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2010 Honda Insight Twelve Month Test - Months 9 and 10

June and July 2010: Contemplating life after a hybrid

By

2010 Long Term Honda Insight in Panamint Valley

Our long-term Insight continues to rack up the miles...and the dirt

Photo © Aaron Gold

So here we are, with another two-month interval between long-term reports. There are two reasons for this.

Excuses, excuses

The first reason is that not a whole heck of a lot has happened. Hondas may be great cars to own, but I'm starting to realize that they aren't the best prospects for long-term testing, because they don't provide much to write about. We keep piling on the miles -- over five thousand since my last update -- and the Insight simply refuses to break. It's gotten to the point that I feel a rush of excitement when I hear a rattle, followed by crushing disappointment when I discover it's just a pencil that one of the kids left in a storage bin. I know Hondas are built like brick outhouses, but I figured that in 23,000 miles, something would go wrong. We're not exactly gentle on our cars, and the Insight is showing its share of scars from hard use. But in terms of mechanical maladies, electrical glitches, loose trim, or any other problem that can be blamed on a lapse in build quality, there hasn't been a single one. I guess I should have known better -- isn't this why people buy Hondas?

The second reason is that as we approach the end of our twelve-month test, I have to start considering our next long-term car -- and frankly, that thought is kind of depressing. We initially chose the Insight because I wanted to see if our family of four-plus-dog could make do with a small hatchback, and so far that's working out well. But I've also gotten used to getting 43 miles per gallon. The idea of going back to a regular car that only gets 20 to 30 MPG makes my inner cheapskate apoplectic. A rough calculation shows that we've saved nearly $1,200 on gas compared to our old Honda Accord, which averaged 25.5 MPG.

Second service

At 22,987 miles, the Insight's maintenance minder told us it was ready for a "B1" service -- oil and filter change, tire rotation, and an overall inspection. I planned to try the other Honda dealership in my area, but when I called to book an appointment, they quoted $79.95 -- about $25 more than the dealership I used in March, so back to Miller Honda we went, where the bill came to $55.70. The B1 service also calls for a tire rotation; once again, the dealership wanted $30, and once again I took it to my tire shop where they do it for free.

The dealership recommended that I change both the engine air filter and cabin air filter. Normally, the Insight's service indicator tells the driver when the filters need to be changed, but the owner's manual advises changing them every 15,000 miles if the car is driven in a dusty or sooty environment. Los Angeles is both, and when I pulled the filters, they were pretty grody. The dealership charges $144 to change both filters, which is a major rip-off -- changing the filters is a five-minute job that require no tools. Besides, the dealership has to remove the filters to check them; putting new ones in requires no additional labor. I couldn't get filters at my local parts store -- the Insight is new enough that they don't yet stock the parts -- so I bought both from the parts counter ($24.32 plus tax for the engine filter, $27.67 for the cabin filter) and installed them myself. Even though I paid list price for the filters, I still saved $92, and I barely got my fingers dirty.

Changing oil but not the filter

In my March update, when the Insight had its first "A1" service, I mentioned that the owner's manual calls for changing the oil but not the oil filter. Miller Honda changed the filter anyway (sneaky!), which was okay with me, as I was wondering why anyone would do an oil change without a new filter. I asked my contact at Honda about this, and he had a very good answer.

"We've found that the oil filter works just fine for two oil-change cycles. Though oil filters can be recycled to some extent, many end up in landfills. So by re-using the filter, we can reduce waste without affecting the longevity of the engine. It also reduces the cost of maintenance for the owner. It's the same reason we use the electronic 'maintenance minder' rather than fixed service intervals. We're taking advantage of the technology and years of experience with our vehicles to save our owners money."

A very valid point -- too bad the dealerships in my area haven't gotten the message. In fact, it's too bad I didn't get the message before my first oil change. Still, I'm loving these long oil change intervals -- 11,000 miles for the first service, 12,000 mile for the second -- because once again we're using less oil (and spending less money) than we did with our old Accord.

June 2010 summary:

Starting mileage: 18,034
Ending mileage: 20,739
Mileage this month: 2705.2
Fuel economy this month: 43.1 MPG
Average fuel economy: 41.8 MPG (up 0.2 MPG)
Repair/service costs this month: None
Total repair/service costs: $54.92
Problems observed this month: None

July 2010 summary:

Starting mileage: 20,739
Ending mileage: 23,213
Mileage this month: 2473.9
Fuel economy this month: 42.3 MPG
Average fuel economy: 41.8 MPG (no change)
Repair/service costs this month: $112.76 (oil change, $55.70; tire rotation, $0; engine air cleaner, $26.69; cabin air filter, $30.37)
Total repair/service costs: $167.68
Problems observed this month: None

Previous: April/May 2010

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