August 3, 2008

Gas Guzzler for Gas Sipper

I have lots of new post topics lined up to write about, but they'll have to wait because I just read another pertinent article in the New York Times that I cannot wait to share.

A you may know, I am always struggling with my car's poor gas mileage yet haven't found a better vehicle option for our carpooling needs. Now there is a cool new online calculator to help with the math for the financial aspect of the decision to downsize your gas tank.

The article describes the way the Gas Guzzler for Gas Sipper calculator works:

"You select the vehicles in question, your location, the local price for gas and the number of miles you drive a month, and the calculator tells you how many months it will take for the fuel savings to equal the money you would need to acquire the new vehicle.
The calculator may actually underestimate how often it makes sense to hang onto a gas guzzler, since it does not account for sales taxes or the immense hassle of having to deal with all of the registration paperwork."

With gas prices being high, I'm sure there are many folks who automatically assume switching to a fuel efficient car will save them money. Apparently, it is often a better financial decision to keep the gas guzzler. Of course there are other considerations, such as the environmental impact. I personally don't think people buy a Prius to save money—they do it because they want to use less fuel.

For my first calculation I looked at trading in my Pacifica for the new Jetta TDI. It determined that while I would save $188 per month on gas, it would take 7 years to break even on the new vehicle cost minus trade-in value. This example was flawed, however, because the TDI uses diesel and the pricing is not equivalent.

Next I looked at trading my car for a Ford Escape Hybrid. The calculator said I would not save any money at all on that transaction. Hmm. Not sure why.

So next I tried switching my car for a Prius and the calculator figured that while I could save $230 per month on gas, it would take 4.5 years to break even on the expense of the transaction.
The calculator does let you adjust prices and MPG to suit your specifics (it said my car got 17 MPG. Ha!)

But like I said, there are more reasons to use less gas than to save money.

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