2019 Driving Data

Another year, another breakdown

Man, what a year 2019 was. I went to and from work most of the year but towards the end I upped and moved two thousand miles to once again go to and from work. So, after all of this, how did my numbers fair this year? The numbers are presented with the increase or decrease over 2018 in paranthesis.

  • I made 1,224 trips (+127)
  • I drove 15,736 miles 1,917
  • Spent 458 hours 20 minutes in my car (+15h25m)
  • Averaged 24.19MPG
  • Longest single trip was 292 miles
  • The average trip distance was 12.0148 (-0.5822) miles.
  • The longest trip time was 3 hours and 51 minutes.
  • The average trip time was 21 minutes and 5 seconds. (-3m25s)
  • The lowest price for fuel was $2.359 per gallon in December
  • The highest price for fuel was $4.299 per gallon in April
  • My average price per gallon was $3.419
  • I filled up 53 times

A “trip” is from when the car turned on to when it turned off, it is not defined by the day or destination.

Fig 1: The long drive was accomplished in 4 days.
Figure 2: Trip Odometer

Making Sense of This

Once I remove the data corresponding from my road trip, these numbers are astonishingly close to 2018. My road trip was a total of 2,153 miles on my odometer.

I also filled up about twice per day, attributing to 8 of those fill ups. Without these, my mileage and gas stops are pretty close!

In regards to time, the trip added about 32 hours and 42 minutes, and if we subtract that from the 2019 total then I actually spent less time in my car. Though, I suspect I would have come out about even...

I need to remember that my commute back in the Bay Area was roughly 90 minutes for the round trip. Now, in Minnesota, my road trip to and from work is only about 30 minutes each day. Had I stayed in the Bay, I would have had about 30 days of work left for the year, or 45 hours of driving. While here in Minnesota, those 30 days only add 15 hours.

If that’s accurate, I would have spent an extra 27 hours in my car through 2019 had I not moved closer to work.

Car Maintenance

Adjusting to the Climate

The one purchase I knew I’d have to make would be Winter tires. I put some thought into this, debating whether I should get Winter tires on my rims or just get a complete set. I decided to go with a complete set.

Fig 3: Summer & Winter Tires

Yes, Winter tires alone would have been cheaper but that’s a short term mind-set.

When it comes to personal finance, I tend to have a long term mind-set, I’d rather make a few wise purchases rather than many repeat purchases; a key aspect of frugality is being smart on how your money is spent. While being cheap means you tend to go for the options that are consistently priced less.

I could have paid a third of what I did for a new set of rims and tires by having the cheapest Winterized compound put on my rims. But come Summer, I’ll again have to pay a third of my rim+tire combo to have Summer tires mounted to the wheels. Come Winter 2020, when I pay another third, I’ll have paid the same amount as a whole new set of rims+tires.

When it comes down to it, my tires were about equal cost to my rims and the tires will last, as the sales associate tells me, 10 “seasons”, aka years. I only brought up that it’d be a third of the price because someone who is shopping cheaply, will buy the cheapest tires that they can toss at the end of the season rather than something more moderate or expensive that’ll last a few years.

Now that I have tires and rims for Winter, I can save the cost of labor by swapping out the wheels myself when the time comes. It’s going to cost me $120 a year of the next ten years, a far cry from paying $800 a year for two tires swaps.

I could have lowered the cost by purchasing basic steel rims (aka steelies) but I was thinking I could buy those rims at the store; turns out they didn’t sell them. I should have called ahead and asked, or looked online. Upon finding out that they didn’t sell steelies I could have shopped elsewhere OR found a used set locally online and brought them in.

Cost: $1,234.45 (seriously. I tried to get the sales association to upcharge me $0.11 on something — she already lowered the cost of the rims — but wouldn’t do it.)

Routine Maintenance

I visited the dealer twice this year; once for my 130k mile check up and again for my 140k check up.

The 130k Mile Checkup was $600 because I needed two new tires (again). I forget the exact reason but I’m pretty sure those two tires were the “originals” that went on the rims when I bought them roughly 4 years ago. Which means those tires had somewhere around 50k miles on them. I also needed some other check up stuff done too.

The 140k Mile Checkup was $270. Felt some minor vibrations from the wheels on the road trip to Minnesota and it was time for the regular oil change. The dealer called me up and informed me that my coolant was not the right color so I had them change that too; I don’t think I had my coolant replaced since I bought the car so it was definitely time.

  • $58.45 for an oil and filter change
  • $67.75 for a wheel balance.
  • $126.81 for a coolant flush.
  • $17.29 to dispose of the coolant and oil disposal

Total came out to $870.

The Upgrade

I forget exactly when this issue arose, but the head unit in my car stopped working. I relied on it heavily as it supported Apple CarPlay. When the head unit stopped recognizing my phone, life was difficult.

I tried different USB cables and even tried a different USB extension cable, since my phone cables wouldn’t reach the plug in the rear of the head unit. I couldn’t try a different plug since CarPlay only worked on one of the USB ports.

