The Weekly Driver letters: Used trucks, Lexus, Sonata PHEV

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The Weekly Driver is a companion website to the weekly Autopia column I contribute to the San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times. Some of my automotive content also appears on RVtravel.com and in Gulfshore Business in Florida. It’s also distributed by Motor Matters, a syndicate in Delaware.

With that variety of outlets, sometimes I receive letters from readers. It’s great. With permission from the letter writers, I’m posting a recent batch of comments.

The Weekly Driver: The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has been rredesigned and offers a top midsize seda value.
The Weekly Driver: The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has been redesigned and offers a top midsize sedan value. It’s available in several trims, including a PHEV model.

Some editing for style, clarity and brevity has occurred. Thank you for reading my content and for taking the time to email. Stay in touch. Cheers, James Raia (The Weekly Driver.)

LEXUS SUV FAN WITH REASON

Stephen Comstock, Eau Claire, Michigan, writes:

I have just read two of your articles (most likely condensed for publication) dealing with used trucks and vehicle longevity posted on RVTravel.com. It was interesting reading and valuable information.

While this may have been RV Travel’s commentary on your compilation, it was stated that “The Lincoln Navigator is the only luxury vehicle on the list.”

The Weekly Driver welcomes letters

Ironically, the #1 car on the list was the Toyota Land Cruiser! And what puzzled me most was the absence of the Lexus SUV GX and LX series, both luxury vehicles at the very top of the Toyota line with possibly the greatest longevity of all!

Now, my prejudice in these considerations is fueled by owning a 2010 Lexus GX 460 with a “low” 130,000 miles on it currently. It looks and runs like new and we have been towing our 5,500 lb. travel trailer with it periodically for the last 3 years.

The Weekly Driver: Carefully considering the mechanics, cargo space need and gas mileage is important when buying a used truck.
The Weekly Driver: Carefully considering the mechanics, cargo space need and gas mileage is important when buying a used truck.

In consulting with my maintenance manager at our Lexus dealer, she states that she has a customer driving one with over 370,000 miles on it, all original equipment. The sales agents at the same dealership will tell you their frustrations in obtaining used GXs for resale, due to owners wanting to keep their vehicles for periods much longer than other car owners.

If the information you originally wrote regarding longevity was altered for publication by RVTravel.com, I apologize for bothering you with my thoughts. In any case, thanks for compiling information on used trucks and SUVs for those of us who would rather not or are otherwise unable to purchase new.

The Weekly Driver: Thank you for reading my content and for taking the time to email. You’re not bothering me at all. Constructive feedback is always welcomed. The post was a review of what the writer said, not my opinion. I posted the content because it was from a different perspective.

2020 HYUNDAI SONATA

Walter Hlavacek, San Jose, Calif. writes:

Although your article was well written and informative, I feel you did a disservice to the Hyundai Sonata PHEV, which, if I read this correctly, you did not mention.

I say this not because I have a 2016 Sonata Limited PHEV but because it is one of the alternatives available, though a bit over the “Average Price” of sedans. This may have been the reason it was left out.

The Sonata PHEV I have has been a very good car mechanically, and I do get an honest 40-42 mile per gallon when traveling in the HEV mode, even around town.

The Weekly Driver welcomes letters

Being retired I have the luxury to run most often in EV. The HEV mode is used depending on the distance when EV is almost exhausted. This selection use usually gets me in the neighborhood of 65 to 70 mpg between fill-ups.

EV-only mode for short trips is 99 mpg. I must also say I run in ECO mode at all times except when traversing a steep hill. This is real-life driving and not bad for such a large, comfortable and excellent handling car.

I really appreciate the Adaptive Cruise Control which works very well, the auto warning systems, the backup camera and other amenities provided in the standard Limited Edition Version.

I hope in the future you would give the reader the full line of the auto selected.

