Looking around for the “Keep your Gas Guzzler” campaign

The Skeptic household is a typical 2 car gas guzzling American home. We’ve got the good-mileage-long-commute car and the gas-sucking SUV. The SUV is older, paid off, and gets about 17 MPG. Recently, we entertained the idea of trading in the gas eater for something more fuel efficient, an idea that the TV and Internet seems to indicate many people are entertaining.

I won’t bore you with the math here, but basically it would cost us ~$3000/year in fuel to drive the least efficient vehicle on our longest commute everyday. (We don’t actually do that, but it’s a fun budgeting excercise.) It would only cost a Prius ~$1000/year in fuel. Sounds pretty good, except we’d probably be paying ~ $375/month ($4500/year) for a car payment. That’s $2500 more over the course of the year than we would spend to keep SUV for another year. Even if I found a used Civic, the fuel savings would probably not make up the cost difference.

“Ok, we get it. You’re a cheapskate and don’t mind singlehandedly destroying the environment. What’s the point?”

The point is, that if you’re a CU that wants to promote thrift, members turning in their paid off vehicles is probably not something you should be pushing*. I know there is a chunk of the population that naturally would be up for a car turnover this year and if a gas promotion will draw those people to your CU, go for it. However, that’s not all people, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say not a great deal of people.

How great would it be if a CU acknowledged this and promoted sessions/meeting/consults to help people evaluate their car situation and, if the situation leans towards keeping the current vehicle, offer other tips on how to save money on their current commute.

People are eating up thrift info right now (just watch your favorite local and national news tonight) and it would be a great time to re-enforce this core purpose.

* I’m not saying you can’t do both or that doing a gas promo means you don’t care about thrift, I’m just saying it’s not for everyone.

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24 comments so far

  1. CU Skeptic on

    Here’s the math, aka, the “boring” part

    Our longest commute: 50 miles roundtrip
    Cost of Gas: ~ $4/gallon

    Our least efficient long commute

    * ~ 3 gallons/roundtrip (17 MPG)
    * Cost of commute: $12/day, $60/week, $3000/year (50 weeks)

    Our more efficient long commute

    * ~ 1.6 gallons/roundtrip (30 MPG)
    * Cost of commute: $6.4/day, $32/week, $1600/year (50 weeks)

    New Prius long commute

    * ~ 1 gallon/roundtrip (46 MPG)
    * Fuel cost of commute: $4/day, $20/week, $1000/year
    * Payment: 20k @ 5% for 5 years = ~ $375/month ($4500/year)

    Used Civic long commute

    * ~ 1.42 gallons/roundtrip (35 MPG)
    * Fuel cost of commute: $5.6/day, $28/week, $1400/year
    * Payment: 10k @ 7% for 5 years = ~ $200/month ($2400/year)

  2. CU Skeptic on

    In addition to the consult, what about organizing car pools?

    There’s got to be a CU out there already doing this.

    (The first one to say something like: “What if you organize a car pool and the car poolers get in a fight and one kills the other one?” will receive a very dirty look from me.)

  3. Jeffry Pilcher on

    Anyone who replaces a perfectly acceptable car – one that runs well regardless of whether it’s paid for or not – is screwing the environment. Besides, if you replace a car that works and is fully paid for, you’re probably not doing it because you NEED to. It’s probably vanity.

    If you’re an eco-conscious person, you should drive your current car until it doesn’t work anymore. The notion that dumping your SUV for a Prius is better for the environment is a farce. What happens to the old SUV? How much energy and resources was consumed in the manufacturing process of the Prius?

  4. Ken Gardner on

    I couldn’t agree more with ya on this one. As a CU employee, I have always encouraged members to payoff their vehicles and drive them payment free for as long as they can. For most, a car payment is one of the biggest if not the biggest expense outside of a housing payment. Cutting out a $250-500 payment is like getting a decent sized raise at work. My thinking is if I help educate them on topics like car payments and such, they’ll probably be more open to having their savings/checking/real estate loans with my CU. Again it goes back to building meaningful relationships and doing what’s in the best interest of our members.

