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What is "good gas mileage"?

marc.noordeloos marc.noordeloos
User | Posts: 174 | Joined: 10/06
Posted: 06/06/08
07:49 AM

Driving into work today, I had many random thoughts about fuel economy and high fuel prices:

Just what is the definition of good gas mileage? With fuel sitting above $4 a gallon, at what point does a car buyer say no, that car is too thirsty. Is it 20 mpg, 25 mpg, what is it? Is the regular unleaded versus premium fuel issue a big deal?

The EPA fuel economy numbers on the forthcoming VW Jetta TDI are out and it gets a combined mpg rating of 33 or 34, depending on your tranny choice. With diesel fuel prices as high as they are, is this mileage good enough that the mainstream buyer will consider the diesel VW?

I believe slightly used large SUVs will depreciate to a point where people will buy them no matter what the fuel costs. If you're not paying much for a vehicle, it leaves you more money to buy fuel. For a family that doesn't do a lot of miles but needs a large vehicle, a used Suburban or Expedition may be an excellent used buy.  

Also, there is a limit to what people will pay at the dealer for good fuel economy. Hybrids, diesel options, and fuel at the pump all cost money. Just where do you want your money to go?

What are your thoughts? What do you consider good fuel economy?  

taildraggin taildraggin
User | Posts: 76 | Joined: 04/08
Posted: 06/07/08
04:12 AM

Your random thoughts are the core questions.

I've plotted out annual fuel cost at 5 mpg intervals (both gas and diesel) and plugged in the per gallon price.  Coupla of revealing things about this:

a) I'm nuts,

b) diesel price moves with gasoline price at it's efficiency advantage (e.g. multiply your local gas price by 1.3 and you'll get your diesel price.  *Insert your loathing of oil companies here*),

c) 35 mpg is the 'sweet spot' of diminishing return and the line where family cars drop out.

About the 35mpg target:
1) Diminishing return: Annual cost difference (15k mile/yr@$3.98 gal) between:

- My TJ jeep (15mpg) and a 20mpg car is $1000/yr.
- 20mpg car and a 35mpg car is $1280/yr.
- 35mpg car v. a 45mpg Ppprius <shudder> is $379/yr.

(So, the payback on a base Prius <shudder> v. a base Corolla is 16 years, at that rate.)

2) 35mpg is where 'real' cars end - I'm thinking of the VW TDI wagon and Escape Hybrid.  Above that EPA mileage, you are having a Fit, Smart, or Ppprius <shudder>.

We're looking at the new VW wagons and the Esc Hyb (aka "FEH").  Both have been proven to regularly get mileage in the 40's.  (Disappointed to hear the TDI mpg you report for the new Sportwagen - that's about 10 less than the last TDI Jetta wagons were getting...)

Diesel v. Hybrid:  if you do more highway driving, I believe that diesel is the way.  Around town, the hybrid.  Diesel is 25-30% cheaper to produce than gasoline so, over time, it should fall back to cheaper than gas.  I lean toward it as 'proven', simpler tech, too.  

Graduate, Rodan School of Automotive Design

jmisaros jmisaros
New User | Posts: 7 | Joined: 04/08
Posted: 06/09/08
12:12 PM

I think you nailed it on the used cars. Why would anyone spend so much money on a new car when it's possible to spend much less money initially for a used car and then get gas mileage that is the same or comparable to that new car.
There have always been a multitude of factors that come into play when choosing a vehicle. With gas and diesel prices being what they are right now, mpg has jumped to the front, or near the front, of the line of things to consider.  

rblackwell rblackwell
User | Posts: 71 | Joined: 10/06
Posted: 06/09/08
01:14 PM

Good points. It's truly amazing how fuel economy/prices have become front-page news so quickly. Even people who don't drive very much are freaking out about it, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense ..

Personally, I used to think that 25 mpg was a pretty good number to average with a smallish car, but now I feel like family haulers--crossovers, minivans, big wagons--should eclipse that mark and small/midsize cars need to be pushing 35 mpg. So, until (if?) diesel prices come back nearer to gasoline prices, the Jetta TDI will certainly suffer.

It's very much a psychological thing. Our thresholds of shock are increasing. But it seems to be finally approaching the point where people won't be willing to go back to less-than-20-mpg vehicles this time around, unlike they did when fuel passed $1.50, $2, and $2.50 per gallon.

Not that this is a bad thing: too many people are still driving more vehicle than they need. But Marc's right--those folks who do actually need giant SUVs and their subsequent mammoth fuel bills will be relieved a bit by the trucks' diminishing cost of entry. (Manufacturers and dealers will likely be on the short end of that profit stick, however.)

On a similar note, I think people are starting to take notice very quickly of regular vs. premium fuel requirements, whereas before this issue wasn't nearly as big a deal.

When I bought my first old car last year, I went back and forth about getting a V-8-powered American muscle car. But I'm feeling much better about my four-cylinder MGB every time I drive it, even if the economy barely breaks 20 mpg. At least it's better than 10 mpg!  

Evan.McCausland Evan.McCausland
Administrator | Posts: 155 | Joined: 04/08
Posted: 06/11/08
02:02 PM

"Even people who don't drive very much are freaking out about it, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense ..."

Maybe not, but in some senses, they *can* feel the impact of rising oil costs.  They can expect to see a slight increase in the cost of goods and/or services - especially those that are delivered - as vendors try to retain some profit.

There are other ways, of course (ever buy heating oil?), but I digress.

I'm lambasted for my current vehicle - '02 Cavalier sedan; 2.2L I-4 and 5-speed Getrag - but I swapped into it for fuel economy reasons.  I had a fairly nice mid-'90s Buick Century wagon that was GREAT for cargo capacity.

But even in early 2007, I realized I was driving alone more than I was hauling 9 passengers or a boatload of cargo.  And even then, 16-20 mpg tops wasn't so appealing.  At the time, I was somewhat limited with my buying options, but the J-body (knocks on wood) hasn't been too horrible.

With the Cavalier, I can get around 29-30 mpg average, which consists mostly of highway driving.  That said, this last tank put me down around 26 to 28 mpg.  That's not bad, but alarm bells are clanging in my temporal lobes.

28 mpg normally wouldn't bother me, but as Rusty said - there is a psychological element of seeing gas retail for $4.09 ($4.19 right by my apartment) and then watching mileage drop by 2-4 mpg.

It's enough where I look at modern cars - notably Honda's Fit - and wonder if I should switch rides yet again to save money on fuel.  It likely won't happen, but I'm certainly looking into it...  

JeanJennings JeanJennings
New User | Posts: 26 | Joined: 10/06
Posted: 06/11/08
03:35 PM

Just read today that Honda dealers have a FIVE-DAY supply of Fits. That equals SOLD OUT. Too bad, young Evan. You need to do something about that '02 Cavalier sedan of yours!  

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