Contract engineering, vehicles and the price of gas

One of the major differences between working as an employee and working for myself is the use of my car.  When I worked out of a central office, going to work meant driving there, then using the company truck to drive to the outlaying studio or transmitter site locations.  Now that I work for myself, I drive either my personal vehicle or the truck that belongs to my company.

Our radio clients are in several states in the northeast and covering all that territory on a weekly or monthly basis requires a lot of driving.  For example, it is 100 miles exactly, one way from my house to Bridgeport, CT.   Depending on what is going on, I can take the 1997 Jeep Cherokee, which has over 210,000 miles on it and gets about 21 miles per gallon, or the 2004 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup truck, which has 68,000 miles on it and gets about 16 miles to the gallon.  With gas being about $4.00 per gallon, it’s a choice of shooting myself in the leg or shooting myself in the foot.

1997 Jeep Cherokee in early April snowstorm
1997 Jeep Cherokee in early April snowstorm

 

The Jeep I paid cash for in 1999 and I have kept it in good working order.  It is, by far, the best snow vehicle I have ever owned.  I don’t know exactly why that is, it has simple four wheel drive (really two wheel drive because of the full slip differentials).  I imagine the heavy cast iron inline six engine over the front wheels has something to do with it.  This is an important distinction, as many off air emergencies happen in the worst weather.  It is simple and rugged and wearing out.  I keep saying to myself, the first major problem, e.g. transmission or engine, I am having it towed to the junk yard.

Work Truck, Chevy Silverado 1500
Work Truck, Chevy Silverado 1500

The Chevy truck is owned by my company, I purchased it three years ago when I started the solar installation company.  It has the 5.8 L V-8 engine with the tow package and the “pre-snowplow package.”   It has real four wheel drive with limited slip differentials front and back.  It handles like a tank.  I use this when I need to haul tools, materials, parts,  junk or whatever.  I have portable parts bins and tools that I can move from one vehicle to another, as needed.

The problem with these vehicles is the expense in operating them.  I generally try not to take gas payments from the company I work for, as I am not an employee of that company, I’d rather take the mileage write off.  Still, there are times, especially at the end of the month, when I am filling up the pick up truck and watching the gas pump turn over the $100.00 mark, that I have to cringe.

Toyota Yaris 5 door hatchback, courtesy of wikimedia commons
Toyota Yaris 5 door hatchback, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the next personal vehicle will be something more fuel efficient, like a Toyota Yaris hatchback.  They look pretty reliable and get good gas mileage.  If I need to take the big truck, I still have it.  I have just three concerns:

  1. I am fairly tall; will I look like a weenie getting in and out of this thing?
  2. I drive a lot of interstate miles; if I get into an accident will I get squashed like a bug?
  3. Will all my stuff fit in the back of this thing?

That being said, it would be awfully nice getting 36 miles per gallon…