We're screwed - kind of - on math and fuel efficiency

A freakonomics blog post details a recent study of consumer behavior related to the fuel efficiency of their cars.

Note: the study is from 2006 so the data is probably from then or even earlier. I imagine the data would change a little if it were taken last summer.

When asked how much they’d be willing to pay for a hypothetical m.p.g. improvement of 50 percent, respondents were flummoxed. The results were wild guesses that ranged from $0 to $10,000.

Some tried to make a rational calculation, but with poor results. Even mathematically-skilled individuals like finance professionals or computer engineers had little clue. Two thirds of the households never even dreamed of analyzing how long it would take for an investment in greater fuel economy to pay for itself. Only 10 intrepid households attempted the payback period calculation, and 8 of those performed it wrong.

Seriously? It's basic math folks. Maybe I should build a feature on this site that helps people do this calculation...

But the even worse news is that while few people could do the calculation, even fewer cared about the calculation (I guess that's part of why they couldn't do it - it doesn't even matter to them).

Why doesn't it matter? Because fuel is still relatively cheap. Even with taxes between 12% and 20% it's still one of the cheapest liquids you can buy. Maybe in a few years this calculation will start mattering again...but until then.