Fuel Efficiency — good for me, good for the economy 0

Recently I’ve been evaluating what I’m spending on a regular basis, to find ways to be more efficient and hopefully reduce those costs. One expense is the cost of commuting to and from work. I commute just under 30 miles round trip from my home in the country to our office in town. Of the current options available where I live, the best decision for me, for now, is car-pooling.

My neighbor and I have been car-pooling for almost two years now (well before the recent spike in gas prices). Our schedule is twice a week; she drives on Mondays and I drive on Tuesdays. That means I’m only driving 16 days a month to work, instead of 20. That’s a 20% decrease in driving my car and in the amount of gas I have to buy (and less wear and tear on my vehicle).

Car-pooling twice a week has been a good choice for me. It’s also been an easy transition. I still have three days a week where I’m on my own schedule. I can stay in town to meet friends for dinner, work late, run errands, etc.

Until recently my neighbor and I each drove the same type of car — Jeep Cherokee. Hers was a 1998 with an automatic transmission, mine a 1993 with manual transmission (yes, I’m driving a 15-year-old vehicle; I love my Jeep!). Given the variation in driving habits, we each still hovered around 21 mpg for our commute (65% open road and 35% in town).

A couple of weeks ago Janet decided to buy a new car. I found a website, www.fueleconomy.gov, that offers comparisons on fuel efficiency, energy impact and carbon footprints for cars. I couldn’t resist. So I entered the specs for our vehicles, and the following is a snapshot of the side-by-side comparison:

Forester-Jeep-Fuel-Comparison

Although car-pooling reduces my gas consumption by 20%, her new vehicle provides her with an additional reduction for fuel efficiency. Same amount of driving, same commute, but I’ll spend approximately $44 per month (over $500 a year) more for gas than she will. Darn.

So, do I run out and buy a newer, more fuel-efficient car? From the comparison above, it makes economic sense, and there are plenty of cars to choose from. But that leads to the other side of making a fuel-efficient decision — what it will cost my pocket book to buy that new car. Paying cash would deplete my reserves too much (not comfortable in this current economic situation). And I have never liked making car payments.

My Jeep has 149,000 miles (on an engine that historically can run over 200,000 miles). I drive an average of 10,000 miles per year. So I decided to research what can I do to help my vehicle be as efficient as possible. Check out the suggestions I found on the Autos.MSN website. The list is called the “Top 10 Green Car Upgrades.” I can do six out of 10. That’s a good plan for me, for now.

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