Sunday, July 27, 2008

The price of gas

This is my transportation, outside of a bicycle and feet that is, and it always raises the question whether to find a better mileage vehicle or keep my trusy, dusty van. It's the issue of which is more cost efficient and productive. It's not just about the price of gas but the cost of owning and operating a vehicle, and gas is just a part of the equation.

This my 1991 VW Vanagon Syncro (4-wheel drive). I've owned it since new, which has a long story and history to me as the one car I've always wanted and don't want to part with. It's the perfect all-weather, all-season van. It's been more reliable and durable an almost any car and easily most van. It's not quick or fast but does the job very well.

You see, for all of it's 90 bhp for pushing 4,250 lbs of weight, it hauls 7 people and all their stuff, has a 1-ton (2,000 lb) carrying capacity, has nearly 240 cubic feet of cargo space, has a back seat that unfolds into a full-size bed (6' x 8'), and is built like a tank. The Syncros were designed by Magna-Steyr (their Website).

They share the same body and interior as the 2-wheel driver Vanagons, and share the same motor, although history has shown the Syncros seem to have better quality motors, but everything below the body (frame, suspension, brakes, steering, drivetrain minus motor, etc.) is all unique to the Syncros. It makes parts hard but not impossible to find and expensive.

My point? Well, it only gets 18 mpg, +/- 1 mpg, no matter how it's loaded or driven, except over 60 where I lose 1 mpg per 5 mph over 60. It's an understatement to say it's sensitive to the wind, as all VW vans are, it's no exception except at 2-tons it's a little more stable driving in some types of a crosswind. It's worse nightmare is a wind right at the right or left front corner, meaning pushing against a head and holding against a cross wind.

It's all paid for years ago, is just a few years from being an officially collectors vehicle (hopefully will be then), and only requires the annual maintenance costs (expensive), insurance and gas. I would lose money trading it in and buying a new car just for better gas mileage, more expensive insurance, car payments and the annual maintenance costs, and I would definitely lose over it's capabilities.

So, it's always a trade-off and the balance between payments, maintenance, insurance and gas. I love this van for what it is and can do, something no other vehicle today can do. Some cars will do some but none are equal. And it's fun to drive (like a bus since you sit over the front wheels), so I'll keep it thank you.

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