Which has more of a positive impact — your trading a vehicle that gets 11 miles to the gallon for one that gets 18? Or trading a 20 mpg car that gets 20 mpg for one that gets 50 mpg?
Obviously, it’s the former. Say you drive 15,000 miles a year. You use 1,364 gallons of gas if each one gets you just 11 miles, 833 if each one gets you 18 — so you save 530 gallons a year with the switch. But if you are already getting 20 mpg, requiring just 750 gallons, and move to a 50 mpg vehicle, requiring 300, you save “just” 450 gallons.
One of the things we should do is get everyone who drives just a little — I drive maybe 400 miles a year — to swap his or her ride for a gas guzzler. I am currently car-less; but previously I owned an eggplant purple 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, bought used, cheap, because it was old, gas-thirsty, and eggplant purple. Perfect. Because I barely drove it, I had effectively taken a gas guzzler off the road, short of actually junking it.
Junking inefficient vehicles is not environmentally sound, because if I had bought a Prius or a Smart car instead and driven that 400 miles a year I would have saved maybe 20 gallons of gas per year, total — but added to the world all the environmental costs of making a new car. Which are enormous. Better to put the gas guzzlers in the hands of people like me who rarely drive, or else in the garages of people who like to have a rarely-used back-up vehicle.
Another good thing, of course, is simply for folks to drive frugally: “hypermiling” as best they can. This is not news; but always bears repeating.
Another: riding a bike. Or walking. Good for your health, your wallet, and your planet.
BTW: If you’re an affluent New Yorker who keeps a car in the city, for heaven’s sake get rid of it. You save: $8,000 a year on parking, $3,000 a year on insurance, plus God knows what on gas and maintenance — and a fortune on the actual car itself, which could have been invested to make you money — plus endless amounts of time from the moment you start hassling over the price with the dealer, to the time you spend hassling over registration renewals and the faulty brake light, to the stops for gas and getting it washed and all the rest.
We have subways. We have buses. We have cabs. And now we (and many other cities) have Uber. I’ve written about this before, but Uber is sensational — and you and I each get ten bucks if you use this link to sign up.
And it’s efficient: all those otherwise idle sedans that previously had been in between jobs, simply taking up parking space? Now the parking space is freed up because both the previously idle driver and her previously idle (or, worse, to keep it warm or cool, idling) vehicle, is taking you where you need to go. Pure win-win-win if you were definitely going to take a cab anyway. (Indeed, Uber now offers cabs, too, in some cities as well as sedans and SUVs — more efficiency, as its GPS technology matches cabs looking for passengers with passengers looking for cabs.) And because of its one-touch feedback mechanism — you touch your iPhone to rate each ride — the drivers have an extra incentive to provide a top-notch professional ride.
I walk when I can, and, yes, take the subway from time to time (I have been to Brooklyn!), but even with Borealis at only $8, I have my own round-the-clock car and driver (minus the $100,000-plus, all in, that would cost me). I have Uber!
Can I say one more thing? This no-car logic can even work for New Yorkers and others spectacularly fortunate enough to have “summer places.”
I spend $150 to be driven out to or back in from the beach. (Not sure what Uber would charge for that; I use a regular car service.)
I do feel guilty not taking the subway to the train to the bus to the ferry to the beach lugging all my stuff (at a cost of $40 or so, if there are two of us, instead of this $150) — instead, I just get picked up at my door and dropped off at the ferry. But compared with driving myself? I save a fortune. I spend roughly $5,000 a summer on the car service, versus all the above-enumerated costs of owning my own car and having it sit idle almost all the time.
And while friends are inching along the Long Island Expressway going the exact same place I am, their shoulders tensed up from the traffic, their right legs twinging with . . . could that be the onset of sciatica? . . . trying desperately to stay awake after a long week at the law firm or on the way home after a great weekend in the sun . . . I am sleeping or reading or gabbing on the phone or with a friend in the back seat, sprawled out like a king. And — compared with driving my own car, as I say — saving a fortune.