Tag Archives: Toyota

Prolonging the pain at the pump: keeping a gas guzzler

I have a 1998 Toyota Sienna Minivan.

It’s not a hip car, but it’s a great car. 120,000 miles and nothing has ever broken on it.  It’s comfy, quiet, and useful. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned.  My poodle Molly and I traveled 10,000 miles across the US, up and down the eastern seaboard and back in it in 2001, right after 9/11 (“Travels with Charley” redux).

Poodle and Packed Minivan

Poodle and Packed Minivan

It also gets a sucky average of 19 mpg.  The price of gas is bad enough, but the fact that my carbon output is twice as high as it could be bothers me even more.

So like many others, I checked into down-sizing my ride. hahaha.

What I suspected is true.  The NY Times has an article today about whether this is a cost-effective plan. In the article is a link to a website where you can calculate how soon you’ll break even if you trade in your gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient model. I did the math:

My car’s trade-in value is $4,100.  A used 2005 Honda Civic hybrid is $19,200. Not counting sales tax, license fees, etc – and if gas stays at $4/25 a gallon – I will break even in a mere ten years!

The Sienna stays. I have to figure out how to rely on it less.

Prius Envy

I love Toyotas. I had a 1988 Camry station wagon for ten years till I bought my current Toyota, a 1998 Sienna MINIvan. Except it’s not so mini. In terms of gazzling (my new word for gas-guzzling), it’s MAXI – 19 mpg. A tankful will probably cost me $80 this week. Last tank was $70. (I’m trying to use it as little as possible…).

My friends who have Priuses love them. They got theirs when they weren’t quite so scarce and when trading in their SUVs for them was a viable option. One of these years I hope to be able to afford one. Meanwhile, I need to learn to drive differently.

For starters, I need to leave for my destination BEFORE I’m due there… Well before. Novel idea.

An article in today’s NY Times describes other options: how to “Be a Prius:

In Europe, where gas prices are often more than twice what they are here, eco-driving has become mandatory in the driving curriculums in Germany, Sweden and, most recently, Britain. Beginning drivers are taught to avoid idling, unnecessary braking and jackrabbit starts at traffic lights, among other lessons that can bring fuel savings to as high as 25 percent.

Other fuel-saving tips include carefully timing one’s approach to slowing traffic or red signals and not accelerating toward a “stale green,” that is, a signal that’s about to change…..

Consider also driving less aggressively. An Australian study found that an “aggressively” driven vehicle saved a mere five minutes over a 94-minute course compared with a “smoothly” driven vehicle — but the smooth car used 30 percent less fuel.

He also suggests policy changes, like replacing stops with roundabouts, requiring drivers take a driving efficiency course, and encouraging less driving thru tax credits for miles not driven or miles on public transit.