Home > Chatter, Economics > How Fast Are You Really Going in that Motorized Transport Pod?

How Fast Are You Really Going in that Motorized Transport Pod?

Lazy Calculations #1


Q: What’s the average miles per hour after time devoted to all things car is considered?

My napkin calculations came up with 6 MPH


To calculate this, I use the following data assumptions:

The Arbitron National In-Car Study (2003)

The average miles driven by people in the U.S. is 12,000 miles (2003). Those miles don’t come free. Beyond the time driving them, which is about 800 hours/year (2003), we devote time working to pay for the cost of our car and all the necessary, and unnecessary maintenance, accessories and attachments. Then we need to add the time spent pursuing and doing the fixing, maintaining, cleaning, feeding and general coddling of a car.

We also spend a lot of wasted time looking for exactly the right parking space (hands up, whose spent 20 minutes or more looking for a spot in a big city? I have.) I add an X-factor of 200 hours to this entire endeavor.

The Equation

12,000 miles per year / driving (800 hr/year) + making money, to pay for car related expenses (500-hr/year) + parking (150-hr) + QT time with car (250-hr) + X-factor (200-hr) = Actual AVG MPH.

12,000~miles/1900~hours = 6 miles per hour (+/-)


We are a truly speed obsessed society and we are going nowhere fast.

It’s costing us more than just billions of dollars. Take back your time!

FYI, my calculations for biking (avg 9 mph) or walking (3-mph) seem relatively useful considering that most trips are within a 2 mile radius.


There is none, other than to say that the numbers are loosely researched & relatively close. I full scientific deduction would likely result in a more reduced average speed for automobile use. The X-Factor, set at 200, could as easily be set at 300 hours or 100 hours. A part from the very wealthy, who among us hasn’t been stranded by a breakdown, crash or other unintended consequences of car use? Those hours add up; 200 hours is conservative. We could also include in the X-Factor the time spent researching car related purchases, technology and general auto-industry porn.

* Inspired by ENERGY AND EQUITY by Ivan Illich (Thanks Henry)

  1. September 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Great demonstration!

    Unfortunately, as those of us in the energy efficiency field have found, people are not typically motivated to change behaviors based on rational economics.

    I did the same quick math for myself who drives a used car mostly exclusively for long distance miles and it works out to more like 35-45 miles per hour.

    Commutes suck, cars make them worse and vice versa.

  2. September 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Results will very. I used the U.S. averages that I could find and figured 5-10 years of expenses. Seems pretty high Barton…are you hiding some costs?

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