It’s not the MPG

It’s the GPW…gallons per week.

Or, “why it would make no sense to trade in my seven-year-old Honda Civic for a brand-new Prius or Civic Hybrid.”

It’s interesting to see Americans get a little religion about fuel economy, now that prices are a sizable fraction of what they are in some European countries. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people retain some realism if prices decline a little (hey, I can hope, can’t I)?

Meanwhile, I looked at our peculiar situation and realized that my responsible choices are:

  • Do nothing–keep the 2001 Civic EX and 2006 Civic EX (my wife’s car) maintained and drive them into the ground.
  • Find a way to sell the 2001 and use cabs or shuttles when we need a second car (which is almost exclusively when I’m going to the airport).

Sure, we’d get better MPG (in town) with a Prius (our real highway mileage in either car is 40-44, which is about what the Prius does, I believe) and maybe slightly better MPG with a Civic Hybrid or a Honda Fit (but my wife hates the look of the Fit, and the Civic Hybrid lacks some of the EX’s features). (Neither of us loves the look of the Prius either, but there are hundreds of them around here, so you get used to them.)

But that would also involve adding one more car to the road, one way or another–and given our GPW, that makes no sense.

GPW depends on how and where you drive–and when you use something other than a car.

A year ago, I was driving to and from work (about five miles each way–we paid a small fortune to move close to work) and typically to and from lunch (about 1.5 miles each way), plus maybe 20 miles on various errands during the week and over the weekend. Figure about 60 miles per week, or about 2.4 GPW (the 2001 gets right around 25 MPG in stop-and-start city driving). If we did take longer trips (which we don’t do all that often), we’d use the newer car, of course.

(No, I’m not making that up. In a seven-month interval between servicings, the mileage changed by 1,800 miles–that’s 60 miles per week.)

Now? I telecommute–and I walk to and from lunch (either to dine out or to buy a sandwich). Which (along with continued treadmill time) has cut my weight down to where I’d really like it to be; there’s a lot to be said for the 10,000-step regime, particularly if you can get fresh air during a big chunk of that. Even including trips to airports and the like, I’m down to 25 miles per week–or about one GPW. (My wife’s GPW is probably similar–some slightly longer trips, even fewer errands.)

At one GPW, there’s just no way you can ever justify trading a reasonably-efficient car in for a highly-efficient one.

That’s my peculiar situation. I recognize that it’s peculiar. But there are lots of us who could probably combine errands, walk to nearby businesses (and parks and libraries) instead of driving, walk to lunch instead of driving (or pack a lunch and spend half the time enjoying nature)…and do other things that would reduce our GPW by a fair amount. And, you know, walking an extra mile a day can be good for your health, your weight, your endurance, maybe even your disposition.

Oh, one other note: that “walkable places” website says I’m car-bound, with our house getting only 45 out of 100. Well, they miss one of our parks (that is within the magic quarter-mile radius), I don’t find that three-quarters of a mile is excessive for post office, supermarket, drug store, restaurants…but then, I didn’t make the rules for walkability. Lots of people walk in our neighborhood; maybe they need a car now and then, but that doesn’t make this an unwalkable neighborhood.

2 Responses to “It’s not the MPG”

  1. Anali says:

    Definitely a reasonable decision. We just got back from a lot of freeway driving in our Prius, and managed about a 47 mpg average. The non-hybrid Civics get great gas mileage, and trading them in on what you drive would be silly. GPW is a great way to evaluate your fuel usage.

    We’re in the same boat – my husband has an insane 30-mile commute, hence the Prius – but we were a single-car household before that. I just bike to work, and for the rare occasions when I need to drive, the old clunky truck is excusable. It’s less than one GPW.

  2. walt says:

    Just a note: Comments may not make it through the LISHost firewall because of auto-related words (just as I can’t even comment on a couple of my own posts on a particular topic). This is unfortunate, but that firewall is what keeps my spamment level low enough so I can check for false hits. Sorry.