings. If you make, say, 80K a year, you figure you can afford two cars, a house, vacations, etc. But do you really need two cars? Only if you decide you must have the lifestyle of living far from work.

I have marveled at the move to trucks (SUVs) over the last two decades. The real message behind those things on the crowded, hectic roads is this: get out the way, the big daddy is coming through. I have seen big SUVs used like weapons on Interstates many, many times. They are used to intimidate and, after that, dominate the roads. Perhaps as things begin to calm down, it will be semi-safe for a smaller car to use the highways again.

I drive a small car with a more powerful engine. There is a reason behind the power: I feel like I need to be able to get out of the way, if an emergency arises where I have the chance. A small car with a putt-putt engine is dangerous. It has to be responsive in handling and acceleration.

Also, get a manual transmission unless you spend 90% or more of your time in stop and go. A stick shift can add several miles per gallon to performance and you can also save a lot by coasting down hills and going into higher gears more quickly. A stick simply gives you more control and feel for the car, which is a good thing when you life is at stake.

Vassili Jones

June 3, 2008 1:05 PM

That’s an awful lot of “could have” When I started reading this article I had no idea it’s author was psychically linked to our nations House and Senate, able to foresee what they would spend additional tax dollars on. Wow, give that man his own cable TV show.

From Kiley: You do know that, for example, that today's federal gas taxes are specifically marked for highway repair?

Marking specific taxes for specific spending is sdone all the time.


June 3, 2008 1:29 PM

It is practically always cheaper to pay for gas than trade in a vehicle for one that gets better mileage. The individual car owner will lose his/her shirt in the trade process.

I have a 2007 BMW 335i and I average 23 MPG and 27 MPG on the Highway. I would have your dealer check your car.


June 3, 2008 1:32 PM

I know this isn't the main cause of poor mileage, but why don't you use cruise control if you have trouble keeping it below 70-80?


June 3, 2008 1:50 PM

Odd commentary from a devotee of this brand. Laments government not raising gas taxes immediately after 9-11, then, years later writes book lauding the manufacturer of the gas guzzler he aspired to own and bought.

He might want the government to save him from himself, I'd like them to save me from him as well.

Tax tax tax

June 3, 2008 2:28 PM

I can't believe the comment about getting behind a tax increase, has the tax increases helped us ever solve any problem like this. That is like the goverment raising the toll"s to cut down on traffic, the only people that it helps is the politicians have more money to burn. How about the govt. cutting the tolls to help >>>>>>>>>>>>
Tired of over taxation

All Together

June 3, 2008 2:49 PM

As a 330i owner, I will assume you read your manual. You can set your trip calculator to maximize your fuel consumption. Also on the freeway you should be in 6th gear using your cruise control. You will see your millage increase dramatically. I get about 25 - 27 mpg at the same speeds you said you drive. Sorry to see you leave the club. Good Luck! Just my 3er cents.


June 3, 2008 2:51 PM

The article facts are misleading. Let's look at some of them, while disregarding the obvious questionable points (i.e. not using cruise control to limit author's speeding habit, and having AWD on the BMW and front-wheel drive on Honda Fit).

According to, combined EPA (revised to the new EPA model) for BMW is 20, whereas combined EPA for Honda Fit is 29 (not "over 30 mpg"). Assuming the EPA numbers are correct and the author drives 12000 miles / year. By switching to Honda Fit, he will save about $864 (once again using the data from about cost of gas for 25 miles of driving), which is considerably less than what is stated in the article ("annual savings will be around $1400-$1500 ").

Finally, according to the historical gas prices, it is ~1080 more expensive to drive the BMW today, than in January of 2007 (with prices being 4.25 / gallon vs. 2.35 / gallon for BMW's premium).
But it is also ~840 more expensive to drive Honda Fit (at 4.00 / gallon now vs 2.11 /gallon in Jan '07 for Fit's regular).

Given these numbers, advocating resale of a good AWD sedan and incurring a loss on resale may not be such a great idea.

From Kiley: Reyling on cruise control is a factor I had not calculated. I don't much like using cruise control. But, if I can't sell the Bimmer, I may have to learn to like it. Also, because much more of my driving is highway than city, my real world mileage for the Fit would be higher than the average at My back of the envelope calculations are reflective of my actual driving habits.

Brother Moose

June 3, 2008 4:11 PM

"The shame of this is that we couldn’t, as a country, get behind gas taxes after 9-11 that would have driven gas prices up right away."

And which Republican in the Executive or Legislative branch would have had that kind of foresight?

