Mustache on the Move: Gas Prices Still Way Too Low

Mustache on the Move! A catchy new feature where I capture breaking frugality news in and around the Boulder/Longmont, Colorado area and report back to you. And these reports will always come with an eye-opening image from my handy telephone camera.

I love reading about gas prices, because here in the US, people get very excited about how incredibly crushing they are these days, despite being among the cheapest in the world. (the US national average gas price is about $3.79/gallon today, equivalent to about $1.00 US or $0.96 Canadian/litre for comparison). At this level, even the President talks about it regularly, hard-working families moan and groan, and people even buy, on average, slightly less gas guzzling cars.

But look at this guy driving in Longmont today. He’s getting about 12 MPG driving around in the city in this Ford F-250 pickup truck.

His truck has been enhanced by poking the exhaust pipes out through the cargo bed. That way, the driver can pretend he’s driving a REAL TRANSPORT TRUCK! But with no trailer. Because transport trucks are cool. I wish my bike could look like a transport truck! It also makes it LOUDER! Yeah!

Adding the mufflers to the cargo bed definitely cuts down your cargo capacity, but that’s OK, because this guy is only carrying two little pieces of plastic gutter flashing in there anyway. And they are hanging out the back, because this F-250 wisely uses the “short bed” design which sacrifices cargo space for passenger space. Because a 12 MPG truck is ideal for carrying passengers around. Heck, he could even use it for commuting! But oddly enough, there was only one guy in it when I took this picture.

The final enhancement is that this Longmontian has paid to have the suspension RAISED even higher than normal and added absolutely huge tires with REALLY TALL treads on them. Shiny black wheels too. All of this increases the aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance even further than the stock design. But he won’t even notice because the truck has over 300 horsepower – plenty to keep even this modified F-250 going at over 80 MPH on the Interstate! At that speed, it gets only 10 MPG. Meaning it burns 8 gallons of fuel every hour, coincidentally about the amount the Mustache family uses every month.

When I see things like this, (which I actually see pretty much every day), I believe that gasoline is still way, way, way too cheap.

But you can still save a ton of money by burning less of it yourself. I’ve got two more car-related posts coming up soon on exactly how to do that, so stay tuned!

  • Kevin M May 27, 2011, 2:11 pm

    I love it. This is the rant I wish I would have posted (if I had a cool blog like MMM).

  • ice May 29, 2011, 12:39 am

    Dude, what a great post. Sadly, the gas prices will have to go much higher for people to really feel enough pain to change their actions.

    As one of my friends who hand-washes his laundry said, “I could buy an agitator, but then I wouldn’t get to bitch about it (hand-washing).”

    Many Americans could easily change behavior, but then they wouldn’t get to complain about gas prices.

    I am on a tear reading through your blog as I just found it last week through ERE. Please keep up the good, interesting work.

  • Kim Westlund October 19, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Over here in Sweden the gas price is about $2.12/litre, or $8 per gallon.
    Love this blog. Keep it up!

  • Mark June 22, 2012, 8:36 am

    I notice that your picture is taken through a car window. Have you installed those on your bike?

    • alanb June 24, 2012, 12:53 pm

      He has a car, Mark. Relax.

  • Dvortygirl September 2, 2012, 8:49 am

    I was carrying a good 20lbs of groceries home on my bike the other day and got passed by a rather smug-looking fellow in a white Hummer. Hope he’s enjoying the $4/gallon gas prices as much as I am.

  • missj August 15, 2014, 10:14 pm

    I see this regularly in Oregon too. Big gas guzzlers tricked out with suspension, huge tires and anti-obama bumper stickers. It really makes you wonder if people LIKE wasting money.

    I read a book called “$20 a Gallon” and each chapter forecasts what life will be like as gas goes up a dollar per gallon. It’s pretty eye opening. Spoiler alert…it’s a good idea to live close enough to work that you could potentially bicycle and/or near a rail line (even an old, defunt rail line) because eventually when we go back to moving freight and people primarily by rail they will have to build A LOT more lines and the cheapest place to build lines is right on top of the old arteries.

    In fact, if I had money to invest on undeveloped or vacated land, I would pick a chunk very close to an abandoned rail line stop that could potentially be turned into storefronts or apartment/condo housing in the future.

    I personally cannot wait until gasoline gets uncomfortably expensive, something like $8-$10 per gallon because then we will finally be FORCED to make the changes as a society that are long overdue. Once gas gets really expensive, the environment will slowly start to improve.

    • Ian mitchell October 16, 2016, 7:45 pm

      I don’t think physics is on your side here.

      So, the biggest difference between road and rail is rolling resistance. There’s some degree of geometric efficiency when it comes to passenger transport, but if we’re just talking energy costs, that’s it.

      Currently, that difference is about 4x. A gallon of diesel can move a ton of freight 200 miles by rail, 50 by truck. That number is about 500 for ocean freight.

      The cost today of laying rail, for sidings along existing rail, not including land cost (basically as cheap as you can get it) are $1,000,000 per mile at the absolute bottom end. Keep in mind, the more expensive fuel is, the more expensive laying rail is.

