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Gas Costs More Than Cars
All chiefs, sheriffs and fleet managers—not to mention all city and county councils—are very concerned about the cost of new police cars.
All the focus is on that initial bid, the initial purchase price. Sweeping fleet changeover decisions are made based on a $500 to $1,000 difference in purchase price. That makes sense. It is a big and highly visible number. However, it is not the largest cost associated with a police fleet!
When gasoline costs more than $3 per gallon, then the largest expense in the police fleet is fuel. During the life of the police car, we actually spend more on gas than on the car itself. Do the math yourself. Plug in whatever numbers you feel comfortable using.
Let’s say it costs $30,000 to purchase and upfit a car, and let’s say there’s a $5,000 residual value. Let’s use a 12 mpg average with a 100,000 mile service life. When gas rose above $3 per gallon, it became more expensive to fuel a car during its life than its purchase price. From 2005 to 2008, half of the time the monthly gas average was above $3 per gallon. For all of 2011, it has been above $3.
The purchase price is a high profile number; it is in writing and visible for all to see. The gas price, specifically the math to figure operating costs, is invisible to most. Yet, gas is the largest fleet operating expense—more than the cars and more than maintenance.
Let’s reverse this math while trying to be constructive. With gas at $3.50, which it has been since March 2011, how much would the fuel mileage have to improve to stay below the cost of the cars themselves? The answer is 2 mpg. That means an improvement in fuel economy during actual patrol use, the real mileage your officers are getting, from 12 mpg to 14 mpg.
That 2 mpg is entirely possible. In fact, a full 4 mpg improvement may be possible. In fact, based on 400 miles of calls for service and traffic enforcement, the new Dodge 3.6L V6 turned in 4 mpg better mileage than the old Dodge 3.5L V6.
Look closely at the entire variety of new generation of V6 engines: the Chevy 3.6L “direct injection” V6; the Dodge 3.6L “Pentastar” V6; and the Ford 3.5L “Ti-VCT” V6. They all produce more power than the outgoing Ford V8 and all of the V6-powered sedans accelerate faster than the outgoing Ford CVPI. Don’t negotiate over dimes with initial cost—go for the dollars with operating costs.
Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2011
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