From Kiley: There were columnists and some legislators who believed it was the right thing to do. Tom Friedman wrote about this in the NYT. But any politician or political strategist will tell you that a gas tax is political suicide. Even if consumers are taxed a hundred ways t make up for it, they don't want to see a big tax at the pump when they gas up every few days. a perfect world, the White House or the House speaker would have convened a bi-partisan group from Congress and said...this is what we are going to, and we are all going to stand together and swear not to use it against one another in future campaigns.


June 3, 2008 5:48 PM

Sorry to say, but author of this article is just barely knows how to drive. I have a V6 sport Benz CLK 350. My average millage is 27.5. I am getting 30-32 on highway. My second car Nissan Versa does not give as mach because it has bad drug coefficient and I pay for insurance much more for Versa then for Benz because Versa is not safe. Ask GEICO quote if you do not believe to what I say.

Just few lessons for the new drivers\
1. Always use Cruise control - give you 25-30% fuel economy gain
2. Drive behind big trucks on highways
3. Choose the time when there is no traffic usually after 9:30 a.m and after 7 p.m. Shifting a working schedule some time worth it.

And remember cars like Honda Fit, Nissan Versa are extremely unsafe. You life is more important then this buck you save on gas.

From Kiley: This business about cars like Versa and Fit being a canard perpetuated by my old friend and partner James Healey of USA Today. However, your advice about using cruise control to take my lead foot out of the problem is probably a good one.


June 3, 2008 5:53 PM


How did an auto columnist buy a new car after months of dithering over the possibilities and then (6 months later) decide he made an error?


From Kiley: In this case, it's because the columnist was a wombat.


June 3, 2008 6:00 PM

Why would someone look to trade in a vehicle they bought less than six months ago? This is a great way to lose lots of money.

From Kiley: I bought it used, so I did not experience the big loss in value that comes in the first year of a new car. indicataed that trade-in value was very close to what I paid the dealer. But that number does not seem to be accurate right now.

Learn how to drive

June 3, 2008 7:37 PM

My 2003 X5 gets 20mpg (mostly commuting). I have a soft foot but find that I can get 25mpg+ at 75-80 mph by being smart about driving. I take a longer route that doesn't have any stop and go traffic.

C. Kayt, Denver CO USA

June 3, 2008 10:00 PM

It's pretty admirable that you will
trade in your BMW for a high efficiency
automobile. I have always been very
conscientious about gas usage. My first
car was a 1983 Honda Civic 1300FE which
typically drove 50 mpg. My next car
which I still own is a 1992 Honda Civic
VX. It has a more powerful engine
(97 hp vs 80 hp) and is still great on
gas. Despite the age of the car I still
clear 50 mpg. It is old and needs work
periodically, which I do myself. I plan
to keep this car for the foreseeable
future. But my point is that even the
most efficient modern hybrids and high
efficiency engines cannot compare with
these two cars. The 1983 Civic was
carbureted. The 1992 Civic is fuel
injected. I'm really disappointed that
the automobile manufacturers cannot
tweak these engines to do even better!
In the long run, however we will be
better off if we develop alternate
fuels and technology to get around.

James Mason

June 3, 2008 10:21 PM

David, have you considered just using the cruise control to stick to a sensible speed? I assume your BMW has one. Doing that would save you a heap of money and trouble. And you could keep your BMW. Just a thought.

From Kiley: It's a okay on highway, but city mpg is still 16.


June 3, 2008 10:43 PM


How long did it take you to have an awakening. I drive a 2003 Honda Civic -1.7vtec. Excellent performance with quick 0-60 times yet very fuel efficient when driven leisurely. Honda is truly the most fuel efficient automaker making the most reliable and efficient 4 cylinders on the planet.

From Kiley: I am inclined to agree.


June 3, 2008 11:01 PM

You are a total &^%$#. If you bought your bmw thinking that gas is not going to be an issue, you are on a different planet. I would not even consider reading your book based on the quality of this article. The fact that you switched from a bmw to a mini van tells me there is more to your switch that the gas consumption. Or why did you not go for a fuel efficient sports car? Oh and howmuch morefuel efficient is the odessey? check it out

oh wait 18-25 mpg? Find a new job David!

From Kiley: I like my job just fine. And I did not switch from a BMW to an Odyssey. Maybe you should learn to read. Gas prices were a big issue before I bought the BMW. But my point is that my real world fuel economy is much worse than the government rating because the car is so easy to drive fast. It is difficult to drive it less than 75-80 mph. And that really kills the fuel economy.

