The average miles driven per year in the U.S. for a 20-34 year old is 15,098. 35-54 year-olds come in at 15,291. That’s a lot of driving. Actually, it’s enough driving to cross the entire United States from New York City to San Francisco – 5 times over. And the cost of all that driving comes out to a mean of $9,826 per 2-person household.
We actually seem to be quite addicted to driving around, despite it being a relatively new phenomenon in human history. There are people still alive today that were born in a time when vehicles were not on streets.
In less than a century, the evolution of driving around in a vehicle, went from:
non existent -> an idea -> a prototype -> rare luxury -> common luxury -> common necessity -> recreationally wasteful
Almost every adult in the United States has one. It is common to have one and uncommon not to.
Remove yourself from the normality that vehicle driving has become and put its ridiculousness in to perspective for a moment:
- the entire history of human civilization got around just fine for millions of years without combustion powered vehicles.
- we went from zero vehicles sold to ~17 million per year (in the U.S. alone) in the span of one (long) lifetime.
- each of those ~17 million vehicles started out as metal and oil underneath the earth’s surface, that was extracted – at a great environmental cost.
- hundreds, if not thousands of people melted, torched, shaped, manipulated, engineered, and pieced together materials to put each of those vehicles together – at a great environmental cost.
- you paid thousands, probably tens of thousands for that metal/plastic and didn’t think twice about doing so – because it is the normal thing to do.
- you’ll probably do it 5-10 times over in your lifetime.
- to power your 100-300 lbs. of body weight around, you also have to power 4,000 lbs. of metal/plastic around by using a fossil fuel that was extracted from miles below the ground by huge drills – at a great environmental cost.
- with each mile driven, you spew out carbon dioxide, at a great environmental cost. At 15,000 miles, you spew out about 12,000 lbs. of CO2 per year.
- you pay about $0.575 per mile driven, all costs included, according to the U.S. govt.
- the median household income in the U.S. is $63,179, while the mean spent on vehicles is over $11,345 per household. That means 17% of our working hours, or about 1 hour and 22 minutes of an 8-hour work day, goes towards paying off this habit, on average.
- because you spent the money on it, you sure as hell are going to use it. So now you have good reason to move farther away from work and use it even more, further increasing costs, environmental waste, and the hours needed to work to pay it all off.
None of this is “natural”. But we’ve grown used to it as “normal” human behavior. And many of us have completely taken how ridiculous and wasteful it is for granted because of its normalcy – hence the 15,000+ miles driven per person per year.
If we don’t take the act of vehicle driving for granted, we would buy fewer vehicles (and cheaper and more fuel efficient ones like electric cars when we did), we would buy them less often, drive them much less frequently, and save tons of money in the process. We might think twice about hopping in our vehicle to drive 2 miles to pick up a bottle of soda or 7 times a week to get groceries or dine out. And hopefully we really think twice when deciding between living in a nice urban home a mile from work, the school, and grocery store or that huge country home with the big yard 30 miles away from work and 5 miles away from everything else. And a “vacation home” hundreds of miles away? No thanks.
The best tool for cutting your miles driven and the gasoline/maintenance costs needed to power them is to develop an appreciation and respect for the ridiculousness and wastefulness that driving a vehicle is. Only then, will you change your driving habits. In other words, your brain can develop and free and very powerful tool – gratitude. Your attitude towards vehicle and all consumption will change for the better, the more you use this tool. It may not be easy to develop, but it’s there, if you look for it.
Think of the impact if everyone used gratitude to view vehicle driving as a privileged luxury to only be used as a last resort.