Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comparing Costs

How much does a car cost? The purchase price is just the beginning. Most of us stop there in our comparisons. A car is only useful when it carries us for miles and those miles require energy. Of course, that costs more money. How much?

Our Suburu Forester has 98,000 miles and gets 24 MPG. It has used… 98,000 / 24 = 4,083 gallons of gas. We'll simplify the price of gas, even though it changes. In the past, gas has cost less; in the future, it will cost more. For planning purposes, let's just split the difference and use today's prices. We're lazy and the answer is good enough. You get more MPG (more value) with higher octane gas, but we'll assume Regular since most of us are short-sighted cheapskates. :-D

Today's gas is $3.65 / gallon. Using that, the Suburu has consumed 4,083 gallons * $3.65 / gallon = $14,903 in gasoline. For comparing to electric cars, oil changes cost 98,000 miles / 3,000 miles per change * $50 per change = $1,633 for oil changes so far.

The total so far for gas and oil is $16,536. How much will you spend?

Electricity has a price, too. Most of us don't have a sense yet of what is a good deal in terms of KWH / mile. Still, it is typically a fraction of the price compared to operating a regular gas car.

The purchase price of an electric car is higher. With the tax break though, it turns out to be competitive. As gas prices creep up next year, it becomes an even better deal.


  1. It would be interesting to see an estimate of the cost of the battery packs necessary to move the Forester 98k miles. Then add the electricity, of course.


  2. Of course, the current cost of gasoline from the pump does not include;

    - Environmental impacts (e.g. global warming, smog, etc)
    - The cost of maintaining forces to keep oil shipping routes and facilities safe from attack.
    - Depletion of resources

    Estimates range from $11 - $15 per barrel;;contentBody

  3. At today's gas prices, the batteries and juice are roughly the same cost as gas and oil. At next year's prices... hmmm.