3 min read

My Sweet Chariot of Frugality

My Sweet Chariot of Frugality
A lonely car after a long day at the office 

Preface warning: This post is pretty tongue-in-cheek, but there are some good tidbits in here about saving money.

This is an ode to my chariot from the turn of the millennium, a V6 2000 Toyota Avalon XL. I am moving to California and will have to leave it behind. It's a dependable Toyota sedan that will probably last 50 years if properly maintained. But it's so much more than that.

Oh, the car is silver, you say? No, no no. It's technically "lunar mist."

Chariot Maintenance DIY

Cars need maintenance. They take a beating. It baffles me that people exist who drive cars around all the time and do absolutely nothing at all to maintain them. On the other hand, lots of people do some or all car maintenance DIY. It's a great way to learn about your car and save some money in the process. I started learning do-it-yourself car work by watching Chris Fix and Scotty Kilmer's early videos on YouTube. I started with easy things anyone with two hands can do, like replacing air filters, filling fluids, and cleaning off wipers. This past year, I flushed the coolant, changed the power steering fluid, and cleaned the mass airflow sensor. You learn a lot about your car by working on it, even small jobs. And perhaps this is more of a guy thing, but fixing something on your vehicle feels fantastic for some reason.

Fixing a speaker in the sound system

Gameify it

It may look plain, but my car is a Japanese laser beam on wheels when it counts. The car is only rated for 19 mpg city, 27 hwy, and 22 combined. But don't let Toyota tell you how to live your life! Follow your dreams! Trying to get the mpg as high as possible (when not dangerous) can be fun. It also saves you gas. It would be cool if top mpgs by vehicle and by road had leaderboards, like what Strava does for cycling and running segments. For electric cars, that would be kWh per mile.

In October 2012, I was driving home from work on my 20-25 min commute, like I always did. However, on this special day, I had Hurricane Sandy as a tailwind. Using Sandy's windy boost, I broke 40mpg when I parked. Feast your eyes on that, Toyota engineers.

Gamification can also extend to parking for urbanites. Does a spot look tight? See if you can cram your shiny whip into it. Taking a picture after parking can forever memorialize your accomplishment and remind you where you parked. Plus, you can use a picture to quickly dispute any parking tickets from terrorist organizations like the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

Wrap Up

With the rise of electric cars, complex engines with a million parts may eventually be a thing of the past. Electric cars require much less maintenance, but the tires, suspension, and interior systems are essentially the same. So I implore you - learn a little bit about your car. It may come in handy one day. Since cars are such a huge part of American life, you may as well know a thing or two about them if you don't already. And when you're done with yours, go out in style. I plan on driving mine off a bridge into a river: