Online Defensive Driving

Partly because I’m a nerd and mostly because I like to save money, I am taking a defensive driving course online through DefensiveDriving.com. So far it’s not too bad! It uses streaming video and does a good job of mixing up the content to keep it interesting. The course only takes 6 hours, and that includes mandatory 12-minute breaks. For $25 and a few hours of my time, I can save up to 10 percent on my auto insurance for the next three years. Plus I’ll be a better driver, at least in theory. I’ve actually learned a few things, and most of the other info is simply a good reminder.

A New Ride

We are back to being a two-car family with the addition of a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.

I really like this minivan. Yes, it’s a minivan, and some people who don’t have kids like to make fun of them. But for a family with two or more kids, I think a minivan is the most useful vehicle one could get. That’s why they’re so popular! We’ll use the van to haul the kids around and the Fit to commute to work and school.

The Caravan, which Brenden tentatively named “Larry” after the Veggie Tales cucumber (I don’t know), seats seven. The boys ride in the second row bucket seats, and we’ll normally keep the third row down flat to provide a huge amount of cargo room for strollers, diaper bags, and the other stuff we need to haul around. It drives well, is in really good shape, and is a nice blue-green color that we haven’t seen on many vehicles. Its stereo has more bass than the Fit’s, so I was pumping some Snoop on the way home from the dealer. (I should have rolled the windows down and leaned the seat back)

We got it from Huggins Mitsubishi and actually had a really pleasant experience – low pressure, fair pricing, and a good sales guy named Tim Kellar. We had Christian Brothers Automotive inspect it prior to purchase, and they couldn’t find a thing wrong with it. We’re very happy!

Downshifting

A few months after Jenny started staying home with Brenden and I was still working nights, we realized something: we could live comfortably with only one car. I take it to work while she and Brenden (we hope!) are sleeping. I come home in the morning to sleep, and Jenny has access to the car during the day. After thinking and praying about the situation for a while, we sold Jenny’s CR-V yesterday to CarMax. I must admit I was a little sad, which is silly, but I guess that happens when you name your cars. We kept the Fit since it’s newer and gets much better gas mileage. Selling the SUV will lead to occasional inconvenience but should work fine the vast majority of the time. It will save us a bit of money each year in registration and insurance. We also have some exciting plans for the proceeds.

The CarMax experience was pleasant. All the people treated me well. Step One was a free appraisal, which took 30-45 minutes. They gave me a written offer good for 7 days. Step Two was accepting their offer and transferring the title, which took about the same amount of time. My only disappointment was that they didn’t pay me nearly as much as I’d hoped for the car. I guess that’s the price we pay for the ability to walk into a store and sell a car on the spot. We probably could have gotten more on eBay, Craiglist, or a SWA bulletin board. But we wanted to get the job done quickly, and CarMax made that possible.

Update: I just checked the sale prices for used CR-Vs on the CarMax website. They got a really, really good deal. Don’t ever sell to CarMax unless you’re really, really in a hurry.

Car Repairs

This week we are attempting to fix minor problems with both of our cars. My car has a mysterious water leak. When left out or driven in rain for long periods, water often collects under the driver’s side floormat. After putting up with it for some time, I finally decided to take it to the dealer before the warranty expired. After keeping it for two days, they figured out that water is collecting inside the door and spilling over the speaker into the floor. Unfortunately, the technician at John Eagle and the Honda corporate tech support people are baffled. I finally got my car back last night with the water drained out but no solution yet.

I hope we’ll have better luck with Jenny’s car. Some time ago her windshield took a nasty hit from a rock, leaving a pretty big star crack. A windshield company is coming out Friday afternoon to replace it.

Hypermiling Works!

Just my changing my driving habits, I have increased my mileage from 28mpg to 33mpg in mostly city driving, an increase of almost 18 percent. My new driving philosophy is use the gas and brake as little as possible. It’s easier for me since I drive mostly at night with little traffic, so I can coast easily and leave the A/C off most of the time. But you can do it, too, even if you drive during the day. Have any of you changed your driving style to save fuel? If so, what kind of savings have you gotten? Any other ideas?

Hypermiling Update

I’ve been trying some hypermiling driving techniques and seeing improvement in my mileage so far. It takes a lot more concentration than traditional driving, but it seems to work. My current goal is to break 300 miles on one tank, which I haven’t done in months. The essence of the driving technique is to coast as much as possible and apply the gas or brakes as little as possible. For example:

  • As soon as you know you’ll have to stop ahead at a stopsign or light, take your foot off the gas and coast. Your tachometer might still show greater than idle RPMs, but the fuel flow will be idle fuel only.
  • When approaching a hill, speed up gently at the bottom and coast up the hill.
  • Coast downhill when possible.
  • If you don’t have much traffic nearby, “pulse and glide”. Pick a target speed, accelerate gently to slightly over your target, and then coast until your speed drops a bit below your target. Make sure no one is behind you because this is highly annoying to other drivers.
  • When you accelerate, pay attention to how hard your engine is working by watching the tachometer, listening to your engine, and noticing how much torque you feel. If you’re pressed back in your seat and approaching redline on the tach, you’re having fun but wasting tons of gas. I try to keep my engine below 2500 rpm.
  • Time your lights. Stopping and starting burns more fuel than maintaining a constant speed, and it’s annoying!

Good luck!