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Discussion Starter #1
I have never owned a car, and for various reasons would prefer to
consume as little gasoline as possible. However, my daily commute is
35 miles and takes around 70 minutes by bicycle and commuter train.
Worse yet, my commuter train stops very early, and the last few trains
are incredibly slow, which forces me to leave work much earlier than I
would like.

Finally, I just couldn't deal with the situation any more and started
carpooling twice a week so I could at least work late two days. Once
a week I borrow my girlfriend's 1986 Toyota Tercel (which seems to get
somewhere between 30-40 MPG on the highway) to drive to work with
someone else, and once a week the person gives me a ride. Each round
trip requires about two gallons of gasoline, for a total of two
gallons per person per week.

The driving is fantastic because it shaves almost half an hour each
way off my commute and even more importantly liberates me from the
horrible commuter-train schedule. This has spurred my interest in
getting a stick-shift Insight--what if I could drive more often while
consuming the same amount of gasoline?

So the questions I'm trying to answer are: Should I get an Insight,
and if so, should I get a new or used one? The potential benefits of
getting an Insight is obvious. My hesitations are:

First, I doubt I will be a "hypermiler." Less commuting time is one
of my big motivations for driving, so I would probably go with the
flow of traffic (70-75 MPH) and not slow down to conserve fuel. Thus,
how much better would the Insight be in practice than the Tercel?

Second, while I don't think I need a powerful car, I find that the
Tercel is a bit sluggish when merging onto a highway, even in third
gear. There are situations where I would feel a little bit safer with
just a little bit more acceleration capability. I'm wondering if an
Insight would feel similar to the Tercel, or if the IMA can kick in
and give you better acceleration when you really need it.

Third, I'm by no means a "car person" and wouldn't want to learn a
whole lot about maintenance, so I'm worried about getting such a rare
car adequately serviced down the line.

I guess my other question is whether it is even still possible to get
a new Insight, and, if not, whether people have any advice on
purchasing used ones. I see a few used Insights listed for sale, but
typically they have very high mileage on the odometer. For example, I
see a 2000 MT/AC Insight with 113K miles for $9000. Is that a
ridiculous price? That's as many miles as my girlfriend's Tercel,
which cost only $450. Also, would buying a second-hand Insight void
all warranties including the battery? How many miles do people
typically drive Insights before starting to experience serious
maintenance problems?

Cost isn't a huge consideration for me if I can improve my commute,
but I don't want to get ripped off, either, as I obviously don't know
a lot about cars.

Thanks for reading this long post, and for any advice you have to
offer.
 

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You have MANY questions here so let's start at the beginning:

Your commute is only 35 miles - gas price should play little real part in this decision. The difference betwen an Insight or most any other car, given your mentioned miles, is negligible. the fact that you could post as much as 70 MPG means very little at the end of the month in gas costs.

You were not clear as to whether you would forego using teh train or commuting should you buy the car or only use it a couple days a week.

What is your parking situation like in SF? Both where you live and those places you are likely to frequent? This may be a serious consideration being it's SF.

A "manual" Insight at 70-75 MPH should yield around 65 mpg... use this number to factor your decision. No matter how you figure it that's about 40% better than a comparable Tercel. As for power - the acceleration is better than a Tercel, not by a lot but this is an obvious case where you need to decide whether you want power (and pay the gas and associated costs) or great gas mileage, this is something only YOU can decide.

Maintainence - it's minimal. Being a Honda it is VERY low. The battery warranty is good for 10 years/150K miles (verify that) so it should be a non-issue. You likely won't find a new as they are all but gone now.

I was able to pick up a very nice condition 2000 manual for $8500 with 32K miles, although this is an eexceptional deal that can be found if you look hard enough and are patient. It's coming into the best buying time for cars as we near the holidays. There are not many around and you may need to look outside your general area to save some serious cash (SF has a premium for this car). I got mine out of state ad dam glad to have saved about $3500 for my driving time.

A 2000 w/ 130K miles for $9K is steep but they only need to find ONE person who will pay that. Keep in mind that the value of something is only determined by what someone will pay for it. That sounds high to me but I have seen several sell for much more than thought... the bottom line is who knows. All you can decide is what your value is then stick to it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. I should emphasize that cost isn't really the issue here. My train commute is free, so this is about spending more money to get a better commute. Parking isn't really an issue, either, because I can either park on the street or just rent a space. The main goal is to get a tolerable commute with minimal fuel consumption, even if it costs more money than the alternatives.

