Dear Car Talk:
I’m losing sleep over my reliable 2012 Chrysler 200 and its gas mileage. It’s got more than 80,000 miles on it, and usually gets between 20 and 23 miles per gallon on my regular drives. I think it’s gotten worse over the past couple years, but I can’t be sure.
I’m becoming more of an environmentalist by the day, so not getting good mileage really irks me. I’m at a place in my life where I could buy a new-to-me car, but my budget would not be high. And my Chrysler was inherited, so it’s got sentimental value and no payments.
The gas mileage is the main reason to look elsewhere. Is there something I can do to improve it? Am I crazy to give up on it over guilt?
I don’t know if you’re crazy, Chandler. I would ask a friend or neighbor. They were all quick with a “yes” when I asked that question. But I do think you should probably hang on to your Chrysler.
First of all, your mileage isn’t bad. Twenty-three mpg is about what the EPA says you should expect from this car. And their estimates often run a bit high, so you’re doing fine.
Second, if your primary concern is environmental, keeping your old car running in good condition is a pretty green thing to do. Think about all of the natural resources it takes to create a new car: the metal ores, chemicals, plastics and rubber. All of that stuff has to be removed from the earth, processed, refined, trans- ported, molded and assembled. All of those steps use energy and create pollution. So by getting a few more years out of your existing car (unless it’s a gross polluter, which yours is not), you’re actually helping the environment.
Third, there are other things you can do to be more environmental without throwing away a perfectly good car. First, make sure your car is running well and not polluting any more than it’s supposed to. Do that by getting it serviced regularly and making sure it passes your state’s emissions test.
If there’s something wrong with it, like a bad sensor, a stuck thermostat or a sticky brake caliper, get it fixed, because things like that can lower your mileage and create more pollution. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, too, because that also effects your mileage.
And finally, you can try to drive less. Combine errands. Carpool. Walk (heaven forbid, I know!). But there’s a lot you can do to be “greener” without immediately trading in your car.
Then start saving for a serious environmental upgrade. And in a couple of years, or when the Chrysler’s transmission falls out in the middle of the road, buy an electric car. Even if you can’t buy a new one, by then there will be more used EVs on the road, and you’ll have more choices.
Then add a few solar panels on your roof and charge your new car for free every day. You can even drive your neighbors around and save their gas. Good luck, Chandler.