Track your car’s MPG

Your car is a big an­nual ex­pense – use Num­bers to stay on top of things

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Your car is a big ex­pense – use Num­bers to stay on top of things and cal­cu­late its cost

Af­ter rent or mort­gage pay­ments, a car is most peo­ple’s big­gest an­nual ex­pense. The prob­lem is that track­ing how much it’s cost­ing you, and whether you might be able to save money, is tricky. Com­put­ing the num­ber of miles per gal­lon your car costs is hard enough, but the var­i­ous other ex­penses – re­pairs, re­place­ment parts, in­sur­ance, tax and so on, adds up over a year and all make a real dif­fer­ence to the bot­tom line: in this case, what your car costs for ev­ery mile you drive it.

The an­swer, of course, is a spread­sheet. Data geeks have spread­sheets for all kinds of things, but be­cause of the sheer num­ber of data points driv­ing pro­duces – miles driven, parts and so on – spend­ing a lit­tle while cre­at­ing a doc­u­ment that you can quickly bash a few new num­bers into will help you keep track more ef­fec­tively.

Hav­ing this kind of data is re­ally help­ful. Not only will a de­tailed spread­sheet re­veal the facts about what your car costs to drive, which might prompt you to drive it more or less, it can also help guide you when it comes to buy­ing a new car. You may also be able to head off break­downs. A sharp drop in fuel econ­omy may hint at me­chan­i­cal prob­lems.

Here, we’ll show you how to create a spread­sheet with a few sim­ple for­mu­las. Up­date it each time you spend money on your car and you’ll have a com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­ment that shows you ex­actly how much it’s cost­ing you to get around. Dave Steven­son

A spread­sheet is easy to make and can keep you much bet­ter in­formed about what your car costs to run.

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