What would you like to see in a road trip planner app?

Travel: What would you like to see in a road trip planner app? 3 answers on Quora

What would you like to see in a road trip planner app?

Why All The Sudden Pinterest?

If you’ve been in hibernation this winter, or traveling in some remote location with no internet access, then perhaps you haven’t heard of Pinterest.  For the rest of us its been impossible to ignore as its the hottest thing since Paris Hilton ignited a media frenzy oh so many years ago.

UPDATE 2: Referral traffic from Pinterest continues growing rapidly and is approaching 1,000/day.  Some of the categories people are pinning it under include Good Cheap Ideas, All Things Fun and Free, Being Frugal and Vacation Ideas.

Daily referral visits to Cost2Drive.com from Pinterest

So what has people so excited about Pinterest that some in the media claim it represents a valid threat to Facebook?  Is it the beautifully simple design combined with the stunning images that people are pinning?  Or is it the viral hooks that make it easy to share through social media.  Or perhaps it satisfies an innate need in all of us to organize our desires (as in bucket lists) and pinning images is so much more fun than typing text?

Browsing Pinterest Images for Road Trips

I’m not exactly sure why Pinterest has taken off the way it has, but some other similar bookmarking services such as de.li.cious and StumbleUpon have seen rapid growth in the past.  Regardless of the reason, every social media pundit on the planet is sounding the alarm that if you run a consumer business you’d better get plugged into Pinterest ASAP lest you get left behind as stories are already circulating about Pinterest driving enormous volumes of traffic to sites.

As for us, we were struggling to find a reason why someone would pin Cost2Drive on Pinterest and so were very pleasantly surprised to find people are already doing just that as yesterday we notice 23 people had pinned the site under the category of Smart Ideas.

Pinterest pins on Cost2Drive.com

Maybe those pundits are right.  Rest assured we’ll be taking a closer look into Pinterest.  If you’re still struggling with what Pinterest is all about, Business Insider has an excellent tutorial where you can learn more.

The Trough of Sorrow

Weekly Visits to Cost2Drive (past 18 months)

Trend-line Turns Vertical on Cost2Drive.  Are We There Yet?

Over the past few weeks something remarkable has been happening with visits to Cost2Drive.com, our popular fuel cost calculator website.  They’ve begun growing at an accelerating pace leading us to wonder if we’ve broken through some type of barrier, emerging from the infamous ‘trough of sorrow’.

Paul Graham, the essayist and hugely successful founder of Y Combinator, has a  chart that he uses to depict the process of a startup.  The process, which some refer to as the startup curve, defines the typical phases of a startup.

Paul Graham: The Process of a Startup

According to Paul a startup goes through a number of phases, beginning with the novelty phase where there is a huge spike of visits generated via a great deal of press attention and by being the ‘newest cool thing’ on the market.  This phase is fleeting, however, and quickly descends into a lengthy period of despair that he calls the trough of sorrow.  If you’re lucky enough to emerge from the trough of sorrow and survive the inevitable crash of ineptitude eventually you’ll find your way to the promised land.

I first heard of this startup curve from Brian Chesky, the CEO and cofounder of Airbnb,  a Y Combinator company now valued at over $1 billion.  As I listened to Brian share his own version of Airbnb’s journey from early success to near death to eventual funding, I was immediately struck by the similarities with C2G.

When we first launched Cost2Drive.com back in the fall of 2008 we went through the novelty spike Paul depicts in his chart.  Hundreds of bloggers from around the globe were blogging about us and we ended up with over 170,000 visits in our first month.

Blog post on launch of Cost2Drive.com (I have no idea what it says)

There were thrills and high fives and an abundance of enthusiasm as we watched our daily visits go from 50 per day to 25,000 almost overnight and at one point my engineer cofounder determined we were getting hit 167 times per second!

Blog post on launch of Cost2Drive.com

And then it just evaporated.

Had we known this was the typical process for a startup, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so painful, and in reality I’ll bet less than 1% of all startups actually get the type of traction we saw at launch and I wouldn’t give it back for the world.  But seeing it all disappear was like getting sucker punched in the stomach, and thus we descended into the trough of sorrow.

Blog post on launch Cost2Drive.com

An interesting point about Paul’s chart is that the trough of sorrow is actually the longest phase.  In fact it conveys that the majority of a startup’s life is spent wallowing in the trough, suffering through wiggles of false hope and the crash of ineptitude (yes, we had our version of this as well).