  5. Doug True on

    I have done the math on my two cars and came up with the same result. I agree with you, credit unions could definitely help members do their own napkin math on figuring this out. Jeffry… right on with the American way of trading cars in every two to three years – this cycle is over due to be broken. How about a scooter?

  6. Denise Wymore on

    My friend over at Addison Avenue has an interesting blog post on scooters… Check it out!

    http://theaddisoncafe.org/archives/13

    Plus, it’s a gorgeous website!!!

  7. Dan Veasey on

    I just wrote an article last week for our local paper about this very issue! I’ve made a spreadsheet which can help prospective buyers easily determine if they will really save money by replacing their car. I was planning to share it on our blog soon.

    Personally, two years ago I had the opportunity to buy a 1993 Honda motorcycle. At the time I was driving a paid for 16-17mpg SUV. I did the math and figured out that after paying for the bike itself, motorcycle school, registration, and $90/year insurance that the bike would pay for itself after 10,000 miles. Since I drive to work 7280 miles per year, if I can drive it half the time, the bike should pass 10,000 miles within 3 years. After almost 20 months I’ve driven the bike about 5,000 miles and have altered my driving habits to get about 67 mpg. I did my previous math on 55 mpg. There are other expenses to consider too; additional oil changes, yearly registration, taxes, state inspections, and helmets should be replaced every 3-4 years.

  8. See You Swagger on

    Sorry Skeptic, I know I’m going to get nailed on this but I’m singing “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” as I look through the dailys of my consumer loan portfolio. Even with mortgages filling that void, I’d love to run- Keep Your Car – Buy a House (much to a regulator’s dismay) but the margins on bikes and scooters are going to have to come way up before I can feel “Don’t Buy Another Car”.

  9. The Credit Union Warrior on

    Personally, I’m quite put off by any organization that comes up with a “green promotion” out of political expediency. There are some credit unions (Vancity for example) that can pull this off because environmentalism has been a long-standing focus of their management team. Too many CU’s, though, are simply jumping on the bandwagon with a total disregard for the political views of their membership and the “science” surrounding this issue. The result is often a shallow, insincere promotion that can potentially create distrust amongst its audience.

    I have no problem with focusing on cost savings due to higher gas mileage and the ever-increasing price of fuel. Don’t feed me this “save the planet” crap, though, until it’s proven that: a) Global temperatures are actually rising (there is scientific evidence that they are actually cooling); b) We have established what the ideal climate actually should be (Earth has warmed and cooled for millions of years – who’s to say we know what global temperatures should be); and c) That climate change (up or down) is man-made. When these items are proven, I will lead the charge to help stop man-made climate change. Until then, don’t bore me with cheap attempts to get my money masked as “corporate citizenship”.

    Focus on saving your members money. That’s your job as a credit union. If your money saver happens to be eco-friendly, super duper! Let your membership decide if “green” issues are important to them – don’t ram it down their throats.

  10. Christopher on

    WIRED recently did a piece on this as well:

    http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/16-06/ff_heresies_09usedcars

    My personal opinion is… that maybe it’s me, but don’t all the SUV owners complaining about gas prices remind you of smokers complaining about high cigarette prices?

  11. CU Skeptic on

    @Christopher – It was a different time back when I started SUVing. We didn’t know the dangers. We just thought it was fun and cool. Everybody was doing it!

    🙂

  12. Morriss Partee on

    For SURE, organizations need to NOT put on a veneer of Green Sheen. And I agree with CUSkeptic and Doug True that simply changing vehicles without looking at the total picture is a mistake. But CUWarrior, show me a CU that is ramming environmentalism down its members throats???? I’m not seeing that.

    You stated it yourself: CUs are in the business of saving their members money. Last time I checked, conserving natural resources saves members money, which in turn saves the community money, which in turn saves the country money. So no matter your stance on “Environmentalism” as a movement, conserving natural resources, which is being good to the environment, is being good to your wallet.

