Thursday, April 24, 2008

Which Car is Less Expensive to Drive?

When planning a recent long-distance trip, Michael and I were trying to decide which car we should take -- his or mine? He assumed my little compact sedan would get better gas mileage than his full-size sedan. I thought that was probably true, but I do like seeing the proof in the numbers.

I used AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator to find out the real answer. I was surprised to learn that on the same trip, it would only cost $8.06 more in gas (total - round trip) to take his car than mine. So, if we needed more space or find his car to be more comfortable, it would be fine to take his car. Of course, I realize that this calculator is only factoring the price of gas and not which car may cost more to maintain. But it is a helpful tool in budgeting a good estimated cost of gasoline for a road trip.

In addition to helping you decide between which car to use (assuming your traveling partners also have cars and you have a choice of which one to take) and helping you to budget for gas for a trip, this calculator may help you decide between two different cars to buy. Plug in the numbers for a city/area to which you make frequent trips (maybe for an annual vacation or to visit family or friends). Try it with the two different cars that you are considering to buy. It may help you understand the big picture better than the miles-per-gallon listed on the car.

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1 comment:

Kate said...

That's really helpful for planning a trip, but I didn't even think about it in terms of choosing a new car. We're thinking about a new (to us) car maybe next year and this is a serious concern for many reasons, the price of gas being the most obvious.

Another thing that I discovered when I was traveling a lot is that going the speed limit is not only smart, responsible, and the law, but you get better gas mileage. Once I figured that I saved $15-20 one (long) trip.

For a longer trip it's also helpful to do the math to see how much sooner you'll get to your location if you speed. I just remind myself that I'll get there 15-20 minutes later. That seems significant until you compare it to the entire trip. 15 minutes from 5 hours is still pretty close to 5 hours.