Cutting Fuel Expenses Without Sacrificing Our Lifestyle
Four wheeling and four-wheel drive vehicles have been an important part of our lifestyle. Fifty-seven years ago, I took my first driving exam in a CJ-5 Jeep. We still drive a four-wheel drive Jeep and a 4×4 truck. Many others in our part of the country have 4x4s. They often pass us on the interstate at high rates of speed, burning far more fossil fuel than they can afford.
Considering ways to reduce our fuel bill, we found a solution that has cut our gasoline and diesel costs in half—without eliminating 4x4s from our lifestyle. Our unloaded Ram Cummins 3500 4WD pickup gets 19-20 miles per gallon on the highway at posted speed limits. We’ve now repurposed the truck to strictly hauling chores, which include toting the Holiday Rambler RV trailer and our car hauling trailer. The XJ Cherokee 4.0L 4×4 is great for severe winter use, off-pavement filming assignments and multipurpose tire testing. On a dry, flat highway at posted speeds, we are lucky to get 14-15 miles per gallon.
Instead of racking up mileage on these two vehicles, our commuting and town driving can be much better met with a turbo-diesel powered car. After careful research, we have added a new vehicle to our fleet: a 2003 VW Jetta TDI GL Wagon with the legendary 1.9L ALH engine. The Cherokee has just over 191,000 miles on the odometer and is now retired from “daily driver” status. Factoring its overall city/highway fuel mileage, an average of 12 miles per gallon with a large percentage of commuter or daily driver miles, the 4.0L engine has flowed some 16,000 gallons of fuel through its injectors.
The Jetta TDI described in Episode 9 is a cost-effective solution to our over the road and basic transportation demands. Delivering a whopping 45-50 mpg on the highway at reasonable cruise speeds, the Jetta is a substitute for our 14-15 miles per gallon XJ Cherokee. (The Cherokee struggles to make 10-12 miles per gallon in-town.) We’re now using 1/3 the amount of fuel for town use and grocery grabbing. Comparing highway mileage again, the Jetta TDI delivers 2-1/4 times better fuel efficiency than the unloaded Ram Cummins pickup.
Road Ready is about navigating vehicle ownership. This includes buying the right vehicles, professionalizing your mechanical skills and keeping vehicle overhead as low as possible. Reducing your fuel use doesn’t have to mean selling your favorite four-wheel drive vehicle or giving up a lifestyle. Rather than getting rid of vehicles, Episode 9 offers sensible suggestions around buying an affordable, preowned extra vehicle that will amortize quickly and help your family spend far less on fossil fuel.
In Episodes 9-12 of Road Ready, we’ll explore solutions that lower fuel use without upending your family’s recreational or lifestyle pursuits. Adding a cost-effective, fuel efficient, reliable and safe transportation vehicle, or swapping energy efficient axle gear sets or a diesel engine into your 4×4, may be the solution. Tired of overpriced fuel, but don’t want to give up your 4×4 outdoor lifestyle? Follow Episodes 9 to 12 of Road Ready.
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