GPS Systems Can Cut Your Carbon Footprint (and Your Commute)

According to a recent study released by NAVTEQ, the average U.S. driver that uses a GPS system with real-time traffic updates is able to cut nearly 4 days off of their annual commute as well as decrease their carbon footprint by over 21%.

Both of these data points should be reason enough for you to go out and pick up a new GPS with real-time traffic updates.  Think about it: how much would you be willing to pay to cut four days off of your annual commute AND reduce your emissions by 21%?  That would probably be worth a couple hundred bucks a year to you, right?

Well, funny, because that’s about how much a new Garmin Nuvi GPS with real-time traffic updates costs.

As the late Billy Mays would say, “But wait!  There’s more!”

Even if the $200 outlay for the GPS is a problem – and considering this economy, it very well may be – the fact that not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you’ll be saving lots of money on gasoline means you’ll probably be able to pay off the expense after using the GPS just a couple of months.

In looking around Amazon.com, I was able to find a brand new Garmin Nuvi GPS with traffic updates on sale for just $199.99 – which is a 71% discount from its list price.

As someone who recently picked up a GPS, based on the 1.5 hours it saved me on my drive to and from the beach, I think the system is worth its weight in gold.  However, when you couple it with the fact I’ll shave days off my commute and reduce my car’s carbon footprint by nearly a quarter, it looks like one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

What are your thoughts?  Please leave your comments below!

Comments

  1. Found your post via Reddit, FYI. Anyway, this was the big draw of the Dash Express, not only could you subscribe to the public updates that anyone can get, but you’d be using a form of social network with other Dash users and find out what route is quickest based on current activity, NOT just on accidents and other 511 reports.

    I have a TomTom Go 720 and I am still thinking about buying the RDS-TMC receiver http://l.mbilf.com/gn so that I can get the public-only updates, as I use an iPhone and I can’t (at least as far as AT&T is concerned) bluetooth tether to use the official TomTom data system, so I could use the FM RDS-TMC system if someone around my area supports it.

    I do believe, however, your post concerns itself mainly with the aforementioned bluetooth tethering system which requires a data plan and a phone that can tether and the subscription service. For a simple non-smartphone, the data plan is around $15/mo and the TomTom service is $9.95/mo, meaning roughly $25/mo just for traffic, when you can use an RDS-TMC receiver and pay (I believe?) $100/year to get data that is supposedly just as good.

  2. Tom,

    Thanks for the comment and for the insight. I’ll definitely check out what you mentioned.

    Brian

  3. I just picked up a GPS and I love it!

  4. Actually Brian, because of my comment I went out to obtain one of these devices. Someone on Amazon had the great idea to say “Check eBay to see if someone who can’t return it is selling theirs”, and by golly, apparently someone bought QUITE A FEW that they can’t return and I just purchased one for under $10 to be shipped to my residence.

    I will soon know if this purchase was worthwhile or not.

  5. Great job finding a good bargain, Tom!

  6. John Jacob says

    One of the problems I have with articles of this nature are the blatant disregard for actual facts. Just because someone in a study saved fifteen minutes of time and gas does not automatically adjust out to equal four days and 20% of your emissions footprint. There is now way to account for what a daily commute will be like one any given day due to the insurmountable amount of improbabilities that can occur. Generically saying that “Buying a GPS will save you money fast” is a disservice to anyone who doesn’t have the will or drive to think about something on their own. I sincerely hope Garmin paid you to write this article.

  7. John Jacob says

    One of the problems I have with articles of this nature are the blatant disregard for actual facts. Just because someone in a study saved fifteen minutes of time and gas does not automatically adjust out to equal four days and 20% of your emissions footprint. There is no way to account for what a daily commute will be like on any given day due to the insurmountable amount of improbabilities that can occur. Generically saying that “Buying a GPS will save you money fast” is a disservice to anyone who doesn’t have the will or drive to think about something on their own. I sincerely hope Garmin paid you to write this article.