      So let’s calculate a payback. If diesel is an atlas-shrugged level $40 per gallon, you have to save 25,000 gallons, if rail construction prices somehow didn’t increase. That’s not including buying the trains or anything else.

      So, the question becomes- what’s the likelihood that you’re somewhere where 1,250,000 tons of freight needs to pass, even at the fuel costs we’re talking about, in a time period acceptable to finance for whatever entity we’re talking about? Considering there likely is an active freight line not too far away, and it’s way below capacity (it probably is), seems low.

      Electrification doesn’t change the game by much- you can run trucks on centenary or trains on battery. The rolling resistance difference is a matter of physics.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2016, 8:36 pm

        I like calculations like this, Ian – always worth trying to figure out the fundamentals just for fun.

        I’ve heard that freight trains are more like 475 ton-miles/gallon: https://www.aar.org/newsandevents/Press-Releases/Pages/The-Nations-Freight-Railroads-Average-476-Ton-Miles-Per-Gallon.aspx .. however, trucks can be over 120 tMPG too (5 mpg x 20-40 tons). A difference of about 300 tMpg.

        Even with cheap $3 gas, you’d need to save (1 million/3) 333,000 gallons, which you could do by replacing maybe 60 million truck ton miles with train miles. That would be about 12,000 trainloads, or 3 years on a busy track. At higher gas prices, the train starts to win out more – and remember that trucks also cost more because of tires, engine maintenance and drivers. And roads cost more to maintain per ton-mile than roads too, right?

      • Wookey February 1, 2017, 8:11 am

        David Mckay did these train vs road sums in his seminal SEWTHA book: http://www.withouthotair.com/c20/page_121.shtml
        Electric Train is 40-22 times more efficient that average (UK) car. (1.6 to 3kWh/100 person-km, vs 68). A diesel train is 9 times better (9kWh/100p-km). Electric cars are about 15kWh/100km.

  • Benk August 18, 2014, 3:31 pm

    Hey that’s 3rd and Main. Small world. Who’d have thought I’d find a finance blog by someone in my own town of Longmont!!!

    • jdzlr July 15, 2020, 11:48 pm

      Good old Longmont

  • JT January 2, 2015, 8:29 am

    My viewpoints on finances align pretty well with yours. I’m also going to make a comment about you blog only reading your posts chronologically from this point. I hope at some point you discuss utility.

    You come across as very judgmental and almost pompous. It makes sense that you believe your opinions are the most valid. That being said the post seems to forget that others may not hold the same beliefs and how they choose to spend their money may make them happy, even if it wouldn’t make you happy. Utility is tough to measure but you have to understand different people have a different utility for different things. I know it’s tough to comprehend but maybe big trucks make this guy happy, I know as a kid I really liked my toy trucks.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 3, 2015, 10:30 am

      I hear you, JT! If you keep reading, you’ll see that the whole theme of the blog is that we all have inaccurate perceptions of our own utility. A big truck may create superficial temporary happiness for some, but there is always a better way than disposible consumer items.

      But unfortunately you will find that the opinionated writing style continues throughout the blog. That’s just my own warped sense of humor – if you don’t dig it you might prefer a more straight-laced source for your financial reading.

  • Miah January 16, 2015, 2:47 pm

    I have been reading this blog and agree with a lot you have said. However I also have a lifted Landcruiser. One of the reasons I want to retire early is so I can go camping in the middle of nowhere with my family. In that case the Landcruiser, the lift, the winch, etc add utility. Someone else might have a fast car with bigger turbo, low profile tires, etc. and want to retire so they can spend more time on doing SCCA amateur racing. Those are not inherently less valuable than spending more time reading a book, enjoying Netflix, traveling, or the other pleasure pursuits that you may deem more worthy. That leads me to the question I keep asking as I read this. If I have more time, but don’t dare use it for fear of spending money on gas, recreational equipment, whatever then what is the point. I need to find a balance between having no time, but plenty of money and time, but fear of spending the money.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2015, 5:19 pm

      Sure, but you could use a bike for in-city errands, a a nice $4000 Civic for any inter-city trips, and save the land cruiser only for times when you’ll be leaving civilization.

      As for inherently less valid, I would argue that motorsports are a bit less worthwhile than most other activities just because you are damaging other people in the process via pollution and resource consumption. Not that that means you’ll never do them, but a smart person would weigh it as one factor in the decision.

      • miah January 19, 2015, 11:04 am

        My bigger question is how do you balance saving money so you have time with having time and not having the money to enjoy the time you have. I think it would be easy to end up retired with enough money to live on, but not enough to enjoy your newfound time.

        Agreed, I don’t use the Land Cruiser for most of my driving. (all my cars are old, paid for, and I do most of the maintenance/repair myself) Though with gas prices where they are it is getting harder to justify having multiple vehicles, even if one is a gas guzzler. registration, insurance, repairs, etc. might make it better to drive a gas guzzler around all of the time vs. having two cars from an economic perspective.
        I love riding my bike, but don’t see it as a viable alternative to most of our driving. For one thing until I can retire, the time needed to ride to the grocery store 5-10 miles away isn’t really available. Even if it was, perishables might not like the 30 mins in 90 degree weather, and I can’t handle it when it is 30 degrees. Then there is the issue of taking the kid who is getting to big for the trailer, but not big enough to pedal himself yet.

