I haven't paid less than $2.75 for a gallon of 87 octane fuel in nearly a year now. This morning, I gassed up my dualie and spent $96.32 for fuel. I'll be able to drive about 330 miles on that tank of fuel, if I stick to the freeway, if there aren't any major traffic jams, and if I don't tow anything with my truck. Factor in any one of those mileage detractors and I'm looking at having to refuel my truck in 275 miles. During an average week, I'll refuel twice. If I only commute to the office and home, then I can squeak by on just one tank of gas. Consequently, I spend a major portion of my income on gasoline. I'm sure many of you do, too. Those of you driving diesel-powered pickups are likely hurting more than the rest of us, as the trend of diesel being 40 cents cheaper per gallon than regular gas has reversed. Sport Truck's staff editor Gary Blount drives a Chevy with the Duramax diesel and reports paying upward of $3.40 a gallon.
Gas isn't going to get any cheaper. At least, the price of fuel isn't going below two dollars a gallon again in my lifetime. Demand for fuel is too high, oil companies are too greedy, there aren't enough refineries-I could go on and on with the excuses I hear from my favorite newscasters. That said, I have considered finding a more fuel-efficient mode of transportation. At first, I thought a motorcycle would be ideal. They are very efficient and I could split lanes during traffic jams and get where I need to go quickly. But, then I remembered that every single person I know who rides a bike has gone down at least once and usually ends up with a serious case of road rash, if not some other worse malady. So, the motorcycle isn't really an option because I'd like to keep on living. Next, I considered purchasing a used, compact car. I figured five G's would net me a decent Honda Civic or similar rice rocket. After doing the math though, buying another car didn't make much sense either.
Here's where I'm coming from: My truck gets about 12 mpg, while the Civic will get approximately 30 mpg. I'll drive about 20,000 miles next year. The Civic will need 666.42 gallons of gas to get me where I'm going. The dualie will eat up 1,666.66 gallons (nearly triple the gas!) to travel the same distance. At $3 a gallon, the dualie will cost me almost $5,000 to operate, while the Civic will cost just $1,999.98. On the surface, it makes better financial sense to drive a Honda Civic than a Chevy crew cab dualie. But, after factoring in other expenditures, the Civic's fuel economy isn't a great enough sell. The insurance premium for both used vehicles is almost identical, so that's a wash. But, the initial investment into the Civic and finding another spot to park it are big detractors. Also, I'd lose money if I tried to sell my dualie now and just stick to driving the Civic. I bought it when gas was much cheaper. How many people do you think want a gas-guzzling 1-ton pickup now?
In the end, I chose not to buy a compact car or even a small pickup for one very simple reason: I love my truck. I love its roominess, plush ride, and the fact that I can haul nearly anything I want in the 8-foot-long bed. Sure, the Civic would get me where I'm going for less, but I'd have to rent a U-Haul and find another person to drive it just to get my stuff to the same destination. Check out the photo on this page to see what I mean. That hunk of metal in the bed of my truck is the cab of my other truck. Try that with a Honda! In the same week that I hauled half of El Paradors to the shop with my dualie, I've also had the bed packed full of tools, a drum of race fuel, and furniture. I've also had a car trailer and boat trailer in tow on six separate occasions this month.
My dualie has come through in situations when no Honda ever could. My very first photo shoot for Sport Truck was for the cover of the Aug. '05 issue. The cover truck wasn't exactly road-worthy at the time, so Gary and I towed it 300 miles to and from the desert photo location, using what else-my truck. Besides the utilitarian reasons for keeping your own truck, even in the face of ridiculous gas prices, the fact remains that trucks look cooler than compact cars, especially when you set about customizing them. So, the next time a car lover questions why you still drive around in a big, bulky, gas-guzzling pickup, point out the 22-inch rims on your ride and then ask them to haul some furniture for ya. See you next month.