  13. The Credit Union Warrior on

    @Morriss The reason most CU’s went to electronic statements was cost savings, not environmentalism. For them to turn around and claim they are trying to save the planet is disingenuous at best. These loan promos that say “We’ll plant a tree when you get a loan from us” are the same thing. How about saving the member that $5 or so you spent on the tree? Let him/her decide what to do with that money.

  14. BenJoe on

    I once heard a teller say, “Do you want to help save the environment and sign up for e-statements.” This is so manipulative! What ar they going to say, “no.”T his is not what credit unions stand for. We quickly changed that phrase.

  15. William Azaroff on

    @CUWarrior – I gotta say, there is evidence for everything you’re asking for. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. Time for you to do a little more research, my friend.

    Or it’s time to stop pretending you’ll lead the charge.

  16. Credit Union Warrior on

    William – with all due respect, there isn’t scientific consensus. No less than 31,000 scientists in the United States disagree that there is evidence to claim man-made global warming. http://www.petitionproject.org/gwdatabase/Signers_By_Last_Name.php?run=all http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=64734.

    There is even evidence that the surface temperatures on Mars are rising. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html If global warming is man-made, explain that one to me.

  17. William Azaroff on

    @CUWarrior – At the risk of continuing this debate, which is going off topic, I will respond.

    First off, one thing I don’t understand is, even if I am wrong, why promote the use of more oil which we will run out of, and more pollution in the air. Even if I am wrong, being more environmentally friendly is the way to go.

    But I am not wrong. Not at all. Here is some stuff about that petition. You will note, when looking at the petition, that there are countless MDs, who while they may be scientists, are far from climatologists. Would you want a climate expert to look at your X-rays?

    Then, look at the third comment:
    http://digg.com/environment/31000_scientists_sign_Oregon_Global_Warming_Skeptic_Petition

    And then look here:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/infamous-oregon-global-warming-petition-alive-and-well

    If you’re interested in reading responses to your “science” look at this:
    http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics

    Ultimately, here’s the real answer:

    I may be wrong, and you may be wrong. If I am wrong, we end up in a world of windmills and birds chirping. If you are wrong we are all dead. Is it worth risking it?

  18. Credit Union Warrior on

    @william You could not be more right that this has gone off topic. You may notice, however, that your premise is off base. I never once suggested that we promote the use of more oil. I never once suggested that we be anything less than good stewards of the earth. What I did suggest is that some organizations are simply profiteering off of the “green movement”. This does not create trust amongst these organizations customer/member bases. In fact, it raises issues about the organizations’ motives. Organizations like Vancity can certainly pull this off because of their long track record of environmental activism. Many organizations, however, come across as opportunistic and shallow.

    I think we all have a personal responsibility to take care of our environment. I simply think that the way to encourage more eco-friendly behavior is through balanced debate and education, not coercion and hysterics. Feels way too Y2K to me. Heck, just 25 years ago everyone was worried about an impending ice age.

  19. William Azaroff on

    @CUWarrior – It’s the denial of global warming that got me going. And the premise that as soon as someone proves it you’ll lead the charge. If it hasn’t been proven to you by now, I don’t think it’s really possible.

  20. The Credit Union Warrior on

    @william Too much contradictory evidence to sway me right now…and far too much for anyone to claim that their take on the matter is indisputable.

    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2008/05/20/lorne-gunter-on-global-warm-more-proof-that-the-science-is-far-from-settled.aspx

  21. See You Swagger on

    Well, while you guys duke it out, I’m going to go plant a tree. I’m sure someone somewhere for some reason will appreciate it.

  22. William Azaroff on

    Planting a tree sounds very very nice. CUWarrior and I are still friends, don’t worry!

  23. The Credit Union Warrior on

    William is tops in my book…and I’d be glad to plant a tree with both of you. We could even make it into a photo op, headline “AGW Skeptic Plants Tree, Loves Environment”.


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