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:


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.

About the Author Teri Epperly is the Director of Training and Customer Experience at Palo Alto Software. When she's not helping LivePlan customers, she loves landscape gardening. Read more »

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