Surviving in a Van: Scooters & Motorcycles Versus an Economy Car and Tent
We’re continuing our look at how to survive if Peak Oil is true, but at the same time we are only going to do things that make our lives better now, or at least don’t harm us now. In the last post we started looking at what I think is our best first step and which is getting an alternative source of transportation. If gas prices do keep increasing (which is almost a certainty!) then saving money on the cost of driving is a great idea!!
As we look at the choices, one thing you’re going to notice is that there is a fuel penalty for comfort. Bicycles use zero fuel, but are pretty uncomfortable (almost miserable!). Scooters or motorcycles use very little fuel, but you are out and exposed to the elements and they are much more dangerous, harder to carry around—and still pretty uncomfortable. The next step up is an economy car, and it is so much more comfortable than two-wheeled vehicles, it is probably the best choice for most of us.
I’ve always liked motorcycles ever since I bought my first one in the early 1970s. I liked them so much I took two different long tours around the country on large touring motorcycles. I loved the great MPG but I’ve got to admit that I got really tired of being exposed to the elements and the lack of any comforts. So years later when I was ready to go on the road full-time again I gave serious thought to doing it on a motorcycle again. I might have done it except it wouldn’t let me have a dog, and I wasn’t willing to go it alone. I love dogs too much!!
But, I still own a motorcycle today because it gives me 70 MPG! And with the price of gas, that alone is reason enough. The fact that it is so much fun is just icing on the cake! So I’m not suggesting you live on a scooter or motorcycle, I’m suggesting you carry one to save you money and if the cost of gas skyrockets like I think it will, you will be very glad you did.
Scooter or Motorcycle
After a bicycle, a scooter or motorcycle is your next best alternative form of transportation. Why? Because they get from 50-150 MPG! Sure, a bicycle is better because it doesn’t burn any gas, but if you don’t want to have any physical demands then at least you want to get something that burns as little gas as possible and that is a scooter or small motorcycle. Let’s look at the advantages of a scooter or motorcycle:
Advantages of Scooters
- A 50cc scooter can get at least 100 MPG and even more.
- In many states 50cc scooters are treated like glorified bicycles so they don’t require a special drivers license, registration or insurance. Check the laws in your state to be sure.
- With their step-through frames, automatic transmissions, light weight and low power they are easy enough that almost anyone can easily drive them. Even the larger more powerful scooters have those advantages and most people can handle them.
- Because they are small and light, they are fairly easy to load on and off the van or RV.
- While they aren’t fast, they are able to go up to 30 mph so a quick trip to town really is a quick trip to town. On a bicycle there are very few quick trips.
Disadvantages of Scooters:
- They are dangerous. In most cases when a car hits a scooter or motorcycle the driver says they never saw it. We are trained to see other cars but for some reason we just don’t see two-wheelers. So your chances of being hit while riding are much greater and the consequences of being hit are much worse. I speak from experience!
- Like all two-wheelers you are exposed to the elements so heat, cold, rain, wind and bugs can keep you from riding, or if you do ride you are miserable.
Advantages of Motorcycles
- Smaller bikes (250cc-500cc) can get from 50-80 MPG.
- They’re faster than scooters so you can legally ride them on the freeway, plus you can ride them longer distances.
- There are many dual-sport models that go off-road extremely well. That will be a big advantage if Peak Oil gets really bad and civilization starts to collapse.
- You can get windshields, trunks, saddlebag and even trailers that make your ride more comfortable and allow you to carry much more cargo than a scooter.
Disadvantages of a Motorcycle.
- You can’t have a pet. For me that is a deal-breaker!
- The big bikes that are comfortable and able to tow a trailer don’t get better MPG than many economy cars; 35-45 mpg is typical for big bikes.
- They are much harder to load and carry than bicycles or even scooters
- Because they are so fast, they are much more dangerous.
As you must know, I like motorcycles and I have one now. I love my Honda Rebel but you will have to decide for yourself if their advantages offset their disadvantages to make one work for you. I really do think nearly everyone can handle a scooter so I strongly encourage you to give serious thought to owning one.
Living in an Economy Car and a Tent
When I was taking my long tours on my motorcycles, economy cars were at their peak of economy. Many cars at that time were getting 40-50 MPG on the highway. So every time it was cold and raining and I had to ride the bike anyway, I’d look at those little economy cars and know they were getting as good or better MPG than I was, and they were warm and comfortable! That made me stop and think, “Why aren’t I in a Honda Civic?” It got better MPG and could carry much more stuff–plenty for to be very comfortable camping in. Most important I could be dry and warm!! Today, I’m still asking myself the same question, “Why am I in a van that’s getting 13-15 MPG when I could be in a car getting 40-50 MPG?
Bear in mind that while today’s small cars don’t get anywhere near that MPG, many economy cars from the 80s and early 90s got an honest 35-50 mpg and now they’re old enough to be cheap to buy. You should be able to find one for $2000 or less. If I were looking, I would want a Honda Civic with a four cylinder engine and 5 speed transmission from 1986 to 1992. As you can see from the list below you can get outstanding fuel mileage and Honda’s legendary quality and reliability.
Check out this page for the 25 all-time best cars for fuel economy: http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/miles-per-gallon-cars-zb0z11zblon.aspx Here are some examples:
- 1994 Geo Metro XFI City: 43 Highway: 52 Combined: 47
- 1986 Honda Civic Coupe City: 42 Highway: 51 Combined: 46
- 1995 Honda Civic HB City: 39 Highway: 50 Combined: 43
- 1992 Honda Civic City: 35 Highway: 43 Combined:38
- 1988 Ford Festiva City: 33 Highway: 39 Combined: 35
Advantages of Living in an Economy Car and Tent:
- Great gas mileage! Try to imagine getting 50mpg on the highway in a car!
- Much more comfortable than a bike or motorcycle.
- The initial cost is very low and because they are so simple, they’re cheap and easy to maintain.
- Compared to living out of a backpack, horse or two-wheeler, they have an abundance of room! A true minimalist can live in one nicely.
- Humans have been living in tents for a very long time and they can be pretty comfortable.
Disadvantages of Living in an Economy Car and Tent:
- You can’t have much stuff. That’s a problem for most of us and especially so if you are thinking in terms of preparing for survival.
- Extended bad weather is very unpleasant. If a long period of wind, rain, or cold forces you to be indoors, a small car and a tent can start to feel pretty claustrophobic and closed in.
- The Desert Winds in the winter will soon tear up a tent and the combination of constant noise from flapping and being cold makes it hard to sleep and gets old very fast.
I’ve known a dozen people who came to the desert to live in a car and tent, and the wind beat them all. They all gave up on the idea within a year. But they were all on such a tight budget none of them could afford a tent that can endure desert winds. I think if you could, then it would be doable. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and decide if it will work for you.
In my next post we will look at towing an economy car with a van or RV and I think you will see that is a pretty good idea.