Consumers spend almost as much on fuel over the life as the vehicle as they did on buying the car in the first place, according to new research by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Studying the motoring costs of US drivers, UCS discovered that if a motorists bought a car in 2011 with average fuel efficiency (US EPA rating of 22.8 mpg), and drove it for fifteen years-the average life of a car-then they would spend more than $22,000 (around £13,978) on gasoline, in a country where the average spend on a new car is around $24,000 (£15,247).
But the type of vehicle you own can make a huge difference to the end figure of lifetime costs. A more efficient model such as a Ford Fusion SE Hybrid, which costs $3,500 more than its base conventional gas model, will consume $9,000 less in gasoline over its lifetime.
“Filling up at the pump isn’t cheap,” said Joshua Goldman, the report’s author and policy analyst for UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “You’re basically paying for a second car every 15 years. The only thing really benefitting from your oil use is oil companies’ bottom line.”
Out of the more than $22,000 spent on gas over the lifetime of an average vehicle bought in 2011, oil companies rake in about $15,000. Of the remainder, 14 per cent goes to taxes that help pay for roads and transportation services, 10 per cent to refining costs, and 8 per cent to distribution and marketing. Gas stations average only three to five cents of profit from each gallon of gasoline sold. They make more profit by selling confectionary and drinks then they do from the fuel they sell.
Even if a driver owns shares in the same oil companies they buy gas from, their oil use does virtually nothing to benefit their personal stock portfolio. In fact, an average driver with $20,000 in ExxonMobil stock would see less than a penny of growth in their investment after spending $1,700 to fill up with gas from ExxonMobil over the course of a year.
Instead by investing in a more efficient car, the returns can be much greater, as proved by the example above. By investing in efficient technologies, UCS says that the country could cut its projected oil use in half—saving more than 11 million barrels of oil every day by 2035.
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.
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