65 MPG does sound really good. Also, from reading these boards, it sounds like people enjoy driving their Insights, which is definitely a bonus.

One question, though: Am I to understand that the 10 year/150K mile battery warranty holds even if you buy the car used? I thought that car warranties were only for the original purchaser of the car?

Thanks.
 

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icweb said:
One question, though: Am I to understand that the 10 year/150K mile battery warranty holds even if you buy the car used? I thought that car warranties were only for the original purchaser of the car?

Thanks.
Hi icweb and welcome to the forums :!: :)

AFAIK _all_ automotive factory warranties by all manufacturers are with the car. Just be aware that a salvage title will void all warranties.

IIRC there are several other Insighters in the bay area. Several San Francisco based. Apparently due to the hills, climate and traffic their reported MPG was _much_ lower than the 65 MPG your hoping for. But in all things automotive YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

HTH! :)
 

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your commute sounds a lot like mine. when we moved to our current office location, I tried really hard to find a way to get here on public transportation. however, it was expensive and would take over an hour each way. plus, because a portion of my train commute would be in the peak direction I'd either have to ride my bike to another train station, get a folding bike, or skip the bike and take the bus from the train to the office.

so, I drive. it's about 35 miles each way almost exclusively on the nj turnpike against traffic. it takes about 30-40 minutes and I go between 65 and 75 mph. I am getting roughly 65 mpg because I drive that fast. it's not bad - I am not complaining! as long as you don't drive too aggressively, it's easy to get that kind of MPG even going fast. it's when you start

honestly, for me the difference between public transportation and driving was a quality of life issue. I didn't want to spend 3 hours every day commuting so when I had to replace my old car, I got an insight. if money is no object to you (don't forget tolls if you're doing a cost benefit!), and you are ok with the hassle of owning a car (insurance and registration and parking) then I'd say DEFINATELY buy an insight instead of another car. the stick-shift insight is super fun to drive, and also, it's got a lot of street cred!


** to address your question about highway merges: it is a little sluggish, but 3rd gear is pretty zippy. fast enough to get up to speed on most highway ramps as long as they're not up a hill. of course, my motto (developed through years of driving small cars) is "they don't want to hit me as much as I don't want them to hit me!" ;)
 

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Couple of points: would your commute be mostly freeway, or city streets (& SF hills)? You'd get better mpg on the freeway, I think. Also, if a part of it has HOV lanes, the Insight is eligible for a sticker that would let you use them.

As for merging, the Insight will do find IF you remember to downshift. Use 3rd or even 2nd to accelerate - the Insight handles this just fine. I go through the Altamont Pass & Sunol, and on the upgrades am doing 70-75 in 3rd (and showing ~50-60 mpg).
 

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Discussion Starter #7
My commute is mostly highway (101 then 280 down to silicon valley).

It seems that the 2006 MT insight is not eligible for the HOV stickers in California:

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm

My understanding is that these standards are based on NOx emissions, not CO2, so this could be caused by lean-burn mode. Did older insights not support lean-burn mode? Does that mean a new 2006 insight (if I can get one) would consume even less gas than, say, the 2003 one I'm considering?

Having an HOV sticker would be nice, but the lack of one is not a show-stopper. My route has low traffic and no HOV lanes. Anyway, I would carpool when driving (easy way to double the mileage per person), so wouldn't need any sticker for the HOV lane.

As for acceleration, this web site says the Insight accelerates better than the Prius. If that's really the case, then I'm sure it would be fine for me.

Thanks.
 

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Yes, the Insight acceleration is decent. Obviously it's not a sports car, but if you really floor it, then it does surprisingly well. That electric motor really helps.

By the way, I've driven from S.F. to San Jose several times in my CVT Insight. I usually get 55 mpg on that trip. I have no doubt the manual Insight will get 60 - 65 mpg for that stretch.
 

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My '01 insight 5 spd, accelerates better than my '91 V-6 4runner. 2nd gear will get you up to 65 mph easily. On the freeway, going 70-75 mph I average 60 mpg. On the hi-way, going 50-55 mph, I average 75-80 mpg.
 