  8. Nope, I wasn’t paid by Garmin, I was just speaking from personal experience.

  9. Brian,
    If a simple GPS device can cut your carbon footprint by 21%, imagine what a service that locates the actual parking spot you need in the area you’re going to will do! Just arriving at your final destination does not mean that’s where you’ll actually be leaving your car. We all know this too, too well.
    Much of the time in major cities, the place you leave your car to then walk to your destination is not on top of that specific point of interest (POI) you input when you started, but blocks away, and it takes x minutes of x emissions X all the people doing the same search to find it!
    SpotScout’s the answer.

  10. According to an study written by a company that makes GPS systems….

    i got a new report from frito-lay that says eating cheeto’s with whole grains is heart healthy!

  11. “you’ll probably be able to pay off the expense after using the GPS just a couple of months” means that I’ll recoup my cost (by saving money on gas) in roughly three months or so? If the device costs $200 and I pay $2.50 per gallon of gas that gets 25 miles per gallon, you’re suggesting that this device will save me 80 gallons of gas in three months, or 6.7 gallons of gas per week. My vehicle takes about 1.2 gallons of gas to idle for an hour, so you’d need to save me five and a half hours of idling (or reduce my trip length, which I have already done for free with a map) per week to achieve your claim. However, if you saved me that many hours per week of idle time, then you’d be able to claim to save me about twelve days per year in my commute. Since I believe the numbers you’ve displayed are already best-case scenarios, I think you’ve got some faulty math on how quickly my GPS would “pay for” its outlay cost.

  12. And how much carbon do we need to offset to account for getting the GPS satellites into orbit? Just a thought…

  13. I can read a map and plan ahead. Why even bother with a GPS?

  14. I wanted to post a comment reply from my iPhone but I got this great popup trying to make me subscribe to a newsletter, and your focus stealing code prevented me from being able to tap [close].

    Several really bad comments here. Kevin will never need to find a place suddenly along the trip and have no issues at all ever getting to his destination successfully. Jerry forgot that the GPS satellites were put up by the US government for the military and that GPS receivers just receive the signal, so they’re going to be put up there anyway. Edward forgot that sitting in stop and go traffic isn’t idling, it’s taking the car from still to moving to still repeatedly which takes more gas than idling or going at a steady clip.

    Congratulations on having the population of YouTube come and comment on your blog, dude. The nice TomTom at CostCo that is slightly better than my GO 720 and cost 1/3rd the cost it was two years ago ($150) can do this stuff, it’s not $200 as edward suggests.

    Also, a good GPS with the service (such as TomTom’s subscription service) can find the cheapest gas around, saving you from 10-20 cents a gallon which really adds up.

  15. Ron Ackels says

    Well spoken Kevin. Where do you stable your horse?

  16. I am able to use my iPhone unlike others, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I think the negative points that people are making are highlighting the fact that this is most likely based on junk science. I am sure you could save these amounts of money and/or carbon if you have an extreme and complicated commute that is outside of the norm. I’m sure I could win the lottery if I buy a ticket but that may just make me yet another contributor to the idiot tax.

    I just advise that you do your own research and see if the device is right for you prior to making a purchase. And remember that it is highly unlikely that you’ll save as much time or carbon as this author suggests.

  17. People need to relax. The report Brian mentions was published by a respected research group that specializes in stuff life “population density” and it’s effect on traffic. Don’t remember the exact name. Although the study was sponsored by Navteq, it was tested only in Brussels. Although you can’t assume that everyone will have results, there’s enough research to show that having a GPS with real time traffic helps save you money if you live in a high traffic area.

  18. It’s unfortunate that my sense of social responsibility doesn’t provide a revenue stream…otherwise I’d be willing to pay more (ie. more than ‘not much’) to cut my carbon footprint by 21%!

    Ah well. Maybe I’ll get a GPS someday. Until that day, I’m just too dang cheap.

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