Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The True Cost Of Going Green(er)

The above chart is a visual representation of the spreadsheet analysis I've been doing to figure out if I can afford to replace my 1995 Camaro Z28, which is not only gas guzzling me out of house and home, but it's air conditioner died and the $900 cost to repair it is yet another huge, unwanted expense at this time.

To help you read the chart, the Camaro is that little white car (mine is actually silver) in the upper left hand quadrant of the chart. It is in a position that indicates it'll cost me about $10k over the next 10 years to maintain it, and it gets between 15 and 20 miles to the gallon.

The other vehicles in the chart are actual car and motorcycle models, with their position on the chart being their various price points and MPG ratings.

The arrows are kinda positioned to show I don't want to spend more than $22K for a new vehicle and I'd like it to get at least 28 MPG. The green shaded triangle underneath the mess of cars shows the break even line where my investment in the vehicle is compensated by the lowered cost of fuel over a period of 10 years, as compared to just keeping my current car.

So, the upper right quadrant of the chart or the area to the right of the green shaded triangle is the sweet spot, or that place where a vehicle would actually save me money over the long run.

As you can see, there's not alot of there there. A Smart car, a Xebra electric car, and motorcycles are about the only vehicles that would actually save me money while saving the environment.

A Prius, hands down the most fuel efficient car sold by a major car company today, would be a break even proposition for me, at best. It may save the environment and use less gas, but it ultimately costs me no more than if I continued to drive my 8-cylinder muscle car.

Don't you hate it when your best intentions bump up against the bottomline?

I'm finding alot of that recently.

I invested a premium in a geothermal air conditioning and heating unit for my townhome about 10 years ago, with the sales pitch that the total cost of ownership would be less than a normal A/C unit and the impact to the environment would be substantially less than the norm.

In the past month, my neighbors have been comparing their electric bills and mine is definitely NOT contributing to a lower cost of ownership, so I can only hope the ozone layer has been saved by my foresight. Because I'm suffering a bit of owner's remorse over being environmentally conscious.

And then I go and run the numbers on this car thing, and it hits me again. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice and I'm just a fool.

There's no mass transit in Atlanta to speak of, so the other obvious solution to low cost, high MPG is a non-starter.

I'm actually one of those folks who thinks the rise in gas prices is the most positive thing that can be done to motivate governments, companies, communities, and individuals to break out of a deeply cemented mindset that has been around my entire life, and one that I have been fully participating in during the same timeframe.

Cheap fuel drives certain behaviors. Expensive fuel blows that all to pieces.

Now, if those hybrid cars could just come in at under $20K, we'd all be saving money. And I could afford to save the environment again.

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