THE CAR BUYING PROCESS is – thankfully – behind us.
First there was The-Stupidly-Expensive-Van that severely bit into our car buying budget. Coupled with the extreme costs of German cars, and the realization that banks in Deutschland weren’t just going to extend credit to a couple of American rubes that just tumbled off the boat (so to speak) we had a couple weeks there where we had to evaluate our options on our second car.
Long story short, we finally bit the bullet and shelled out some dough for a More-Reasonable-But-Still-Offensively-Overpriced commuter vehicle. Now with that behind us, let me take a moment to share the most important feature on this particular automobile:
That’s right….it’s a Beamer. 😉
Now, let’s be clear. We’re not into big expensive cars, nor are we into vanity… and this is not a big expensive car. This is not the BWM 5 series you often see floating down the Interstate in the US. It’s not even the smaller 3 series. In fact, you’ve probably never seen this type of car at all. This is the baby BMW, the 1 series…a 118d (Diesel) to be exact. It’s a good car for us first because it’s small enough that we can probably stuff it in our suitcase and take it home with us when we leave in a few years. It’s also truly not about vanity (it’s used and pretty basic). In reality, it’s about fuel efficiency. And that’s a big deal.
Let’s start with gas prices in Germany. At first blush, you might think they don’t seem to bad when you stroll across the border and see signs like this one:
The word Benzin is your basic unleaded gasoline, so you might look at this sign and say “$1.19 for gas? That’s all? That’s not bad!” And you might think that until you filled up your tank. And you might still be thinking that right up to the time you went up to pay at the register, and right then and there it would occur to you that you just got a one-two punch by the imperial system and the US Dollar.
First off, gas is sold by the liter here, and there are about 3.8 Liters in a US Gallon. Secondly, that price you’re looking at is in Euros. There’s nothing wrong with the good ol fashion US Dollar, but let me tell you – it’s no Euro. So taking into account the Liter-to-Gallon conversion and the current exchange rate for the US dollar, current gas prices in Germany in American terms comes to this: $6.91 / Gallon.
To put that into perspective, I had Chevy Colorado before we came here that got 21 mpg (not bad for a pickup). Now here, I drive 80km every day too and from work…so just based on the commute alone and assuming normal gas mileage that truck would have cost me $16.35/day in gas alone. $340/month. $4200/year. And that’s just for the commute.
Enter the BMW 1er. In Europe fuel efficiency is published in Liters / 100km (in other-words, how many liters of gas the car requires to go 100km in normal conditions). A gas guzzler might require over 10L/100km. A ‘fuel efficient’ car is less than 6L/100km. And here’s the beauty of the BWM 118d: It gets as low as 3.9L/100km. Not impressed? I suppose those numbers don’t mean much, so let’s convert that to something more familiar: The BMW 118d gets 60 miles per gallon. If that’s not impressive, then consider that the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid gets a mere 43mpg on the highway. The Prius gets 51. And those are hybrids, in the BWM 118d we’re just talking about a regular old diesel engine here.
It’s not just BWM either…European car manufacturers have fuel efficiency at the top of their list of customer demands, and it shows up in their technology. I won’t go into how its achieved, there are a lot of reasons (example on the 118d, the engine shuts off when you come to a stop at a stoplight, and restarts automatically when you pop the clutch – without missing a beat). But regardless of how, the what is that it makes gas affordable here…and that makes the price tag almost seem justifiable.