When I was in high school, I had an '84 diesel Ford Escort that got 48 MPG around town. My 20th reunion is coming up this fall, and in the intervening years, I've had 11 cars (all used). None got better than 35 MPG. Worse, I'm having a hard time finding a car to buy today that would beat the Escort for fuel efficiency.
And lord knows, I need a new car. When I moved to California in January '05, I thought I'd be here for just six months. So I bought an '89 Camry on Craigslist for $1000 and congratulated myself on the thrifty purchase (which gets up to 34 MPG, btw). I wound up staying out here, and in month seven, the car started dying. We're now in month 20. I still have the Camry; it's still dying. This week alone, the slave cylinder on the clutch plotzed ($139.50 and an 18-hour inconvenience), and the ignition lock siezed up ($160, 3+ hours).
I have access to my boyfriend's '95 Jetta, which is a piece of crap. It's also smeared with bike grease and dog fur inside. And we have a '98 Dodge Caravan that his dad gave us earlier this year. Before the transmission on the minivan blew about four months ago, it got 19 MPG, making it an unattractive option despite it's rocking sound system (his dad is a studio engineer). It's now rusting over in our driveway, still insured, a testament to indecisiveness.
That's three shitty cars clogging our driveway. I commute 50-miles in each direction at least three times a week, so the fact that our fleet does not include a single reliable, fuel-efficient car is a daily drain.
About two months ago, I nearly bought a Scion Xb. It gets 34 MPG on the highway, and it was in my price range (under $15K). But then I got all bent out of shape that 20 years ago, I had a car that got 48 MPG without breaking a sweat. Not to mention that the Camry gets 34 already. So I considered spending more to get a hybrid, but Consumer Reports' tests show that only the Honda Insight, which is a two-seater and is being discontinued, would push beyond 48 MPG (to 51). And anyway, hybrids achieve their max efficiency around town; I'm all about highway driving.
So I've been stalling, waiting for clean diesels or some act of god to present me with a reasonable choice. But with the Camry aging in dog years, I've got to make a decision soon. Next up: researching biodiesels.