Chad Perrin: SOB

29 June 2008

Is gas really getting that expensive?

Filed under: Miscellaneous — apotheon @ 04:15

I just did some simple arithmetic related to gas prices.

See . . . I’ve been hearing lately that predictions put gas prices at about $7 per gallon by the end of the year, so I figured I’d add up the comparative costs of driving to and from work in a car versus a motorcycle. Assuming a 30 mile drive to work each weekday, and a very conservative 220 work days per year, plus another hour’s worth of driving around each week, you’re looking at about 3800 dollars on gas, given a car with good gas mileage — at $7 per gallon.

A motorcycle uses about half as much gas as a car for the distance traveled. That means that if you can get a motorcycle (say a modest 600cc bike, rather than a gas guzzling monster or a weakling 250cc enduro) for under $2000, at $7 a gallon for fuel, it will pay for itself in one year on gas savings alone.

A couple years ago, when discussing the idea of getting a motorcycle for the fuel efficiency, it was always worth reminding oneself “Wait a minute, it’s not really saving any money. A motorcycle is a big expense.” If you get a good deal on a used bike, though — and at the rate gas prices are climbing — you’ll save money within a couple of years.

On one hand, I’m happy that the reasons to avoid getting a motorcycle are evaporating. I miss having a motorcycle (though I hope my next bike is less of a deathtrap of unreliable mechanical uncertainty than the last).

On the other hand, these circumstances say some really absurd, ridiculous, depressing things about rising gas prices. I mean, that seems pretty damned extreme.

Did I forget to carry a one, or something like that?

12 Comments

  1. This might not be something to increase your mileage but it will certainly put some money back in your pocket if you have a business. IRS just increased the mileage deduction rate from 50.5 to 58.5 cents for every mile. There is an exciting business tool that captures your mileage automatically (hands free) and sends this information through wireless networks to http://www.MileageLogger.com . I think is a great tool to get your money back when is time to do your taxes.

    Comment by mileage blogger — 30 June 2008 @ 06:51

  2. Y’know . . . that would probably be cheaper to put together myself, and wouldn’t involve letting a third party in on my driving habits.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 June 2008 @ 08:45

  3. There are two main reasons I don’t drive motorcycles even though they are more cost-efficient:

    Number one is the likelihood of death. Motorcycles are far, far more dangerous than automobiles. The statistics on this don’t lie. If you place any value on your life (which you really should), you need to factor that into the cost calculations. To me, the vastly increased risk of death is not worth the cost savings.

    Number two is the additional pollution. Yes, motorcycles are more gas efficient, but the pollution standards on them are much more lax than for automobiles (and with good reason; you can’t fit a full-size catalytic converter on a motorcycle). So although motorcycles will put out less carbon dioxide per mile driven, they put out far more particulate pollution per mile driven.

    Comment by Cyde Weys — 30 June 2008 @ 09:12

  4. Number one is the likelihood of death. Motorcycles are far, far more dangerous than automobiles.

    That depends on a lot of factors — like whether you’re competent to operate a motorcycle. I’m safer on a motorcycle than the majority of drivers are in their cars, in large part because most of them are incompetent. Personally, I prefer the improved ability to get out of the way over the improved ability to survive if I can’t get out of the way at all.

    Number two is the additional pollution.

    Okay, I get it now — you’re making a joke.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 June 2008 @ 10:08

  5. That depends on a lot of factors — like whether you’re competent to operate a motorcycle.

    It also depends on wearing the proper gear. Motorcycle fatalities have doubled over the past decade. Idiots who don’t know how to ride and think they’re invincible have to be at least partly to blame for that increase, I’d think.

    As for your math, it seems right, although I’d say $7/gallon gas would definitely be on the high end of the gloom-n-doom scale. No matter the price, you’re still looking at halving your fuel costs over the same distance, plus as I understand it motorcycles are cheaper to insure.

    Still not enough to convince me to buy one, but I can’t see any reasonable economic argument against them.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 30 June 2008 @ 11:17

  6. apotheon: No, I’m not making a joke. Go search Google for statistics on pollution caused by motorcycles. The truth is shocking. Smaller engines don’t have the same level of pollution controls on them that larger engines do because a lot of the pollution control technologies are infeasible on small scales. Smaller engines cannot burn fuel as completely as larger engines. Have you ever looked at the visible exhaust coming out of a motorcycle? (Or if you want to make it very obvious, look at the belching smoke coming out of a lawnmower). All of that is the particulate pollution. Now compare it to an automobile. Unless the vehicle is in bad shape, you’re not going to see any particulate pollution coming out of its tailpipe (and the water vapor that comes out of an engine starting from ambient temperatures on a cold day is not particulate pollution).

    And driving motorcycles is inherently much less safe than driving a car. You can only control your own driving behavior on the road, not anyone else’s. Automobile drivers are less likely to notice motorcycles on the road, and thus more likely to run them over. Accidents are called accidents for a reason: you are not a perfect driver, and even if you somehow were, nobody else on the road is. Accidents will happen, and when you’re on a motorcycle running into a much larger vehicle, they are a lot less survivable. Again, the statistics don’t lie. I don’t think you’re somehow so much amazingly better than the average motorcycle rider that you perform significantly better than the accident deaths for motorcycles.

    Comment by Cyde Weys — 30 June 2008 @ 12:16

  7. One factor you didn’t include is the number of passengers that must be transported. If it’s just one or two, then a motorcycle will be more efficient. Beyond that, you end up with too many motorcycles.