        • John January 9, 2016, 2:32 pm

          Hey, Dude, please release your inner Hasselhoff

  • Lady Locust August 5, 2016, 3:08 pm

    Ha! This is something I take pretty seriously since we have a drive at each end of the day. We don’t plan on moving, but do want the best MPG possible. Between heading home last night (uphill) and coming back to work today (tempting to say uphill again) I averaged about 55-57 MPG I didn’t sit and do the exact calcs. but my goal is 60 mpg. average. Will see how close I can get.

  • Gromm November 10, 2016, 4:32 pm

    That’s okay, because you know what those vertical mufflers are *really* for?

    Dude is a coal roller. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/adventure/red-line/the-real-dirty-diesel-coal-rollers/article26598563/

    He is literally doing his best to be the biggest asshole alive. It’s his hobby. He goes out of his way to spend money on doing this. Because he can, through some high-paying job in some tough-guy profession.

    Of course, like you say, he’s paying a stiff price to do this, but he literally doesn’t care.

  • Tony February 16, 2017, 7:16 pm

    This post hits really close to home. I have a Nissan Frontier that gets 20 mpg and the most common thing I haul is two mountain bikes. The truck is now on craigslist and I’m researching VW TDI Jetta wagons as an alternative. They get 40 mpg and I can haul a mountain bike no problem. Woh I think I just felt my mustache growing in. Thanks MMM!

  • Ryan September 19, 2017, 2:27 pm

    I live in rural Parker Colorado. I see a lot of ENORMOUS trucks rolling around all the time. SOme of these trucks are burdened by huge trailers packed with hay, horses or machines… but most… most are jacked, shinny and in pristine condition. They are also tricked out with every “improvement” one can think of… chrome, or matte, huge tires and the little running boards that swoop out of the way when the doors are closed, magically appearing when a door is opened.

    I hate them… and not only because of the ecological disasters they are but because I know that these drives cannot afford them. They THINK they can but they can’t. These are 80K dollar trucks.

    Meanwhile I am driving down the road in my wife’s 97 Honda Civic, leaving my greenhouse-adorned property that is fashioned with solar panels.

  • Conman February 10, 2019, 8:24 pm

    Hey guys, little late to the conversation but I’ve been a mmm reader for a few years now and occasionally like to reread some old ones. Just thought I’d throw out this perspective. I am currently a travelling lineman in an apprenticeship program and live full time in a fifth wheel camper. Sold my house and most belongings when we started this life. In order to move my trailer I have to have a 3500 diesel truck, which I inevitably end up also driving to work because I am 20 miles from work in a very rainy area with tools I have to bring with and a physically demanding job that doesn’t leave me much energy to bike home. My wife has a small car which I drive when she’s not using but right now I have no other choice. I average about 18 mpg in the truck. I sold a Chevy Cruze eco (40mpg!!) in order to buy said diesel truck, which killed me inside, but this lifestyle is temporary and I like to think that I somewhat make up for my highway transgressions by the fact that I and my wife and son live in about 320sqft with commensurately small heating and electric bill, no lawn, etc. I know there are a lot of people in my predicament so what would you do, mmm? Any suggestions? Also, take it easy passing judgment people, I know there are a lot of truckheads out there, but that guy you hate so much could be a rancher that tows a large part of the time, or a lineman with no other option.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 11, 2019, 8:46 am

      Hi Conman, that is a solid and honest question so I’d be happy to answer it!

      If I were in that situation, think it would all depend on the size of my daily work equipment and whether I really needed to transport it all back and forth every day. For example, if it’s just a few toolboxes and boots and such, those would easily fit in any hatchback or wagon like a Honda fit. If you need off-road ability you could scale up to a Honda CR-V or Subaru of any type.

      In general it is better to own two inexpensive task-optimized vehicles, rather than try to make a single one do such massively different tasks (towing your ENTIRE HOUSE while also carrying just your single body most of the time!)

      The big truck may be a necessity if you are moving your house around frequently and/or if it’s hard to borrow or rent one. But in general, I’d try to think of the two tasks separately. And then you can keep a much older truck, since it doesn’t have to perform on a daily basis.

      Also in many cases you can make arrangements to keep your tools at work if there is anywhere to lock them up – even if it’s a box or trailer you furnish yourself. When I’m in the middle of a big construction project, I always find a way to leave the tools onsite for the duration.

      thanks for asking and good luck!

      • Conman February 13, 2019, 3:25 am

        Thanks for the reply! I have been tossing around the idea of getting another Cruze (which btw is an amazing car-should definitely be on your list of best practical vehicles) and paying a moving company to drag the trailer when I need to move. I think the numbers pencil out, it’s just a question of how often I move and how much that costs. But seriously, back to the Cruze, you can get a nice used diesel with under 100k for around $9k. They get 50mpg highway. The gas 1.4 turbos are $6k all day and still get 40.


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