I hemmed and I hawed, about what to do. I wasn’t particularly happy with my Pioneer head unit but the swap would be so much easier since the radio harnesses would be the same between the old Pioneer and a new Pioneer head unit. I also was debating between going with Wireless CarPlay or staying with the wired CarPlay.

I decided to treat myself and got Wireless CarPlay. It was expensive but man, it’s so worth it. 100% recommend. Not having to remove the phone from my pocket? Being able to start my car and go, without needing to plug anything in? Amazing. I’m not concerned about charge, my phone lasts a full day even when driving and I have a wireless charger at my desk at work to keep my phone fully charged throughout the day anyways.

Total Cost was $875.

The Problem

I was about to leave work and went to put my key in the ignition but the ignition wouldn’t turn. I turned the steering wheel a bit to disengage the ignition lock, and it still wouldn’t turn. Eventually, I got the car started and drove home. However, I couldn’t get the car to turn off. I wrestled with it for a bit then I realized that if I manage to get the car off and key out, I probably wouldn’t be able to start the car again. So, I drove to my parents to solicit my dads help and borrow a car of theirs.

Figure 4: My car sits without a steering wheel

I tried to do it myself but that proved too difficult after dad & I messed it up and would have to re-buy the part. I decided to have the dealer finish the work, bought the part through them and, after they explained how the ignition worked, ordered an additional part they said I’d need.

The parts were $334 and the labor was $370. The final repair bill was $704. Towing was free.

Licensing and Insurance

My insurance dropped by 50+% once I moved. Since I moved towards the end of the year, that’s 11 months insurance at $70, and 1 month of $35. For the sake of simplicity, since my insurance costs fluctuated over the months soI averaged out the payments.

My insurance total for the year was $805.

Additionally, in California I had to smog my car this year for $60.

I had to renew my California registration at $37 again. I arrived in Minnesota and once again had to pay for my registration. This came out to $78 since I had to purchase plates, a title, and a few others.

My license, insurance, and registration total came out to be $980.

Gas & Mileage

I paid $2,213.67 on gasoline this year, or roughly $150 more than I did last year. What’s surprising to note is also obvious. Gas dropped once I left the SF Bay Area. My first fill up outside the Bay was a whopping 56¢ cheaper than my last fill up, and it continued to drop from there, plummeting as far as $1.44 cheaper.

Figure 5: Gas Prices at Fill Up

In the 2018 breakdown I mentioned that one of the ways I could lower my vehicle costs was to move closer to work. I am now five miles away, and could have gotten closer. I opted not to since there weren’t really any apartments, just rooms in homes.

I put together a new chart this year because I wanted to see the impact a road trip had on certain aspects. The MPG is the bar graph in blue, while the MPG on my roadtrip is in lavender.

Figure 6: Gallons + MPG

I entertained the idea of only driving as far as I could on one tank, but the gas stations and hotels never really lined up with that. Instead, I filled up twice a day, usually when I arrived or left the hotel, and again for lunch. My MPG was regularly above 27 and for most of the trip I was also going about 80mph. I think that’s incredible. I could have likely milked out some more MPG, but I think it would have negatively impacted the timeline.

The Road Trip

My dad & I left on November 7th in the early morning and stopped for lunch and a fill up in Fernely, Nevada. We then continued another couple hours until Elko, our destination for the day. We stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Devils Tower, and more. The trip was incredible and a great way to kickstart a new chapter of my life. Feel free to watch the 12 minute video below!

Preventative Maintenance

It’s smart to nip issues before they grow into bigger problems. Since I moved somewhere that snows, I did some research and realized that the city does salt the roads (but not very often) and I wanted to ensure my car remained reliable. I ended up purchasing a car wash subscription that also does an under-body wash. I plan to visit the car wash once a week to prevent hard build up of salt and debris; plus a subscription actually saves me about $10 a month.

Cost per month is $35.66. This basically eats into the savings on my insurance.

Upcoming Maintenance

It’s surprising, but I am already anticipating my first fix of 2020. A week or so ago my driver side window started to make a very obnoxious sound as it rolled up and down. I first attributed it to dirt and rocks getting in the door and solidifying, and stressing the glass. So I took the door apart and everything looked “clean”. I believe the issue is now with the window regulator motor.

I’m hopeful it’ll go away on it’s own once the weather warms up. The window has zero issue going up and down and keeps pace with the other 3 windows/motors. It’s quite perplexing.

Putting it All Together

Operational Costs

After it’s all said and done, my maintenance total was a staggering $6,912.78, for an increase of $805.27. Unlike 2018, there was no preventative maintenance .