    But your math, if not precise, seems in the right ball park. I’m looking forward to all kinds of new forms of transportation coming out of this crisis we’re having.

    Comment by SterlingCamden — 30 June 2008 @ 12:45

  8. I’ve seen trikes with car bodies put on them and sold at much higher prices then a normal trike. Very odd.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 30 June 2008 @ 12:55

  9. Cyde Weys:

    Have you ever looked at the visible exhaust coming out of a motorcycle? (Or if you want to make it very obvious, look at the belching smoke coming out of a lawnmower).

    Every motorcycle or lawnmower I had didn’t belch black smoke — even Taphoskandalon (yes, I named my first bike), an ’84 UJM that was broken more often than it ran, was in at least good enough shape while it ran that I wasn’t dumping three pounds of carbon on the pavement every time I pulled away from a stop. On the other hand, the number of pickup trucks and city buses I’ve seen in the last month that fill an entire intersection with black smoke when the light turns green is just ridiculous. I’m afraid that, the way you presented it, your argument about how particulate pollution for motorcycles is worse than that for cars is shaky at best.

    You can only control your own driving behavior on the road, not anyone else’s.

    This is true — and if you aren’t paying much attention, you can get yourself killed when someone else does something stupid. Thanks for making my point.

    . . . unless you think that driving in situations where you have no escapes mapped out and aren’t thinking ahead about the potential dangers of the actions of the stupid drivers around you is somehow someone else’s fault. Meanwhile, people get t-boned when someone runs a red light and die horribly even when they’re driving Volvos.

    A difference in survivability of about a tenth of a percent when there’s an accident is easily overcome by improved awareness and careful behavior. Being a motorcyclist (and bicyclist, for that matter) has made me a better and safer driver.

    That reminds me — would you avoid using a bicycle because of the increased danger? If you think motorcycles get people killed more than cars, you really need to consider the dangers of using a bicycle for commuting around town.

    I don’t think you’re somehow so much amazingly better than the average motorcycle rider that you perform significantly better than the accident deaths for motorcycles.

    Something that people blinded by the massaged statistics presented by people who advocate against motorcycle use tend to miss is the fact that the likelihood of dying in an accident doesn’t say anything about the average skill levels of long-time motorcyclists or the likelihood of avoiding accidents amongst those riders. A single factor rarely tells even half the story, let alone the whole story.

    Sterling:

    One factor you didn’t include is the number of passengers that must be transported.

    True . . . but in my case and that of my SigO, at least, our driving habits don’t present such issues. Neither of us has any kids, and we don’t have much need to ferry friends around. Well, no such need ever since someone in my D&D game that lacked a car for a while finally got one.

    But your math, if not precise, seems in the right ball park.

    Unfortunately, precision is effectively impossible in this case. There are too many variables involved. Obviously, I used real numbers based on both past experience and statistics I looked up with the help of Google as sanity checks, but they were somewhat arbitrary in the end.

    I’m looking forward to all kinds of new forms of transportation coming out of this crisis we’re having.

    I’m not so optimistic. I think it’s more likely that government will get ever-more involved, standing in the way of both crisis resolution in a mundane sense and technological progress that might make the problem moot. I’m a cynic, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 June 2008 @ 01:22

  10. Brian:

    I seem to have overlooked your response when I started composing my last comment post. Dunno how that happened — especially since I kinda relied on it so that I wouldn’t have to type as much to make my points. You made a couple of my points for me, in response to Cyde Weys.

    It also depends on wearing the proper gear. Motorcycle fatalities have doubled over the past decade. Idiots who don’t know how to ride and think they’re invincible have to be at least partly to blame for that increase, I’d think.

    No kidding. I love the fact people try to convince me that if I ride a motorcycle I’ll die based on the fact that idiots who do wheelies in rush-hour traffice wearing t-shirts, shorts, sandals, and no helmet or eye protection sometimes get themselves killed.

    As for your math, it seems right, although I’d say $7/gallon gas would definitely be on the high end of the gloom-n-doom scale.

    $4/gallon gas seemed kinda high on that scale a year ago, too — and in 1998 I was paying less than a dollar a gallon. $7/gallon doesn’t seem even remotely difficult to believe any longer, to me.

    No matter the price, you’re still looking at halving your fuel costs over the same distance, plus as I understand it motorcycles are cheaper to insure.

    They’re a lot cheaper to insure. Liability insurance, in particular, is cheap as hell — because a motorcycle can’t do nearly as much damage as a minivan if it slams into a subcompact car.

    I can’t see any reasonable economic argument against them.

    It’s a lot easier to find a parking space for a motorcycle, too.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 June 2008 @ 01:30

  11. As to Cyde’s point about motorcycles having less stringent emissions requirements, this is no longer true. About 20% of current bikes do use cats (I’m assuming these are larger-displacement touring bikes, most likely), and that percentage is expected to increase with tougher new emissions standards adopted by the EPA starting with MY 2006.

    I’d be more worried about scooters, since they are often completely unregulated (depending on engine displacement), and their use in congested urban areas is skyrocketing.

    And you do have a point about gas prices–I’m pretty sure I wasn’t expecting $4 gas a couple of years ago, either. Unfortunately, that will pretty much crater the economy, especially if it rises quickly.

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 30 June 2008 @ 02:34

  12. Unfortunately, that will pretty much crater the economy, especially if it rises quickly.

    The economy’s already got one foot in the grave. I don’t expect things to get substantially better any time soon.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 June 2008 @ 03:50

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