For us the trough has been a long one, and its not yet clear if we’ve emerged or if this is just one of those diabolical wiggles of false hope.  But even if it is it’s still tremendous growth and for a startup growth is the essence of  survival.

The Top 10 Signs it’s Spring Break

Photo reprinted with permission from spadre.com.

Spring break is upon us.  How do we know this? Here are the top 10 signs!

10. Your teacher just assigned you a huge project.

9. South Padre Island is at the top of the ride share board.

8. Your bank account is nearly at zero.

7. You’re shopping for bikinis and its 10 below zero outside.

6. Your boyfriend just broke up with you.

5. You just broke up with your boyfriend.

4. A strange orange tan has mysteriously appeared on your body.

3. The gym is suddenly packed.

2. You’ve stayed sober all week in preparation.

1. You just blocked your parents from your Facebook page.

Preparing for Oilmageddon

Kuwait Oil Fires 1991 (US Air Force)

Panic Sets In as $4 Gas Prices Begin Appearing Across the US

Back in February of last year there was growing concern that unrest in the Middle East would result in record gas prices come the peak summer driving season, a scenario that nearly occurred as gas prices approached the $4 record set in the summer of 2008 but fell back after peaking at $3.90 in May.

We may not be as lucky this year as gas prices are well ahead of where they were in February of 2011, and $4 gas prices have already been spotted across the continental US in places like New York, Chicago and several locations in California.

Many analysts feel gas prices will exceed $4 a gallon across the US as early as this spring and reach as high as $4.50 by the peak summer months, possibly even $5 if tensions continue to build with Iran.  The press has picked up on this in a big way especially as it factors into the upcoming presidential election.

Not surprisingly, visits to our popular fuel calculator app are soaring as consumers grow increasingly concerned about high gas prices and how they will impact things like upcoming vacations, commuting costs or car purchases.  In fact January visits to Cost2Drive were more than double January 2011 and up 25% from December, and so far February visits are 20% higher than January.

But we’re not resting on our laurels, we’re getting ready to launch a whole new version of Cost2Drive.com with some great new features and a much improved visual design that we’re certain will delight our most fervent users.

Stay tuned for some news of the launch which we’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, we’ve recently enhanced our mobile app so if you have an iPhone check out the Cost2Drive iPhone app and never again wonder what it will cost to drive places.

Happy Driving!

Snowbirds Flock to Cost2Drive Amid Soaring Gas Prices

                                                           Thousands of Florida-Bound Car Travelers Turn to Cost2Drive.com for Help  Planning Trips as Gas Prices Reach Historic Highs

As travelers begin planning their winter vacations in earnest, each week thousands are turning to our popular fuel calculator website and iPhone app for help planning their car trips as gas prices reach historic highs for this time of year.  Visits to Cost2Drive.com have doubled as a result and so we decided to examine over 10,000 trips entered on the site during the first week of January to find out where all these travelers are heading in the new year.

The Migration Pattern of the Snowbird

It turns out that over 20%  of all the trips entered on Cost2Drive.com in the first week of 2012 have somewhere in Florida as the destination.  So where are all these sun worshipers coming from? Most are snowbirds coming from the Midwest and Northeast driving down to Florida to escape the long cold winters up north.  New York was the state with the largest volume of routes representing 11% of all Florida-bound trips, followed by Michigan at 7% and Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all at 6%.

Snowbird Migration Pattern as Entered on Cost2Drive.com

Car travelers from Boston, New Jersey and Texas represented 5% of all Florida-bound routes, followed by road trippers from Wisconsin, Indiana and neighboring state Georgia at 4% each.

Top Florida Destinations

The top Florida destinations being searched on Cost2Drive are pretty much the ones you’d expect, with Orlando (and Walt Disney World) capturing the majority of traveler interest as 40% of all the Florida-bound routes had Orlando, Disney World or Kissimmee as the destination.

Top Florida Destinations for Snowbirds

The destination rankings break down as follows:

  1. Orlando/Kissimmee: 40%
  2. Miami/Fort Lauderdale: 16%
  3. Tampa/Saint Petersburg/Clearwater: 11%
  4. The Florida Panhandle (Pensacola/Panama City): 8%
  5. Northeast Coast (Jacksonville, Daytona Beach): 7%
  6. Naples/Fort Myers: 7%
  7. Cape Canaveral/Palm Bay: 4%
  8. Florida Keys/Key West: 3%
  9. Sarasota/Bradenton: 3%
  10. All Others: 1%

The Atlantic versus the Gulf Coast

It’s common knowledge that you can determine the destination of a Florida-bound snowbird by its departure location, with Northeastern snowbirds alighting on the rough Atlantic coast while the Midwestern snowbirds prefer the calmer shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  We decided to test this hypothesis to see if the trips entered on Cost2Drive followed this same pattern.