  • I could have gone without a radio, but this was something that I couldn’t just ignore. I used navigation and music daily, and answered phone calls and text messages hands free (as required by law). Fixing this (and upgrading) made my commute more enjoyable.
  • I didn’t to buy Winter tires but I feel better knowing that my tires will keep me safe. Knowing that I won’t slide into the car in front of me while stopping and ending up having to pay $$$ for damages. The $1000 here could very likely prevent $10,000+ of costs and damages. Also, knowing that my tires will be able to grip if I need to accelerate away from a car that can’t stop.
  • I signed up for the car wash with the intention of canceling once Winter is done, afterwards I can wash the car myself or purchase a single car wash as needed.

My cost per mile was 43.9¢. Which is just 0.1¢ cheaper than 2018.

2020 Projections

Will 2020 be cheaper? It’s hard to say, as some things you can’t predict, but I suspect it will be considerably cheaper. I commute about 11 miles a day for work, and pay $2.47 per gallon. I got this number by downloading data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration website and averaging the 2019 gas prices.

If I strictly drive to and from work, that’s 3,080 miles for the year, or 11 fill ups (@ 280 miles per tank), and with a 13g tank, I’d spend $355 on gasoline. Granted, I will drive more than that but I think I’ll be able to keep the costs under $1,200.

I’ll also spend less on insurance, to the tune of about $400 a year, and if I don’t have any big problems or incidents, 2020 is looking to be pretty cheap!

Public Transit

Now that I’m inside one city, and one public transit system I think this is worth revisiting. I can purchase a yearly pass for $480 and it’ll take 45 minutes one way. If my 2020 Projection is accurate, it’s actually cheaper to drive to work, both in terms of money and time.

Electric Vehicles

Since I covered the cost per mile of an EV last year, I’m want to focus on a different aspect: Range Anxiety. One of the biggest obstacles to EV adoption is range, these $35k cars get roughly 180mi, which is pitiful compared to an combustion engine vehicle which can get upwards of 300mi for the same (or less) price.

Range Anxiety is mostly perpetuated by two things: One is that gas stations are everywhere. Typically in cities, you can drive 3 miles and pass just as many or more gas stations but EV chargers are not as abundant. The second part is the time for a charge. Combustion engine vehicles can refuel in a matter of minutes while EV’s take upwards of 40 minutes.

These issues become compounded when there’s a lot of additional commuters on the road, such as around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Where EV owners all congregate at the few charging stations available and the wait times can be pretty bad.

It’s understandable that people don’t want to drastically change their habits. Below is a graph of my distances between fill ups.

Figure 6: Distance between Fill Ups

Most of the year I’m above 300 miles per tank, but when I start my road trip (pink) the distance between each fill up drops and is consistently below 300 miles. In fact, the moving average of 5 fill ups is slightly under 250 miles for the road trip (green).

So, is range anxiety justified? It’s not a clear answer but I lean towards “not entirely justified.” We’re just so used to filling up when our gas range is a couple miles, 30 or less, that we panic at the thought of a car that only gets 180 miles or less — even if it isn’t an EV — because of the thought that we need to fill up more often.

All the lunch stops on my road trip were accompanied by a gas station visit; we were sitting for 40+ minutes to eat that we could have let an EV charge during this time. The only other time I got gas was when I left the hotel in the mornings, so we would have had to find hotels with EV charging. Road tripping in an EV is totally doable with some prior planning if the car has a robust navigation system that can help plan a route for you.

But during every day commutes, EV’s have the unique advantage of having the “gas station” at home. This means an individual can plug their EV in at night and wake up for work the next morning with more range than they came home with; a luxury that gas cars do not have.

As EV’s get cheaper and the charging infrastructure is built out, it’ll be entirely plausible for a majority of Americans to make an EV their daily driver and still go on all the road trips they want.

It’s very insightful to look at this data as it’ll help me understand what electric vehicle range is right for me. I’m hopeful that when it’s time to buy an EV, the battery tech and efficiencies have progressed enough that 300mi is the minimum range on a majority of cars. Speaking of, a patent was just published from Tesla that highlights a new battery chemistry, which could be the improvement I’m hoping for. It’s also worth noting that a majority of EV’s (other than Tesla) use this type of chemistry - NCM - though the fact that Tesla has patended something with that chemistry is exciting, especially since Tesla has been hinting at this battery leap for a while.

Meanwhile, in 2019 the more expensive Teslas got some extra range this year thanks to better hardware efficiencies and the Model 3 got an extra 15 miles of range via a software update. Additionally, the Tesla Pickup was announced, the Cybertruck, which will allegedly get 500 miles on the biggest battery — which costs less than the lowest price Model S, $70k vs $80k. The future of EV’s look promising and every year I’m more and more excited to buy one.

The Results

My operational costs didn’t lower much, but I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring massive reductions. It’s worth reminding myself that with less miles, and cheaper costs of gas plus insurance, my cost of ownership could skyrocket. So while I may stay under $2,400 in total operational and maintenance costs in 2020, if I don’t drive at least 5,400 miles my total cost of ownership will in fact be higher.

Photography & Technology is my thing.