The Weekly Driver: Thank you for reading my column for taking the time to email. It’s appreciated. Your points are well made. Thank you. As noted in my column often, I like Hyundai, Kia and the new Genesis lineup.

Andrew Fine (address withheld) writes (3 questions):

2020 HYUNDAI IONIQ

I read your column two days ago on the Hyundai Ioniq in my local Sunday paper. I wanted to ask your opinion on a couple of different but related topics if you’re kind enough to respond to individual emails. Which I assume you are.

I’m a retiree in my 70s (no, I don’t believe it!). I’ll likely be replacing my current Hyundai Sonata in a year or two. And I really like it. Yet, I’m thinking of replacing it when I do with a 2018 Camry. My reasoning is as follows: I’ve read that the latest redo of the Camry in 2018 saw Toyota add a lot of safety features, which, given I’m getting older, I think make sense to add.

I’ve had two Camrys in the past and both were quality cars for me (1991 and 1998, so yes, we’re talking 20 years later.) My impression is the Camry has stayed a quality car.

I’d guess most of the manufacturers have been adding more safety features over time. I don’t pretend to know which are the most vital to make sure to include, and I assume that even experts might have differing preferences.

I like a quality brand (both Camry and Sonata) that’s a couple/few years used, for the obvious cost difference vs a new or barely used one. I also realize that there are many good mid-sized sedans (the only type car I want) out there, the obvious Accord. And others as well, that we can both name.

If you don’t mind, I’d value your take on it. Is the 2018 Camry as good or better than the other similar sedans for the cost/value equation? I care most about longevity, minimal problems, just a car that will always start and get me from A to B with no issues, virtually all the time. I also care about cost, as implied above. Are there any other sedans out there that you’d think better value for the dollar, given what I’ve described above? I’ll add I don’t care about style or color.

The Weekly Driver: I like the Camry. There are plenty of reasons why it’s the country’s top-selling sedan. One suggestion: take a look at the Genesis, the spinoffs from Hyundai. As you may know, Genesis is to Hyundai, what Lexus is to Toyota. It makes the G70, G80 and G90 sedans, and all are quite good. Genesis has the same warranty as Hyundai. Here are some links from my site.

Deciding between the Camry, Accord, Kia, Focus, etc., is nothing more than personal choice. They are all good cars. There’s no better or worse, in my opinion. I didn’t mention J.D. Power. I think its reviewers and analysts do a great job.

BUYING A CAR ONLINE

I’ve seen from a distance (never bought a car this way) the rise of the CarMax, CarGuru, etc. Should I buy it on-line rather than going to the local dealer? I wonder how good these folks are to buy from? The dealer gives you the test drive, and a place to return it if there are any problems.

I see some of the on-line sites advertise on TV and they say they’ll deliver it to your residence. Yes, but what if there are any issues? Do you have preferences with the dealer/on-line site ways to buy?

The Weekly Driver: I don’t have much any personal experience with online shopping sites, but I wrote an article and did a podcast a while back on one of the companies. I like its approach. It’s called Blinker.

BUYING A CAR FROM ANOTHER STATE

A related micro-issue that you may not be aware of. I am because I’ve looked at the 2018 Camrys for a couple of months at a few of the on-line sites. I have noticed the following: I live in California and most of the 2018 LEs, even allowing for mileage differences, seem to be priced at $16k-18k. Yet, when looking nationally, I see plenty of dealers in New York and South Florida seem to sell identical cars for $13k-14+k. That’s a huge difference, given I’m not Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates :).

Even allowing for shipping costs cross country, it would seem that the east coast dealers are a lot cheaper. Anything I’m missing? How does one know if the dealer in South Florida or New York has problems, and is the potential headache of distance make it foolish to consider buying a used car from a dealer across the country?

The Weekly Driver: I don’t have any expertise buying cars in different states, but some buyers have concerns when a car has been driven in a state where the elements — snow, rain and in ocean states with sand and salt, very hot climates, etc. — could be factors on the vehicle’s overall health.

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