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Gas Prices…What’s The Big Deal?

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To give you some sense of my age, when I started driving, there was a little math game I used to play when I filled up my tank. Gas would be $0.99/gallon, or perhaps $1.01/gallon.  In either case, it made for easy math in my head, and by looking at the gallons tallying up, I’d make myself guess what the cost will be.

I still do this today, but the math tends to be little more difficult.  Calculating multiples of $3.6499 is a little tougher.

Anyways, I just took a road trip to North Carolina last week, and as we were packing for the trip, I heard several newscasts talk about how today’s gas prices were going to dramatically limit the amount of travel that Americans will do this summer.  As gas prices approach $4.00/gallon, more and more people will be unable to make the trip.

The trip to Corolla, North Carolina is approximately 675 miles each direction.  I didn’t track my actual gas mileage, but my 2011 Honda Oddysey gets 19 mpg in the city, and 28 mpg on the highway, for a “combined” mileage of around 22 mpg (source).  So we’ll use that number for our math.

The Math

675 miles x 2 = 1350 miles round trip.

1350 miles / 22 miles per gallon = 61.36 gallons.

If gas rose from $3.65/gallon to $4.15/gallon before my trip, this would be an astounding increase of $0.50/gallon.  50 cents!

This means that my ENTIRE trip would cost $30 more because of increased gas prices.  THIS is the prohibitive cost of travel that everyone’s talking about?  Thirty dollars?

The Questions For You

  1. Certainly $30 isn’t what is holding people back from travel. The thought of spending over $250 probably is. 61.36 gallons x $4.15 = $254.66.)  But to get my family of four to a vacation, ~$60 each doesn’t seem to painful, does it?  It’s certainly better than flying.
  2. Are these gas prices changing your driving behaviors?  Or are they changing your extravagant coffee-buying behaviors?
  3. What is maximum price you’d pay for a gallon of gas before it actually impacted your driving habits?  $7?  $10?


11 responses to “Gas Prices…What’s The Big Deal?”

  1. Adrian Hara Avatar
    Adrian Hara

    If you extend the question to non-US people, I can give you an example: in the EU the prices of gas have to be aligned. This means that gas in Germany, for example, costs more or less the same as gas in Romania. But while the medium income in Germany is, say, 1500eur/mo, in Romania it’s 150eur/mo. So there you go 🙂

  2. Lisa Avatar

    I ignore gas prices pretty much. I always overestimate my gas budget for the year since that expense can’t we easily estimated. Yes I have a written household budget… everyone should. If you budget properly, you can plan for variable expenses like gas and not have to worry about it. In regards to gas for driving to vacations – I have vacationed in Corolla a number of times too 🙂 – that just gets rolled in to vacation budget… if gas is higher then guess what, we dont buy wine with dinner a few nights on vacation to stay in budget – tada!

    What I hate is wasting time driving anywhere. I am always very efficient with my driving. If I know I have to go to CVS to pickup another 2 weeks of Claritin D to survive the Ohio allergy season (thanks to meth heads for not letting me stock up on allergy meds for the entire summer!). I know it is right next to my daughter’s daycare so I leave a few minutes early to go buy my drugs first. Being efficient with where you go when is really what keeps your fuel costs down. Sorry for the long rant, but a number of my friends complain about gas then will drive all over town to run errands…. then go to the same parts of town 3 days later to run errands at different stores, etc …. waste of time, gas, and money!

  3. Lasse Avatar

    Where I live (Denmark) gas prices is well over $8 per gallon peaking at over $9…

    And the Ford Focus you wrote about in a previous post comes in at about $50K… and that’s with no extras at all…

    And yet people still drive.

    1. Keith Elder Avatar

      But I bet you don’t make $20 an hour either though? It is all relative.

  4. Matt Huber Avatar

    I’ve often thought about the same thing. If the price difference of $30 is limiting your trip, then you must be doing some hardcore budgeting or not building a small buffer into your budget (or not budgeting at all).

    Gas prices aren’t changing my driving behaviors yet…but it has made me think how I can be a little more efficient on the road. My wife has a Chevy Aveo (smaller and more gas-efficient than my Jeep Grand Cherokee) and we have thought about swapping on days where I travel more than her. That way, we can be a little more efficient on how we commute. Whenever possible, I try to utilize rewards programs (speedy rewards) and promotional cash back on gas (like chase freedom has %5 cash back on gas in July-Sept or so).

    I haven’t looked into performant car repairs or anything like that… I haven’t done the math either…but I’m skeptical on the ROI. I just keep my car maintained and proper air in the tires =p

    $6 might change my habits. I would certainly swap cars with my wife since I travel more. I can’t bike commute to work…but there is a bus line that travels downtown…that would be a possibility if things got really bad.

  5. Philip Avatar

    I also don’t worry about the price of gas and I budget monthly for the expense. I would actually like to see the price go up (and advocate for removing subsidies for that industry) so that I might be able to buy an electric car sometime in my lifetime. Raise it to $10/gallon for all I care (won’t change my driving habits at all). Then I, along with 25% of the population, will buy E-vehicles and the price will drop again (lower consumption).

  6. mgroves Avatar

    If you’re just traveling alone, it might be worth it to fly instead of drive, sometimes, if you count the time you save flying. But if we’re talking kids 2 and over, driving is just going to flat out beat flying every time.

  7. Keith Elder Avatar

    We were calculating fuel costs the other night for a fishing trip pulling my new boat all the way from Hattiesburg, MS to Rogers City, MI which is pretty much 1200 miles.

    If we can get 10 miles / gallon of diesel pulling the boat with the super duty then that’s 120 gallons * 3.79 = $454.80.

    So roughly we are looking at $1,000.00 of fuel costs to pull the boat to Michigan, split 3 ways that’s $333 each and we don’t have to pay for hotel or anything. That’s a pretty dang cheap salmon fishing trip if you ask me.


  8. Jon Kruger Avatar

    It’s all psychological. People freaked out the first time gas got to $4. Now people don’t think it’s a big deal at all. It’s amazing how much common sense goes out the window with things like this.

    I guess I would care if I ran a small business where I drove trucks all over town but for just me, gas would have to get a lot more expensive before I quit driving.

  9. Gary Avatar

    Many small businesses are significantly impacted…my father has owned a small bakery for most of his adult life. When oil prices increase, the price of many of his ingredients he buys also increases. He also has a truck he uses to deliver donuts 7 days a week to gas stations and hotels. His truck get ~13mpg and when gas goes from $3/gallon to over $4, it makes a significant differenct is his deliver cost.

    I work for a grocery retailer and we have a large fleet to deliver products from our distribution facility to our stores…at 7mpg…the difference between $3/gallon gas and $4/gallon is HUGE.

  10. Jose Gomez Avatar
    Jose Gomez

    You are ignoring an important FACT.
    Your gas expenses go up just 30$, but everything around you increased the price too. At the end of the day, you will be paying more not just for gas, but for food, clothing, …EVERYTHING connected to the gas hike.

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