Migration Patterns of the Midwestern and Northeastern Snowbird

We were delighted to learn that our results validated the hypothesis as the Midwestern Snowbirds were more likely to choose a Gulf Coast destination whereas the Northeastern Snowbirds were more likely to choose the Atlantic Coast.  We were surprised, however, to discover that Midwestern Snowbirds were also more likely to choose a Gulf Coast destination over Orlando/Disney World whereas Northeastern Snowbirds prefer Orlando over Atlantic Coast destinations by a fairly wide margin.

What’s your favorite Florida destination?

Happy Driving!

(no snowbirds were harmed in the undertaking of this study)

Honda Civic Crowned Top Car on Cost2Drive.com

Honda Civic the top car on Cost2Drive.comBeats Out the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord for Most Frequently Entered Vehicle

It turns out concerns over driving costs don’t go away with the purchase of a fuel-efficient vehicle.  After pouring over data from a million vehicles that have been entered on our popular trip calculator we’re ready to announce that the Honda Civic, one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market, takes the crown as the most frequently entered vehicle on Cost2Drive.com.  Over 31,000 Honda Civic owners have turned to Cost2Drive to help plan car trips, narrowly edging out Toyota Camry and Honda Accord owners for the top spot.

Top Three Vehicles Entered on Cost2Drive.com

When we launched Cost2Drive we thought the site would attract owners of larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles like SUVs and pickups, so we were a little surprised to find such fuel-efficient vehicles dominating the top of the list.  It appears that concerns over driving costs remain even after the purchase of a fuel-efficient vehicle, perhaps because gas prices remain at historic highs.

In a previous post we revealed that Ford ranked as the top car brand on Cost2Drive with Ford owners entering over 125,000 vehicles in our Galculator, and yet no Ford vehicles landed in the top three positions.  However Ford is well represented with four vehicles in the top ten list including the Ford Explorer which is the top-ranked SUV, and the F150, the top pickup truck.

Top Twenty Vehicles Entered on Cost2Drive.com

We were curious to see how this list compares with the overall distribution of all vehicles on the road today in the US so we posted a question on popular Q&A site Quora seeking that information.  An Edmunds analyst was kind enough to provide us with the overall breakdown.

One noticeable discrepancy between these two lists is that SUVs and minivans rank higher on Cost2Drive whereas pickup trucks rank higher on the list of all vehicles on the road.  This could be because Cost2Drive attracts more of a leisure travel audience such as families that are planning vacations.  Evidence of this can be found in the high volume of routes to Disney theme parks entered on Cost2Drive in 2011,  where the leading vehicles are minivans.

Based on 10,000 routes to Disney parks entered on Cost2Drive.com

Average Age of Top Ten Vehicles

The average age of the million vehicles that have been entered on Cost2Drive.com is 7.3 years, meaning our audience is driving cars that are 2.7 years younger than the 10-year average age of all vehicles on the road today in the US.  As a final bit of analysis we decided to take a look at the average age of the top ten vehicles to see how it compared with all vehicles.

Average Age (years) of Top 10 Vehicles Entered on Cost2Drive.com

The average age of the top ten vehicles is 7.6 years,  slightly older than all vehicles entered on Cost2Drive.com.  The Ford Focus came in as the youngest vehicle entered with an average age of 5.1 years and the Ford Explorer was the oldest at 9.2 years.

*Important to note is that the analysis covers vehicles going back to the 1990 model year, and that results for the two youngest vehicles are skewed due to later vehicle launches (Ford introduced the Focus in the US market in 1999 and Honda launched the Odyssey in 1995).

This post is the final installment of a 3 Part Series where we revealed data on a million vehicles entered on Cost2Drive.com to coincide with the North American International Auto Show.  The two previous posts looked into the top luxury vehicles entered on Cost2Drive and the top car brands overall.

If you have any questions regarding the above information or C2G, LLC  feel free to send us a note here or email me directly at jim@costtogo.com.

Happy Driving!