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Gas prices drive Geos from clunkers to chic

  • Story Highlights
  • Marci Solomon bought 1996 Geo Metro for $7,300
  • Solomon's old car got 28 miles per gallon; Metro averages 40
  • Brandon Netz has side business finding, fixing and selling Metros, Festivas
  • Solomon: "It's about, do I want to eat, or do I want to make it to work?"
  • Next Article in Living »
By Mallory Simon
CNN
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(CNN) -- It's a 12-year-old oft-mocked clunker of an automobile.

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Brenton Netz has made a side business out of fixing up Geo Metros and selling them locally and on eBay.

But Marci Solomon is hoping she'll be the one laughing -- all the way to the bank -- when her Geo Metro saves her from skyrocketing gas prices.

Solomon, like many others, was taking a huge hit when it came to gas prices. With her 100-mile commute to and from work each day, she saw no end in sight. Then she rediscovered the Geo Metro.

"I used to be a car snob, and I used to be too vain to drive anything that doesn't shine," said Solomon, an electrician. "But now it's about, do I want to eat, or do I want to make it to work? I want to do both."

The Metro has been making a huge comeback, especially on eBay, where Solomon bought the car, because of its extremely high gas mileage.

The 1996 Metro's average of 40 miles per gallon nears that of the hybrid 2008 Toyota Prius -- priced at $21,000 for the cheapest model -- and bests most current cars by a long shot, according to government ratings. Older models of the Geo Metro, specifically cars from 1991 and the XFi edition, have the same average as the hybrid. See how the Geo Metro stacks up with the Toyota Prius »

Solomon toyed with the idea of purchasing a Prius but decided that for a price of $7,300, the Metro was the more economical option.

For the most part, Solomon plans on using the car for commuting from her home in Rochester, Washington, to her job. The vehicle she has now, a Honda Element, was getting 28 mpg, and she was filling up twice a week, costing her nearly $100. Stations were charging $3.97 a gallon in her area Tuesday, she said. iReport: Tell us how high gas prices are affecting you

The Metro is an investment in the future, Solomon said, even if she did pay more than five times the Blue Book value of the car.

"It was all about saving money," she said. "I don't think gas is ever going to go down, and these are going to be the types of solutions we have to turn to. I wanted to beat the rush."

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The rush may have begun.

The 1996 2-door 3-cylinder Metro Solomon now owns opened on eBay May 7 with a bid of $200. A week later, Solomon won the car auction with a bid of $7,300. In 1995, a new Metro hatchback sold for about $9,000, according to Auto Mall USA.

In May alone, 43 Metros of various years and models were sold on eBay, ranging in price from $221.50 to Solomon's bid of $7,300. The cars have been hot items, drawing upwards of 49 bids on certain vehicles, with many of the auctions coming down to last-second bidding wars. On Tuesday morning, 34 Metros were still up for grabs.

Since her eBay purchase, Solomon has acquired another Metro, which she is considering flipping on eBay for profit. She has her eye on a third at a local car lot.

"To be honest, I'm thinking of scarfing up any Geo Metro I can find," she said.

Solomon isn't alone in trying to profit off of a gas-saving craze. Brenton Netz has been selling fixed-up Metros and Ford Festivas for two years now.

After buying a Metro on Craigslist in Montana and driving it back to his home in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Netz realized how rarely he was making trips to the pump.

"I thought the gas gauge was broken," Netz said. "I couldn't believe the gas mileage I was getting."

He realized that he had stumbled upon a possible side business and began buying one-way tickets to states in the West to purchase as many of the cars as he could. Netz said he has sold about a dozen cars and has eight more sitting in his backyard.

His cars go up for sale only one at a time because he knows that putting up a couple at a time would drive down the value and cut into his profit.

Netz says consumers don't seem to mind paying more than the retail value, and if they do, they generally stop feeling that way after they pick up the cars. He's gotten phone calls and e-mails from customers saying how thrilled they are with the mileage.

It seems, Netz said, people are beginning to realize that their car choices need to be focused more on practicality than status and appearance.

"Gas prices are definitely driving increased popularity in the Metro, which at times wasn't cool," he said. "Now the coolness factor is stemming from the fact that you're getting 50 miles per gallon and never having to fill up."

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