A cost-of-driving meter for your car


Wait, there are APIs for cars now? Is this a Ford-only thing? If so, I might have just decided what my next car is going to be. Do I have to jailbreak my car, or can I just go buy a Ford Explorer off the lot, plug in, and start hacking?

It’s a great idea, but won’t mean much until it includes depreciation and expected servicing. Manufacturers probably wouldn’t like it because it would be an eye-opener to get in your car on Monday morning after a week away on vacation and see that the car cost you $100 to sit in the driveway.


Yes, API for your car! It’s called Ford OpenXC, which is an open source hardware/platform for doing interesting stuff with the data from your car! Check out here for more:


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It should also shoot up a few hundred dollars if you hit a particularly nasty pothole and wreck your suspension.

Ah well, my car has a pedometer, so I’m good.

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" It could eventually incorporate fuel cost, wear-and-tear, servicing, depreciation, etc. "

So its incorporating… uh. Like nothing right now?


My satnav already estimates my fuel economy, knows how far I’ve gone on a trip, and I tell it how much fuel costs these days. I can enter my own fuel use readings so it works better.

Note that there are cost-of-driving meters available off the shelf. My GPS supports an optional OBDII interface which – depending on how much info a particular car makes available – can be as accurate a realtime/historical efficiency meter as the “Prius Game”.

I like the idea of making more data available more reliably and more easily, but let’s keep it in context: Interesting evolution, not revolution.

Let’s see. My car cost $40k out the door. I paid $10k in interest before I paid it off. I had it 6 years. I paid $1500 a year in car ins. I extended my service contract once for $4k. I put 2 sets of tires on it for $1200. So,


There’s 100k miles on it. It gets ~400 miles to the tank. If the average price to fill it is $50 over the last 6 years that’s

100k/400*50 = $12.5k

If I sold it today it could supposedly get at least $12k for it so

($65.4k+$12.5k-$12k) / 100k miles = $0.66 per mile.

That means my commute when I worked 40 miles away was costing me $53 a day round trip

Didn’t really need an app for that though yea, it would be neat to see the money ticking away. Given that the longer you keep the car the more it’s initial cost is spread out if the app showed cost per mile would show the more I drive the better it gets.

Continued… I figured I could probably add in $250 a month for the garage (126250 = $18k) + and various parking charges which I’m just going to take a wild guess is about $50 a month (12650= $3.6k) so

($65.4k+$12.5k-$12k+$18k+$3.6) / 100k miles = $0.88 per mile

Which brings that commute = $70 a day

What else am I forgetting?

$70 a day is ~$1400 a month for commuting 40 miles. I guess that gives you some idea of how big a perk those shuttles from Google, Apple, Genetech, etc are worth at a minimum.

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What the app gives you is immediate feedback on your driving style – knowing which speeds are most efficient for your particular car, reminder that jackrabbit starts and late braking do cost you money, that sort of thing. It’s unclear how much this sort of realtime information actually helps (versus how distracting it might be), but some of us like the idea of having it available – it certainly makes more sense than the tachometer on the dashboard of my automatic-transmission vehicle.

Great list of auto ownership costs. Are you forgetting the cost of car insurance? I don’t see that listed in your calculations and it is mandatory.

I’d add that once you have children, it is basically impossible not to have a vehicle though. So even if you had a fancy Google shuttle, you’d need the car around. Cost per mile might actually go up, even though you drive less.

Hey, this is David, one of the hackers on this project. We were interviewed for this early in the morning before we had built in all the costs but by the time we were done, we had it set up to include depreciation, wear and tear/repairs, parking, insurance plus the real time cost of fuel.

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It’s there. I listed it as $1500 a year times 6 years.

A simple spreadsheet makes tracking real cost of owning/operating the car easy, if you enter everything relevant.

But, as noted, that’s different from having (a) realtime info or (b) info correlated with exactly how, when, and (if you want to include GPS in the mix) where the car is being driven.

Perhaps in America.

“In the UK, people think 100 years is a short time. In the US, people think 100 miles is a short distance.”

Not that much of an exaggeration.

People regulary drive their kids 100 miles? Who would’a thunk?

No, seriously, there are of course lots of areas where not having a car is a major inconvenience and perhaps in some places it’s an impossibility.

But when a majority of urban Americans simply can’t do without a car (as opposed to it being a convenience), it’s because they want to have it that way, not because it is some natural law.

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You took a bit of a jump there from codinghorror’s comment. Not all Americans are urban, or even suburban.

I wholeheartedly agree that kids can probably transport themselves a lot more and further than we usually let them. And that many kids’ lives are overplanned and overprotected.

But a blanket challenge to everyone who says the car was necessary is sorta begging to be shot down. There are too many good counterexamples.

No, but the urbanization rate is comparable to Western Europe.