I mentioned the Odyssey in the blog post because the dealer, a Honda dealer, mentioned how much they have fallen in value. Seriously, more closely.


June 3, 2008 11:13 PM

Yep, a gasoline tax could have started America on the road to a better future. But it would have required discomfort NOW for gain LATER. So we did what Americans do best, we kicked the can forward.

Now with Peak Oil upon us, it is too late. The suffering in this country will be immense.


June 4, 2008 2:56 AM

My 2007 manual tran. Fit Sport has over 11,500 miles on it, and my overall average, from day one is 36.92 MPG. I've had only one tank under 30 MPG (29.19) and eight over 40 MPG (highest 43.98). I could not be more satisfied with it, but I drive for economy, not speed, and I anticipate the traffic signals, and keep the cruising speed at 70 MPH.


June 4, 2008 6:11 AM

Bmw is the best car of the world.

Mike from NYC

June 4, 2008 4:27 PM

You should have purchased the station wagon and not the SUV wannabe. I always shake my head and think "what were thinking about when they bought the X3 or X5" when they could have bought the station wagons and gotten better looking cars and ones that handled better and got better mileage. I have a neighbor that has an X3 and my Mazda3 has more room but w/o the 'butch' look. This gas crisis is the best thing that has happened to the USA in a long time in regards to the long-term health of our country. People are starting to wake up about their car purchases and rather than opt to have Stupid hUman Vehicles that get deplorable gas mileage they are looking at vehicles that are more efficient. If Americans weren't so image orientated and the "keeping up with the Jonses'" mentality far less SUVs would have been sold. All I can say is that it's about time. I don't have one iota of sympathy for many Americans as it was their decision to buy gas guzzling vehicles. Suffer suckers.


June 4, 2008 5:58 PM

Amazing that some people here think that congress would have used huge gas taxes for public good, rather than for porkbarrel projects used to buy votes and reward campaign contributors.

Trading in a perfectly fine new BMW to buy a Fit is extreme. Learn to drive the car responsibly. After all, if you could afford the Bimmer (ummm, did you ever consider future repair costs to the car?) you can afford the marginal cost in gas.


June 4, 2008 10:58 PM

I sympathize with our humble writer. I want a Lancer EVO but am buying a Fit. I cannot justify such a purchase nor will my wife tolerate it (I claim its a safety issue since EVO has stability control :). I went to an auto show recently and was amazed about the poor milage on everything, even once "econnomy" Toyota 2WD Tacoma. Across the board, the fleet averages have increased over the last 20 years. Lack of foresight of all automobile makers. Can't fault someone for aspiring for the car of his/her dreams, (Hello Yukon and Hemi 300) but be prepared for 20 MPG or less.

What a great bunch of comments (without vicious language).

james Anderson

June 5, 2008 6:02 AM

Other than a correct observation that the market will devalue the gas hog, the rest is tripe. Why would raising gas taxes have been good for us after 911? Just another honey pot of money that would be wasted. One of the three biggest lies: "I'm from the government, I am here to help you." Drive less, pay off the gas hog, and live with your stupidity, I am.

Bill Schmidt

June 5, 2008 11:59 AM

You're gonna love your Fit. Be sure to get the stick for some real fun. With its low gas tank, it has a very low center of gravity (despite its height) and corners like its on rails.

Bill Schmidt

June 5, 2008 11:59 AM

You're gonna love your Fit. Be sure to get the stick for some real fun. With its low gas tank, it has a very low center of gravity (despite its height) and corners like its on rails.


June 5, 2008 3:57 PM

Losing 2k in 5 months of vehicle ownership. Not bad. Did you think these things appreciate like house (used to)??????

And waiting 6 weeks for a new car? So what? That's not unusual, and is even quite short for a popular model. And... maybe you'll change your mind again before it arrives!

Jim from Ohio

June 6, 2008 1:32 PM

My 2005 Chrysler 300 V6 gets 31 MPG (highway) if I drive the speed limit.
Why buy a little Honda?


June 8, 2008 8:45 AM

A crappy, whimpy report. Published only to elicit acerbic rebuttal commentary. A BMW is more than a car, it's an experience. Honda Fit is merely utilitarian.

Heather Green

June 8, 2008 8:27 PM


Wait the six weeks and get the Fit. It's a great car, lots of room, zippy, great gas mileage.


June 9, 2008 3:02 AM

"And... maybe you'll change your mind again before it arrives!"

muahahaha ...owned!

