Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green and Budget-Friendly Transportation

In an effort to save on transportation costs and be a little more friendly to the earth, we were careful about the vehicles we chose to purchase and are thoughtful about our daily comings and goings.

When Benny was still in college, he purchased a 2001 diesel VW Jetta, which we love due to it's fuel economy. (Now, we certainly know that standard diesel is not as earth friendly as other fuels, but until biodiesel becomes affordable in the High Country, we can't make the switch. Currently, you have to be a part of the co-op, which has a hefty annual membership fee plus the fee for fuel each time.) The Jetta is our road trip car, and when the weather is good, the vehicle we use for most of our errands. Since it gets around 40 mpg on the highway, it makes our frequent trips to see family across the state affordable. The back seats fold down, so it's even good for holiday travels where we have a bunch of stuff to take, or moving smaller items from what we loving refer to as the McFalls swap shop (Benny's parent's attic). Since it is a 4-door, it will be a decent family car one day, although with more than two kids, it would be tight (but we're not anticipating that :)). Benny has learned to do most of the maintenance on his car, so that keeps our costs down on that car, and we are good about the regular maintenance with the help of a friend who works on VWs as a side business, so that we don't end up with any problems we could have avoided (and Jason cuts us a deal on the labor since Benny is helping). (After all, it's cheaper to do the preventative maintenance than to get stuck with a huge bill you could have avoided by giving the car a little TLC.)

When my 1985 Honda Accord was finally ready for a new owner (it was a fantastic car and served me very well), I bought a 2005 Subaru Impreza, since I knew I'd be moving back to Boone and we would need at least one AWD car. I liked the Subaru (affectionately dubbed Sylvia the Silver Subaru) because of it's reasonable mileage (about 25-27 mpg hwy) and it's ability to go in the snow. (Just after purchasing it, someone rear-ended me (the week I was to move to Boone), so I was without it during the move and while it was repaired (thankfully her insurance covered all of that). Now the only issue we have from that accident is a leaky trunk, which Benny has vowed to find the source of and get it repaired.) It works out well that I generally have the day off when the weather is bad, so that Benny can take the Subaru to work and I stay home. We try to be very good about preventative maintenance with this car also, although Benny doesn't do as much of the work himself on my car (I think it's a little trickier).

In terms of the "green" factors of our vehicles, it really comes down to the mpg and how we use them. For the most part, the hybrid vehicles just aren't practical in the mountains, because they don't have the same pull to get up the mountains, so we haven't gone there yet. (Although if the technology improves, we might for our next vehicle, which we anticipate being in about five years.) So, here's what we do to cut down on our transportation and maintenance costs:

1. I carpool with my teammate, meaning that I drive every other week. This helps both of us out because we're both saving on fuel (and ultimately money). We're also open to running errands together after school, so if we need to stop at the PO or bank, we can do that on the way home and save a trip. If I know we're going out of town for the weekend, Benny will usually drop me off that morning and pick me up at our meeting spot that afternoon, so we save time and fuel by my not having to go all the way home.

2. We combine trips as often as possible. For example, on Sundays, we go to church (and usually pick up a friend on the way) and on the way home, stop by the grocery store. This means we miss the weekend grocery rush (because everyone is doing the Sunday lunch thing) and we don't have to make an extra trip out during the week. If we discover we need something from the grocery store during the week, Benny works across the parking lot from a grocery store, so he just walks over before coming home to pick up whatever we need.

3. If we're going to campus on the weekends (especially game days), we'll take the public transportation. If the public transit made a stop our our way, we'd do this more often for errands, but for right now, we have to drive to meet it. We're hoping that they'll expand their routes soon.

4. When the weather is warm enough, we'll clean the cars ourselves. (This is one more way you can use Charlie's Soap.) In the winter, it's key to at least rinse the car off about once a week to get all the salt off the undercarriage. (If you don't, you run into rust issues, which is not good.) We generally pull into a car wash where you DIY and pay the $1.25 to have it done there. (We try to choose car washes that recycle their water, when possible.)

So, what do you do to cut down on your transportation costs? Do you have any ideas I haven't thought of? Please share them; I'd love to hear from you!

Sharin' the green love and savings!

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