It took a pair of running shoes and a conversation with a coworker for me to realize something. Thinking in miles per gallon is (almost) pointless.
It’s good to keep track of how many mpgs you cobble together each tank, with the goal of scrounging up more. But when you’re really trying to map out your finances, think in terms of cost per mile, which is an easy bit of math to the cost per trip.
Reporter Steve Gardner brought that concept up over a conversation a while back, and it made sense when I thought about a recent trip I made to buy a pair of running shoes. I live in West Bremerton, and couldn’t think of anywhere in town to procure said sneakers. (That’s a WHOLE other issue by itself.)
What if I drive the approximately 15 miles to the consumer megaplex in Silverdale? What’s that trip cost me? If gas is $4, I get 34 mpg, and drive 30 miles roundtrip, I’ve spent $3.60 on fermented dinosaur juice.
What if your truck gets 15 mpg? The same trip costs you $8.10. Is it worth it?
To make it easy to calculate your cost per mile, GO HERE.
(If you really want do extract the numbers, including insurance, etc., go HERE.)
A logical way to think about your next shopping trip might go like this: I need to drive 30 miles roundtrip for my Very Important Household Object. If my SUV’s gonna charge me $8.10 for the pleasure of driving, is that a trip I’m willing to make? Will it cost less to buy it online, including shipping? Can I take care of several errands at the same time, avoiding future trips and saving some dough?
(If you really want to get fancy with the math and Google maps, figure out the costs of your ferry destination – Seattle or Edmonds – versus driving around.)
Every time we step or drive onto a ferry (if it’s a discretionary trip) most of us instinctively do the “Is the cost worth it?” dance. When we drive, we don’t.
If we take the cost-per-mile equation further, and calculate our yearly gasoline bill…well, the numbers can speak for themselves.
The left column includes groups of two. A high and low number. The low is a theoretical current mpg. The high is an mpg increase of 20 percent, a figure that isn’t ridiculous to attain if you hypermile, or EcoDrive, or whatever you want to call it.
The next column shows the cost per mile for the respective mpg ratings.
Column three is your annual fuel bill, at $4, if you drive 15,000 miles (A figure that seems pretty commonly used as an average yearly clip.)
The fourth shows your annual cost if you drive 12,000 miles.
18 .22 $3300 $2640
24 .17 $2550 $2040
30 .13 $1950 $1560
36 .11 $1650 $1320
Just for giggles, let’s peer into our crystal ball for a moment. In 2004, gas was around $2. If it’s $6 by 2012, what’s your annual gasoline bill going to be?
If you go by today’s average fuel economy in America (See it HERE. PDF) of 22.5 mpg, the average American will pay $4,050 per year if they drive 15,000 miles. If they still have a 15 mpg truck or sports car, it’s $6,000 (40 cents per mile).
That’ll really make you think, “Is this trip worth it?”