We bought a new Subaru Forester in late 2010. It had been a long time coming. My Ford Escort was increasingly showing its age, among other things failing to start in really cold weather. For a couple months, we had three cars. I kept the Escort parked out front and used it for relatively short trips. It was handy. It also saved gas because it got roughly 27-33 miles to the gallon instead of the Forester’s 20-25.
It was a nice arrangement and I would have kept driving it until it stopped running. I still see it being driven around town by its new owner, so approaching two years later, it’s still going.
I sold it for a very small sum. The main reason I did was that I didn’t want the expense of insurance and registration. My father-in-law is about to sell one of his cars for the same reason.
The thought occurs to me that one minor thing we might be able to do to encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles is to change the way that we do auto insurance (and maybe registration). There isn’t much good reason, in my mind, that we’re charged per-car when we have more cars than drivers. The amount of road time with two people and one car is bound to make a difference than two people and two cars, but with more cars than drivers, one car is typically going to be on the sidelines at any given time. You might have to worry about them loaning the car out, but that’s really about it.
A lot of auto insurance is guesswork. There are factors we let them use and don’t let them use, but one of the biggest (how many miles we drive) is on the honor system and almost nobody I knows is particularly honorable. Maybe my insurance company is unique, but they could police this sort of thing more than they do. For whatever reason, it isn’t that big of a priority. There are estimates of who is driving which car more frequently, but these are just estimates and that doesn’t change by focusing more on the driver than the car.
Anyhow, there are reasons why going per-driver rather than per-car would be a good idea, environmentally speaking: it would encourage people to have lighter vehicles. The main reason we went with a crossover this time around was that sometimes we need to cargo/family space. Our next vehicle may be even larger. Most of the time, we don’t need this. But when we do, it’s good to have around. There would be real advantages to having an Escort sitting out front for trips that don’t matter much. Paying the extra insurance, however, complicates that. For no really good reason.
I consider Smart cars to be neat. I don’t think I’ll ever do the motorcycle thing, but I am just as happy in a tiny little car as a big one. But I can’t do the tiny little car, really, even for short trips by myself, because I need a family vehicle, I need cargo space, and I’m not going to pay the extra insurance on the same amount of driving. If you want me to drive a small car, you ought not penalize me for also having a larger one when I need it.