The Reduced Driving Experiment: Three Months, 618 Miles, and Two Tanks of Gas
When Mr. Money Mustache came to Portland in early August, he mocked my motorist ways. (It's kind of what he does.) By any other standard, I'm not a frequent driver. Except when I'm traveling across the United States in a motorhome, I aim to walk more and drive less. My guess is that when I'm not being challenged by a frugality blogger, I maybe clock 300 miles a month in my Mini Cooper (or about 3600 miles per year).
But Pete thought my car-reliance was out of control. He even made fun of me (in a good-natured way) during the Money Boss workshop he and I put on together at World Domination Summit. He created a custom slide to document one way I could drive less.
You see, when I drive to the gym during rush hour traffic, it takes me about seventeen minutes to cover the four miles. It's not fun. But if I were to bike the route, it'd still take me only seventeen minutes — and there'd be no hassle.
Like anyone else, I had excuses.
- “I don't like to bike in the morning.”
- “Some days, I have to take the dog with me.”
- “What if I need to run errands on the way home?”
- “It'll be cold and rainy soon.”
For each of my excuses, Mr. Money Mustache had a reasonable response. “You shouldn't make excuses, J.D. You can make this happen.” I agreed to give it a shot.
In the three months since Pete's visit, I've made a conscious effort to drive even less than I drove before. I'm not biking to the gym every day, but I'm doing so more often. And I'm biking for more of the middle-range errands for which I might have driven before.
My short-range habits haven't changed. When I was hunting for a new home four years ago, I picked this spot precisely because the neighborhood was walkable. And I walk it. I walk through the extensive parks every morning with the puppy, and I walk through the neighborhood several times each week to run errands. Long-time readers know that walking is my jam. It's as much a part of my lifestyle as biking is for Mr. Money Mustache.
So, what are the results of this reduced-driving campaign?
In 93 days, I've driven 618 miles and filled the tank on the Mini Cooper twice. (I filled up the morning MMM and I did our presentation on August 11th. I filled up on September 28th, which was Kim's birthday. And I filled up last Saturday, November 12th.)
I averaged 6.01 miles per day on that first tank of gas, and I averaged 7.32 miles per day on the second tank of gas. Why the increase? Two reasons, I think. First, the rainy season has set in so I've opted for the car a couple of times I might have biked if it were sunny. Second, I've done a couple of longer trips to the family box factory and back.
Since Pete's visit, I've averaged 6.65 miles per day of driving, which projects to less than 2500 miles per year. I'm okay with that, especially since that's roughly the same distance I walk.
Mr. Money Mustache might call this experiment a success. I've reduced my driving from about ten miles per day to less than seven miles per day. In fact, I've cut my car usage by almost exactly one-third! If I were the average American who drives 1123 miles per month, a 33% reduction would be something to celebrate. No question. By trimming 371 miles per month of driving, I'd save 15 to 20 gallons of gas, or $30 to $60.
But really, I'm only driving 100 miles less per month and saving about three or four gallons of gas. Would that ten bucks per month be better off spent elsewhere? Or is it worth it to spend that cash to save time and stay dry? Honestly, I'm not sure. During the warmer months, I'm fairly certain I'll heed my colleague's advice and bike more often. But during the winter? I may be one of those clowns in a car.
Your Turn: How much do you drive? Have you looked at ways to curb your car usage? Do you go out of your way to carpool and to “batch process” errands? Do you live in a neighborhood and/or city in which biking is an option? What about walking? What's the biggest thing that prevents you from driving less? (Or, if you don't drive much, what's the biggest change you made to keep you out of the car?) On my recent Ecuador trip, I met a guy from Ottawa who owns an electric bike. He says it's revolutionized how he gets around. Anybody else do that?