The drivetrain (namely, Rear Wheel Drive, Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive) is a major factor determining milage between the same vehicle and should be included to help people better understand the data being presented.
I understand the fundamental ideal of this site is to keep things simple, but this is pretty important stuff to leave out! Most people know generally which wheels spin on their cars, if you want your data to be useful, you should ask for that information.
Yes, we have discussed this quite a bit. The general idea of requiring people to enter more details about their vehicle is something we think about quite a bit. As we've said before, we definitely will add manual vs. automatic. That is on the way.
Beyond that, we're comfortable with the details we ask for right now. We ask for fuel type, engine type, body style, and soon auto vs. manual transmission. There are potentially dozens of other attributes that can affect fuel economy that we could track. Drivetrain is one. Engine displacement is another. People have different ideas about what the bare minimum is. Some feel you need to ask for all of these and more. We feel like we don't want to alienate people by asking for too many details.
We'd rather see more data with fewer details, partly because we feel like having more people tracking means more people thinking about their fuel economy. Some people choose to include these details in their vehicle description, and that's great. We encourage people to do that, but we don't make it a requirement.
pb: What's wrong with just duplicating the EPA's own categories?
For example- if you check the EPA website for the Honda Civic, you'll find 3 configurations: 1.8 auto, 1.8 manual, and 2.4 manual. That's the level of detail you should go into- exactly as much detail as the EPA's listings, no more, no less.
We built the site partly because of our reaction to the way the EPA does things. We feel like that level of detail is alienating. Some people (let's call them Group A) look at a Honda Civic and see dozens of details. They think of it as a Honda Civic 2.4 manual turbo, etc.. Other people (Group B) look at a Honda Civic and they see a Honda Civic. That's it. They don't care about engine displacement, trim level, or anything else. They just know they have a Honda Civic. We feel like Group B is a very, very large group. And those people are under-served online. There's plenty of sites that cater to Group A because they are the most engaged, most enthusiastic drivers.
If you're thinking about creating a site for Group B instead of Group A, you make different choices. You make choices that make Group B feel like the site is for them instead of Group A. We're not trying to change folks from Group B members into Group A members (or vice versa). We just want to build a site for Group B because we want to get people who aren't car enthusiasts thinking about their fuel economy. We feel like if someone has to feel like they need to look something up in their car manual to participate here we are doing something wrong. I think the EPA descriptions require looking in the manual for average folks.
I understand. How about you put in all the check boxes for the engines and transmissions, and then also put in the choices "unsure" for each of those items. The Group A people can dutifully check all the boxes. The Group B people can leave all of those entries as "unsure". That way both groups are happy.
We've always felt that presenting too many choices for people makes them feel uncomfortable. So we don't think there's a great way to make both groups happy. If you present ten different choices for someone who just sees Honda Civic—and they have to choose not sure eight times—you're sending the message that this site isn't really for them.
Obviously this is our opinion, and there are probably dozens of different ways to build a fuel-tracking application. I know that car enthusiasts would love a site that tried to track every possible attribute that affects fuel economy. I think someone could have great success with that. But that's not what we're trying to build here.