We recently purchased a new vehicle. I don’t particularly like car shopping, but the process of trying to decide what features/capabilities were important to us was interesting. In this post, I wanted to list some of the factors we considered that relate to productivity and time savings with a new car:

1. Range and Fuel Capacity

The time you spend at the pump is time you can’t spend doing something else. Most people look at the MPG a vehicle gets but fewer people look at how far they can get on a single fill-up. Depending on what your time is worth, a vehicle that has a longer range, but just slightly lower MPG, may be more efficient for you, personally, because the more frequent fill-ups can eat into your valuable time. A car that can go 700 miles between gas-ups is going to require you to get gas only 17 times in an average year while a car that only goes 300 miles is going to require 40 visits to the pump.

If you assume that it takes you an additional 15 minutes on average per fill-up (factoring going out of your way to the gas-station, etc.), the 300 mile range will cost you 50 hours over 5 years. The 700 mile range will cost you about 21 hours.

Obviously it wouldn’t make sense to make a decision solely on the range of a vehicle, but it is part of the cost in terms of your time that you are going to need to put into the car to keep it running.

2. Range Between Oil Changes

I didn’t realize that some of the new vehicles can go a lot further between oil changes. Our new car just tells you when it needs an oil change and right now, that looks like it will be once every 10,000 miles or so under our normal driving conditions. That makes for significantly less time invested in sitting in the oil change waiting room over a vehicle that needs to have its oil changed every 3,000 miles.

3. Reliability

We spent a lot of time looking over the Consumer Reports ratings for the vehicles we were considering. If your car breaks down, you can quickly lose a lot of time in trying to get it repaired and back on the road again.

Beyond Consumer Reports, check with friends who have the same or similar vehicles to see what type of experiences they have had. You can also do a search for terms such as “Problem with [Make/Model]” to get an idea of what other people are running into. By refining your search based on what you find, you should be able to get a pretty good idea if a problem is an isolated issue that one person had or if it indicates a bigger trend.

4. Location of Dealers

It is worth considering how long it will take you to get your car to a dealer if it needs to be serviced. If the nearest dealer is 2 hours away, that can be a significant time investment for maintenance and repairs.

5. Productivity during Maintenance

If you take your car back to the dealer, can you get anything done while you wait? If the dealer can give you a shuttle ride to work or to your house, that can save you a lot of time over the life of your vehicle. If you live too far away for that, does the dealer offer WIFI so you can take your computer and get some work done? Do they offer a loaner car while you have routine maintenance done? Are they located near a center where you can do some shopping while you wait for the vehicle?

Regardless of how reliable your vehicle is, you are going to be spending some time at the dealer (or somewhere) getting maintenance done, and it is worth considering how to make the best use of your time while the work is done.

Obviously there are a lot of other things to consider in choosing a vehicle. However, some of these items aren’t things that normally are thought about even though they can significantly impact how much a vehicle costs you in terms of time and productivity over the course of your ownership.

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