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If you are concerned about green house gasses (CO2) and smog producers (hydrocarbons) then the Insight is for you. There is some difference between the emissions from the Manual Transmission (MT) and the Continual Variable Tramsmission (CVT) models. The CVT is a super-ultra low emission vehicle while the MT is just :roll: an ultra low emission vehicle. The CVT also is eligible for a nice Federal tax credit while the MT is not eligible. Some States also offer tax rebates on the Insight. There are limits on how much money is given out so the credits/repates may not be available.
I highly recommend the Insight.
I drive my 06 MT on hilly rural roads with a relatively short commute. Nice pick-up, nice handling, gas mileage about 55 mpg lifetime, highway trips average 68 + mpg.
I fill up once a month and I am saving a nice bit of money on gas, even with a short commute.
 

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The folowing url is a government website that compares fuel mileage and pollution. You can compare cars side by side.
Go to: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm
Choose:
2006
Honda
Insight
check manual and auto, then click compare

You can configure your annual mileage and local fuel prices. It's great for shopping. It is how I decided on an Insight instead of a Civic or Corolla.
For fun, compare an Insight to a Hemi Dodge 4wd.
 

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icweb said:
It seems that the 2006 MT insight is not eligible for the HOV stickers in California:

http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/carpool/carpool.htm
Despite what that website indicates, you _can_ receive HOV stickers on any model year of the Insight (while they last) - I just got mine today and I'm not alone on this forum. CA DMV has either been entirely lax or simply oblivious to the year distinction. If you apply for an MT just indicate that its ULEV (not SULEV) so at least your not making false claims. :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for all the very helpful responses. I'm definitely leaning towards getting an Insight. Since it is going to be hard to find a new one, I'll probably buy a used one (a lot of 2003 models seem to be available), and probably from a private party (as that's a lot cheaper).

If I want to get a used Insight checked out before buying, can I just bring it to any mechanic I trust? Or would only a few places really know how to check out an Insight? In the latter case, any recommendations for places in or around San Francisco?

Also, any particular gotchas I should look for? Sounds like valve failures are an issue, but maybe more in the 2002 than 2003 models. Should I check for a notch in the VIN plate to ensure the battery has been fixed?

Thanks.
 

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One place to start is to run the vin # through carfax, then check with the dealer that has done the service work on the car. That way, you can get a complete history on the car.
 

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Bluebelle

One thing you might consider is looking outside of CA.

We got Bluebelle (our blue 2003 CVT) in Savanah GA, but we live in Bay Area. She had a super price as a certified Honda from a dealer out there. I think we first saw the listing on autotrader.

They sent us all sorts of photos and convinced us they were a great dealer, and then we flew out and found that they were as great as we hoped. Picked us up at the airport, gaves us a bunch of free stuff for travel, and had everything ready for us.

We then did a driving trip back over the summer visiting family and friends along the way.

She has had no problems at all after more than a year.

Just a thought... if you have the time to do that sort of thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Got a 2003 MT/AC

Well, thanks for the comments everyone. Since I couldn't find a new MT/AC Insight west of Wisconsin, I ended up buying a used 2003 Insight from a dealer, so it still comes with a warranty.

My first impression was that the car, while no sports car, is definitely a little more powerful than the Tercel I've been driving. Starting from a stand still is very fast, and 5th gear feels about like 4th gear in the Tercel. If I downshift to 4th, I feel comfortable passing even going slightly up hill.

Overall the car feels pretty nice, though I may be easy to please. Having a mirror on the right hand side is very nice, and the fact that they mirrors are electrically adjustable is even better. Power windows and digital climate control are very nice, too.

One thing I'm going to need to get used to is rear visibility, which is definitely less good than the Tercel. I find there's a pretty big blind spot, even when looking over my shoulder for a lane change.

Driving back from the dealer (about 100 miles of highway), I got 51 MPG, which is a little less than I'd hoped for. On the other hand, driving to the dealer in the Tercel I only got 40 MPG, so that's at least a 25% improvement. There was a weird moment where the Insight's battery almost completely discharged very abruptly (which I posted about on the Problems board).

When I got back to San Francisco and stopped at a red light, I finally got to experience Idle Stop, which made me very happy. I do think this is a cool car!
 
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