Vehicle Database Spreadsheet

Yes, this article is exactly what the title says. Not a car nut? You probably should probably stop here and go visit these articles.

Still here? Ok, I hope this is interesting and fun for those who love, build, drive or race wheeled vehicles like myself. Don’t want to read the story? Skip to view the vehicle database spreadsheet now.

My (abbreviated) car story

If you know anything about me, I have lots of diverse interests. One of those interests are cars and within the car obsession, I am still all over the place. I like buying/selling cars, fixing them up, rebuilding them, driving them, and ultimately racing them.

I bought my first car with money I saved when I was 17 years old and that car changed the course of my life. That specific car, a 1985 Pontiac Fiero, is the car I learned how to drive in and it was the first car I raced. While the Fiero wasn’t known as a fast car, I took the car to 10/10th’s of the potential regardless of its shortcomings. I miss that car.

Since that point, I have owned lots of different cars from sports cars, race cars, and daily driven SUVs. I currently own five cars now and that’s only possible, because I have a Texas (Austin) sized home and plenty of room (and nice neighbors). In my home office, I started to collect die-cast cars of some of my favorite vehicles I’ve owned. Before long, I realized I was basically starting a collection of models of all the cars I have owned since I was 17. Yes, I spent many hours on ebay tracking down hard-to-find model cars (send help!).

The collection eventually grew to a point where I needed to contain the model car growth and something that looked better than the models sitting on a table in my office. That’s when I went to Ikea and bought a glass cabinet where I could organize all of my cars. Similar to the movie High Fidelity, people with obsessions, love to organize and categorize their precious goods.

At first I was going to organize the cars groups of daily drivers, sports cars, and race cars, but that just didn’t seem to tell much of a story. What told a better story is by arranging the cars in the order that I have owned them, because the cars and my life were all interwoven into a narrative where wheeled vehicles seem to always be the supporting cast.

Die-cast car collection representing most of the cars I’ve owned (including duplicates)

A spreadsheet enters stage left

By now it should be clear that I like cars or probably better put, love cars. Both real cars and these silly toy cars in my office. After organizing the die-cast cars, the next logical idea was that I wanted a sign to attach to the display that had all of the basic information about each car’s year, make, model and engine size.

I decided to document all of the cars I’ve owned and my natural first choice is use a spreadsheet. After creating columns in the spreadsheet for the basic attributes of the vehicles, very quickly I started to expand the data set and organize the information in ways that would allow it to be summarized and analyzed. Within a short amount of time, I started to think about treating the spreadsheet like a database where you enter in raw data (vehicles in this case) and other sheets automatically generate reports. Around midnight that night, I had a “vehicle database spreadsheet”. Yes, you are right, spreadsheets at midnight is exciting!

Spreadsheet in detail

The input sheet of the has the following fields to capture details about your vehicles:

  • Year purchased
  • Year sold (if you have sold it)
  • Model year
  • Type (auto, SUV, motorcycle, etc.)
  • Make
  • Model
  • Engine displacement(liters)
  • Engine type (I-4, V-6, V-8, etc.)
  • Induction type (Turbocharged, supercharged, etc.)
  • Transmission type
  • Drive (rear wheel drive, all wheel drive, front wheel drive)
  • Make country (where the car is designed)
  • Primary vehicle color
  • Vehicle location
  • Purpose (what do you use the vehicle for)
  • Vehicle identification number (helpful for finding your cars in the future)
  • DougScore (mostly for fun to see how Doug ranks your car)
  • Summary of modifications
  • External link

With the data above, the spreadsheet automatically calculates the following:

  • Total years of vehicle ownership
  • Total vehicles owned
  • Average ownership years of each vehicle
  • Average model year
  • Average engine displacement
  • Average vehicle year at purchase (do you purchase new or users vehicles on average?)
  • Total vehicles new at purchase
  • Total distance driven
  • Average DougScores
  • Rank of vehicle types, country origin, vehicle make, color, engine type, drive

Vehicle DB in action

One thing I learned when I filled out the spreadsheet with all of the vehicles I have owned, is that I owned more than I actually realized. I couldn’t believe how many I almost forgot about until I walked through year-by-year documenting everything. This is actually something I’ve wanted to do for years because only a few of my cars do I have extensive documentation on and the rest were just bought and sold over time.

Input sheet with some of the cars I’ve owned

After entering all of the vehicles, it became clear that I completely under estimated my car obsession. I’ve owned 21 cars in 26 years of owned vehicles with an average ownership duration of 3.2 years. The first step in any 12-step recovery program is to admit you are powerless. Yes, I need help. The 2nd step is to document all your trials and tribulations so you do not forget your past. DONE!

What the spreadsheet taught me

I love 1990’s vehicles
I rarely buy new cars (only one!)
I like automobiles! (shocking!)
I knew I was a German car fan, but forgot I had equal USA cars.
I like Audis!
I must be a black and blue fan!
I prefer turbo 4 cylinders or V-8s
I don’t like front wheel drive vehicles
Almost half of my cars have been reviewed by Doug Demuro and they got average scores. Is that good or bad?

Now back to those toy cars

Now that we have a full functioning spreadsheet with simple inputs and automatic reports, we need to wrap up how this all started. Earlier in the story I mentioned that I wanted to write down all of the cars I have owned in a simple list that I can attach to my glass display cabinet. I accomplished that by a simple query of the input sheet that automatically displays only the fields that would be relevant for a sign. All I had to do is print out that separate sheet and attach it to the cabinet. Success!

All that work and this article just to attach a paper sign to the glass cabinet. You just never know where a simple idea will take you (if you are crazy like me).

Take the spreadsheet for a test drive

Now it is your turn. Click the link below to visit the Vehicle Database Spreadsheet, go to file, “make a copy”, enter in your vehicles in the “input” sheet and see what you learn. Enjoy!

Vehicle Database Spreadsheet

Product Lead @Mozilla — Data Nerd — Race Car Driver — Full stack