Dear Terry,

I am almost 18 months into my five-year car loan and owe approximately $13,500. I love my car but am now working farther from home and have been thinking about the pros and cons of changing cars to get something more fuel efficient. My car is a V6 2002 Acura TL sedan and requires premium fuel.

I am curious if the loss that I would take on trading or selling cars so soon into my loan would be greater or less than the savings I would see over time in gas costs.

Basically, I’m trying to decide whether to stick it out and finish the loan or to go ahead and get out from under the car now. I do not have extra cash to add to the deal as I am working hard to pay off some credit card debt. I have been looking at hybrids and also smaller gas vehicles with better fuel economy.

Curious Consumer

Dear Curious,

Let’s start with your loss if you get rid of the TL. Depending on whether you trade it in or sell it to a private buyer, you’re going to come up $2,000 to $4,000 short of what you owe. Now, let’s consider the difference in fuel efficiency. Let’s assume you drive 12,500 miles per year and that regular gas is $3.10 per gallon and premium fuel is $3.50.

Your TL should be averaging about 22 miles per gallon.

Let’s assume you buy a new vehicle that gets 32 mpg on regular fuel.

Over the next three years with the TL you will burn up $5,964 worth of premium fuel. With the new vehicle you will consume about $3,627 in gas over the same period — for a savings over three years of $2,337. In other words, you will have to drive about 37,500 miles over three years to offset the loss in value you are likely to experience by selling your TL prematurely.

Also, you’ll probably have to deal with higher monthly payments for a newer vehicle that will get the mileage you’re seeking and your insurance costs may be higher.

The choice is yours, but taking a loss on your TL to get a more economical vehicle is not a slam-dunk decision.

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If you have a question for Terry, e-mail him at

Driving for Dollars.

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