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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Vehicle Decision Based On Fuel Prices

When I started my vandwelling experience I had selected a 1994 Coachman raised roof campervan on a Chevrolet C30 chassis with a V8 engine.  It was absolutely the right vehicle for me the first year (1994) of my travels.  The reason I say it was the right vehicle is that it had everything I needed for my travels and since I bought it in November and I was leaving in January I didn't have time to do much more than update and fix what was there and then I was off,

I had thought about fuel costs but it wasn't a limiting factor this first year.  Then as I tracked my expenses the price of fuel caught my attention and partway through my trip I decided to modify my driving to save on fuel costs.  

I started making decisions on where I would go based on what the cost would be for the trip.  For example if I drive from Galup, NM to Four Corners (100 miles) at 10 mpg it would be 200 miles round trip for 20 gallons at $3.50 a gallon for $70.00.  I made the decision not to go as the cost didn't equal the value. 

Just driving the 20 miles from where I was staying in Tucson to play disc golf for 40 miles round trip was 4 gallons added up.

I ended my 2014 Travels driving 13,600 miles over my 3.5 months on the road.  This equated to spending $4700 in gas.  

I knew driving home that April that I would be selling the Class B as trips costing about $5,000 in fuel were no longer in my future.  

The other thing was my fuel consumption caused me to think long and hard about the environment as well.  Yes my carbon footprint.  I actually felt bad about what was happening to the environment with global climate change and how my desire to see the US contributed to the problem.

The problem was that when I came home I had the desire to continue my vandwelling experience, but I needed a solution that would give me great milage and could have all the features as the Class B but minimized.  

I found RailRider's blog who traveled in his Prius and after some emails with him my decision was made to buy a Prius for my 2015 travels.

I sold my Class B in June and bought my 2011 Prius in July.  I actually put down the back seats and laid down in the back to ensure that at 6' tall I could sleep in the back before I purchased it.  Once I knew I would fit I was thrilled to start dreaming of my new adventures in it.

Then I went into engineering mode studying about the Prius and looking at what RailRider did.  I then found Suanne's blog

Suanne traveled in her Prius too and did it differently than RailRider.  The contrast was helpful.  Best advice ever was Suanne writing about the importance of having the bed and a seating area dedicated.  Thanks Suanne!  You were so right.

My internet travels brought me to Prius Chat where I learned the technical aspects of the Prius I needed to know to utilize the Prius to fulfill my power and travel needs without having to carry solar panels.

My work was cut out for me designing from July through December (2014) to make my Prius emulate my Class B.  I knew I couldn't test and revamp before I left so I had to live with my first design, good or bad.

I am open in sharing what I do, both living style and designing I have done with the Prius.  I got the gamut of responses from folks as I designed and built out my Prius Campervan.  Some repulsed by the thought of living in and out of a car.  Others wished they could do what I was going to do.

Another thing that helped guide me in my thoughts was that if someone can hike the Appalachian Trail out of a backpack, I could live like a king out of a Prius having all that room for things.  I looked up from backpacking and not down from the Clasd B.

My efforts resulted in being able to do everything I could in my Class B other than stand up.

The design changes did not alter the Prius for resale.  This was a goal of mine and I'm glad to say I was successful.

I can't say minimalizing my life in the Prius was cheap as I needed to buy lots of new items to live light space saving design.  Miniture backpacking folding chair was $70 for example.  

So, now the questions come up about my original decision to sell the Class B as the gas prices have come down below $2.00.

My answer is no.  Yes the cost is what drove me to look at changing initially, but my desire to not contribute to global climate change took over and my carbon footprint is as low as it could be for my travels.

Moving to the Prius helped in other ways.  I can park anywhere.  In a city I can park anywhere including parking garages that are much safer in general.  The handling on the road is excellent when the high profile of the Class C was hard to hold onto in the wind.  Driving home my first year the wind was so strong I got scared and got off the highway when tractor trailers were blown off the highway an hour before I  got to that spot.  There were many white knuckle moments in the wind.

The mountains were tough on the Class B brakes and had to stop a few times to let them cool, even when using 2nd gear.

Yes I learned with the Class B but I didn't miss the stress of these moments.

Oh yes I traded out in road clearance and learned that the Prius is not a SUV, but the gains over the Class B was refreshing.  This doesn't mean I wouldn't ever go back to a Class B but not as a cross country vehicle that you drive every day.

I drive my Prius for local and distance travel not related to campervaning and I drive often to MD to visit my oldest son & family.  It's 420 miles to his house and I was there 2 weeks ago and it cost me $16.50 in gas each way to drive in my Prius.  I drive it without stopping for fuel as the Prius with its 11 gallon tank and 50+ mpg I can go at lest 500 miles between fill ups.

Back to the price of gas.  All I know is that with the reduced gas prices means my 2016 Travels in my Prius Campervan it will cost me less and that means more money stays in my pocket and I am doing my part to put less carbon in the atmosphere.

Oh did I say, regardless of gas prices I get 5 times the distance on a tank of gas than my Class B.



  1. The thing I would like best about travelling in a fuel efficient vehicle is not feeling constrained in where I could go by of the cost of gasoline.

  2. Joseph, When I travel in the Prius I enjoy not considering what it costs me to travel. I traveled nearly 6,000 more miles from 2014 in my Class C to my Prius in 2015 and never worried about fuel costs.

  3. Choosing the wrong car can be a very bad move if it causes you to go broke or run out of gas at the wrong moment. I picked a gas guzzler and not only did it make a once comfortable salary become unbearable, but ran out of gas at the worst moments ever. I've had to call emergency fueling services twice because of that car.

    Abraham Yates @ Apache Oil Company

    1. Abraham, you are so right. Everything is a trade off. Regardless of gas prices the money is best left in my pocket in the end.

  4. Thank you RANGE is KEY in natural disasters. Hurricane, earthquake, and political altercations can cause supply disruptions and in these situations we need to have range.