Well, here's a suggestion, if you still wanna sell the bimmer, drive it up to Colorado, where the 4WD is really a feature that matters, and trade it in there... drive back the scenic route in your new Fit and call it a vacation. For someone in Aspen, your Bimmer is going to be the trade-down to something more efficient than they had :P

But really, I don't see the point of incurring all those fees and costs to switch cars now. Its going to spoil your whole savings calculation.

Juan Cierva

June 9, 2008 10:30 AM

In Europe gas is well over $7 per gallon so you guys in the US are still in fuel heaven. I have switched from small Honda cars which are great, and I still have, to using a 125cc scooter and a 250 cc road bike that both get well over 100 MPG. US drivers still have tremendous room to reduce their gasoline expenses but you need a very open mind to get there.

BMW Driver

June 9, 2008 12:10 PM

I have a 2003 BMW 330i. I get 25 in the city and 30-31 on the highway. This is representative of most BMW drivers out there. The AWD sedans do get a little less mpg.

Would buying a car like a Fit to take advantage of 13% increase in fuel economy make sense - when I am trading to a car that is lighter and less safe -I am not sure.

Brandon W

June 9, 2008 3:05 PM

Honda Metropolitan 50cc scooter: $1899. I've read people getting 150+ mi/gal. Or take public transit. A car can cost a person $10,000/year and sometimes more. Unlimited public transit passes will usually run around $800/year.

For A cleaner world

June 10, 2008 10:57 AM

I drive an Hyundai Accent CRDI 1.5, 110 Hp 2007 model. With driving speeds of an average of 110 with a max of 160 km i get a fuel economy of an average of 5.3 to maximum of 6 liters (best 4.7) per 100 km in mixed driving conditions(Both city and highway). Apart from sounding like a diesel all other performance criteria match that of petrol engines. America should adopt diesel engines so as to save more in terms of carbon print. Hope Hyundai introduces this engine to its existing model in America.


June 10, 2008 3:04 PM

David Kiley - I have a 328i and get 40+ on freeways (more than a Honda fit) while driving at 65mpg on Cruise control.
The economy in city driving is close to 19-20. Depending on how much freeway driving i do, i get between 20 & 35 mpg.
The 3 series cars provide excellent mpg(better than most of the small cars) in overdrive, especially under cruise control.


June 10, 2008 3:05 PM

Foolish one, Here is your problem. "The fact is that a car so well tuned for speed is impossible for me to keep under 75-80 mph on the highways I normally travel. "

Everyone with 1/2 a brain knows that almost ALL the energy is spent on overcoming air resistance.

At that speed, you are not breaking, so a hybrid won't help you at all.

What you are looking for is a slower car.

Just take your car back to the dealership, and have them reduce your electronic speed limit to 60 mph, and you will get the great gas mileage you seek.

historic bmw owner

June 11, 2008 9:14 AM

BMW used to have a 325E and E stood for economy. If you follow all the car reviews over the past 10 years they all talk about power. Many times it is mentioned 'if it only had more power'. Your industry is the reason why you can't have your BMW and your gas mileage cake.

I have a 1997 318TI and a 1995 319I. Both get over 30 miles per gallon in mixed driving. BMW doesn't even offer a 4 cylinder engine in any 3 series. Get your industry to value gas mileage and BMW will go back to making sense.

Under no circumstance should you buy the Honda. After driving the BMW you will be disappointed.


June 11, 2008 4:13 PM

Don't you have cruise control on that beast of a bimmer station wagon!


July 8, 2009 12:52 PM

To Stas and Kiley:

When we traded in our 2006 Toyota Corolla (which we loved, by the way) for a 2003 BMW 325xi (which we also love, for very different reasons) this May, 2009, our insurance premium dropped significantly (~$40/6 mos). As the BMW is still worth more, this signifies to me that the insurance companies consider the BMW a safer car. As for cars like the Corolla (or Fit, in the case of the article) being unsafe, I doubt it... but they're definitely not as safe as the BMW - and that's a good thing.

Additionally, the cruise control argument is on the money but has been beaten to death. Driving style is important, however, and BMW makes it easy to learn to drive efficiently with their instantaneous fuel consumption gauge. For a fun example of driving style versus engine efficiency, watch the Top Gear episode where Jeremy Clarkson (in a new BMW M3) races a Prius. Long story short - all he has to do is keep up, while the Prius is pushing all it can. The M3 ends up getting better gas mileage than the Prius.

Interesting article, though taxation and government programs rarely lead to technological progress. We don't need more socialism than we have now. In fact, we need a lot less.


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