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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Please help me buy a hybrid car

Cross-posted at Duck of Minerva.

I've been doing some car shopping this past week and it appears as if one of the best bargains around is the 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid. The base car's invoice price is a bit less than $26,000. However, Nissan is offering $5000 (!!) cash back in some areas of the country -- $4000 that has been available for many months, $500 that is a generic Nissan incentive over the next month, and $500 more for the holiday weekend.

That means that some dealers are offering the vehicle for under $20,000.

Additionally, because Nissan hasn't sold many of these cars, they are still eligible for a nice tax credit from the federal government: $2350.

We're now talking about a midsize Sedan Hybrid for $17,500. The non-hybrid version of this car is the top-rated vehicle in its class according to Consumer Reports. Prius may be a better mobile billboard, but the Altima seems like a very good car. Plus, Nissan licensed Toyota's hybrid technology.

Personally, I'd add the K01 "convenience package" to the base brice, which provides an electrically adjustable driver seat and some other stuff for $1300. Indeed, including that option, I've been quoted $21,280 from a dealer I found on-line. The tax credit would reduce the price another 10% next year.

Here's the catch -- and the reason for my bleg: I apparently cannot buy (or even test drive) the car in Kentucky. Or anywhere near here. The dealership I linked is geographically the closest to my home and it is over 400 miles away.

Nissan is only marketing this vehicle in states that have adopted the "California emissions standards." These are mostly in the northeastern U.S. -- or on the west coast.

Thanks to, I found a used 2009 version of the car in Louisville and gave it a test drive. As some reviewers had warned, the vehicle hesitated (jerked?) a bit when switching from electric to gas-power. However, the car I drove had over 30,000 miles on its odometer as it was a former fleet car. I presumed the automobile had been worked hard and was not an especially good representative of the model.

Has anyone been behind the wheel of a 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid? Rental agencies sometimes have them. Does anyone own an older model? If so, I'd really appreciate your feedback. I'm seriously thinking of heading east to get this car -- and that with the knowledge that the closest certified Nissan service technician for its hybrid is in Indianapolis, just over 100 miles away. Local dealers could only work on the non-hybrid parts of the car. In my view, AAA would provide any needed towing if something major went wrong.

Most reviewers disliked the vehicles limited availability and relatively high price (before rebates). Doesn't it seem as if those problems can be resolved?

Anyone want to talk me back from the brink?


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