I was playing around with Excel the other day, as engineers who obsessively collect data are wont to do. I had plotted an interesting convergence—three of my cars (if I count my wife’s) had almost the same mileage last week.

The mileage of my Honda Civic was overtaken by my wife’s Subaru Legacy, which was later overtaken by my Subaru STI. This took over 148,300 miles and 15.3 years of meticulous planning to achieve (note: no actually planning conducted).

As I stared at this chart, I realized that my cars leave traces of my life.

To all the cars I’ve known before
Mileage over time

My 1990 Beretta GTZ was the first car I bought after college, so that’s where my car life begins. While I owned it, work was only 5 to 15 miles away (one way), and yet I averaged around 20,000 miles per year with it for over seven years.

I managed this even after I bought the 1989 Porsche 944 Turbo, which I drove around 17,000 miles a year concurrently with the Beretta. Using special formulas I created in Excel, that calculates out to 37,000 miles per year of driving.

I call this phase of my life, “Single Guy.”

There are a couple of stints circled when I lived in Germany. I had the 944 there for a year, and the 2000 Honda Civic Si for four years. Most of my driving in Germany was vacation related. I commuted mostly by bike or bus to work. Yes, that’s a crazy as it sounds. That’s why not much mileage happened there.

I donated the Beretta shortly after I returned to Germany, which was the end of its line on the chart. I also bought the 2005 Subaru Legacy GT for my wife then. But now I was living further from work, driving around 34 miles one way with the Civic. Although this was the furthest I had worked at this point, at 16,000 miles per year, I still averaged less what I drove the 944 when it was my “weekend-and-whenever-the-sun-came-out” car.

This phase is called, “Married with a House.” This may also be an Ashtanga yoga pose.

In 2008, two major events happened. My company got bought by another German company, and I bought the 2008 Subaru WRX STI. There was apparently also that recession thing, which was important because it gave me a great deal on my car.

At this point the mileage on the Civic dropped. It became either the “once-in-a-while” or the “loaner” car, so the mileage accumulation became irregular.

In the mean time, my commute increased to around 45 miles one way as I got moved to another building. That made my average around 23,000 miles per year in the STI.

Within each curve are bumps and dips that tell even more stories. The irregularities in the 944’s line are the different long vacations I used to take in it. In one vacation I drove 5600 miles in 9 days. That’s the vertical tick one year after I bought it.

The sharp rise in the first year I had the Civic was a trip my (eventual) wife and I took to the Grand Canyon. I can even see the little bumps for trips to France and Italy on this curve. There’s a blip in the Legacy in 2007 when I drove it 6,000 miles to California and back.

For the STI I can see two vertical bumps—one for my Pikes Peak trip, and one for my Key West trip. There’s also a horizontal blip when it had to take a little break for a while. There is a corresponding vertical uptick in the 944’s mileage during this time.

Then I re-did the graph to show the mileage over the years that I’ve owned the cars (because Excel).

“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
Mileage over number of years owned

This shows some interesting tidbits as well. The STI was the fastest to 100,000, and the Civic took the longest. I tend to drive the cars about the same for the first year.

I’ve owned 4 cars for at least 10 years. I can’t believe that the 944 has been with me for over 20 years. And none of the cars has gone over 160,000 miles.

So that’s a lot of data that is interesting for precisely one person. But for that car person, sometimes that’s all that matters.

Faded photographs
Covered now with lines and creases
Tickets torn in half
Memories in bits and pieces
—Classics IV


I also had a 1984 Buick Skyhawk that I drove around 140,000 miles. But since I did not have an Excel log of it, did it ever really exist?

[Update] Yes it does.

Crankiness Rating: 1 out of 11 (I need more traces, maybe in yellow.)